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Jewish Student Says She Was Dismissed from SUNY New Paltz Sexual Assault Survivors Group Over Pro-Israel Views

Blotner had shared an Instagram story in December arguing against allegations that Israel is a settler-colonial state, stating: “You cannot colonize the land your ancestors are from.” Various members in the NPA group chat on WhatsApp confronted Blotner on her post, saying that they needed to have a conversation about it to see if she supports “violence against the Palestinians.”

Aaron Bandler is an investigative journalist for the Jewish Journal. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

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Aaron Bandler
Aaron Bandler is an investigative journalist for the Jewish Journal. Originally from the Bay Area, his past work experience includes writing for The Daily Wire, The Daily Caller and Townhall.

A Jewish student at the State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz is alleging that she was thrown out of a sexual assaults survivors group over her support for Israel.

The Algemeiner and The New Paltz Oracle student newspaper reported that the student, Cassie Blotner, was a founding of the New Paltz Accountability (NPA) club. Blotner had shared an Instagram story in December arguing against allegations that Israel is a settler-colonial state, stating: “You cannot colonize the land your ancestors are from.” Various members in the NPA group chat on WhatsApp confronted Blotner on her post, saying that they needed to have a conversation about it to see if she supports “violence against the Palestinians.” Blotner initially declined, telling The Oracle that she would have been outnumbered four-to-one and that it’s “a form of antisemitism to corner Jews into a conversation about Israel and Palestine and forcing opinion out of us.” She later suggested that the NPA discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with and the Jewish Student Union, which the NPA rebuffed. 

Blotner then found herself kicked out of the group. “They removed me from Instagram and then a few days after that they removed me from the shared Google Drive,” she told The Oracle.

NPA member Mia Altamuro told The Oracle that the group simply thought it was time to move past the issue because it would be “very time consuming” and “distract from our main goal of advocating for survivors.” Karl Velikonja, one of the NPA’s co-founders, elaborated further: “We want to support survivors by literally changing the rules to make it so that there are fewer survivors in the first place. And so when there’s a member with political beliefs that will kind of deter us from doing that, then you know, that’s something we can’t have in our group. I think defending Israel or supporting Israel in any way or any kind of imperialist capitalist nation that oppresses and kills people and exploits people and gives them diseases and any type of condoning or being okay with that is totally not accepted in our group.” 

Ofek Preis, another member of NPA, resigned from the group after learning about what happened to Blotner. “When I heard that NPA refused to meet with the Jewish Student Union, I felt like that was an official stance on their inclusion of Jewish voices,” he told The Oracle. “They said they refuse to talk to us about a conversation that they started. They started this conversation very aggressively by putting one Jewish person in this group chat, making them like making them give a statement on behalf of a foreign government … which they shouldn’t have to ever represent because they’re just one individual.”

The Algemeiner noted that the NPA issued a response to The Oracle in a Google Doc that responded to each paragraph in The Oracle’s report. “The very statements that were made in [Blotner’s] post reflect an indifference and denial of the genocide and terror the Israeli military has put the Palestinian population through,” they wrote. “We simply could not stand by and not address it with her. So no, we did not corner her into talking about it. She posted controversial views about the subject, and we responded with our views, asking to have a conversation about it. That is not antisemitic.” The NPA added that they only organize with those that “denounce all forms of oppression and exploitation,” and that “calling Israel a [non-colonial] state and justifying its occupation of the area, is being indifferent, condoning the oppression of Palestinians. Allowing these beliefs to permeate into our organization would exclude Palestinian students and survivors.” The NPA later added in the document that “neither Blotner nor Preis have fully acknowledged the actions of the Israeli government – instead painting the situation vaguely, calling for the emancipation of the Israeli and Palestinian population. Where is the denunciation of Israel’s actions? This is purposeful, to shift the focus away from the Israeli governments colonization of Palestinian land, and ignore the actual result of the Zionist movement.” They also disputed Preis as being a member, calling her more of a “prospective member” who only attended “a couple of virtual meetings.” Additionally, the NPA linked to a separate Google Doc of screenshots of their exchanges with Blotner.

Jewish groups denounced the NPA and urged SUNY New Paltz to address the matter.

“Putting Jewish students on trial for identifying with Israel and excluding them from the NPA for accurately describing the Jewish connection to Israel is blatant identity-based discrimination,” StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal. “No student should face such treatment based on an aspect of their identity. It is also completely disingenuous that the NPA ignores the attacks against Israeli citizens by Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian terrorist group that governs Gaza, including thousands of rockets they launched against Israel in May. Focusing only on Israel’s response to the violence against it demonstrates a double standard, another clear form of anti-Jewish bigotry. Such biased and hypocritical treatment leaves Zionist Jewish students at SUNY New Paltz without important support resources, should they need them. This egregious act of bigotry must be addressed by the administration to ensure that all Jewish students receive equal access and support on campus.”

AMCHA Initiative Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin similarly said in a statement to the Journal: “What started as boycotting Israel has quickly turned to boycotting people … For far too long university administrators have largely failed to recognize anti-Zionist targeting and harassment as forms of prohibited behavior, even though study after study demonstrates that it’s anti-Zionism that is the biggest contributor to a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students. While the answer is simple, so is the solution. University leaders must expand harassment policies to provide equal protections for all students. It shouldn’t matter if a student is kicked out of a group because they are Black, Jewish, Zionist, etc. The behavior is what is not okay and must be addressed fairly for all students. When that happens, Zionist students will finally have the bullseye removed from their backs.”

SUNY New Paltz spokesperson Chrissie Williams told The Algemeiner that the NPA is not an officially recognized university group, but the university still requires the organization to uphold “our values of inclusion, our sense of community, and our goal of creating a learning and working environment where every individual is welcomed and given the full opportunity to succeed and thrive. While we would like to prevent such acts, we respond to acts of bias by supporting the individual who has been impacted, and where possible educating members of our community to reduce the likelihood of similar experiences in the future.”

The NPA did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

A February 10 editorial in The Oracle stated that antisemitism “unfortunately hasn’t been a stranger to political movements in New Paltz. Last year, Black Hammer, a national organization (with ties to New Paltz) fighting to end oppression against all colonized people, was found to champion strongly hateful rhetoric against Jewish people, calling them oppressors and saying they enjoyed burning Anne Frank’s diary to keep warm, as previously reported in the Oracle. Leaders of the organization called Anne Frank a Becky, a colonizer and a Karen.” Additionally, the editorial noted that after the Colleyville terror attack in January, the university “failed to send an email to the student body on the matter, further allowing non-Jews to uphold their fantasy of living in a post-antisemitic town while simultaneously failing to unite in the ways they might’ve, had they known what was going on.” The editorial later stated: “Issues pertaining to anti-Semitism are not discussed widely enough on campus or in America at large. If you’re reading this, we encourage you to step out of your comfort zone this week. Lean into some intersectional conversations in your classrooms or at your dinner table where you explore how glaring religious persecution still is in America.”

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