On October 18, Georgetown University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter will be hosting a speaker who once tweeted that Jews are known for being “sleazy thieves.”
Georgetown SJP and the university’s Qatar SJP chapter will be hosting Miko Peled, an Israeli-born Jew who is the son of an Israeli general and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, on a Zoom webinar event titled “Anti-Zionism vs. Anti-Semitism.” The event is open to the public.
There have been calls for Georgetown to cancel the event. Walid Tamtam, an Arab student at the University of Toronto, wrote in The Times of Israel on October 15 that Peled has been canceled from speaking at prior events. Tamtam noted that in 2016, San Diego State University’s (SDSU) SJP chapter canceled Peled after he tweeted that “Jews have reputation [for] being sleazy thieves.” Peled was reacting to the ten-year, $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the United States and Israel agreed to at the time.
“#apartheidisrael doesn’t need or deserve these $$,” Peled wrote.
— Miko Peled (@mikopeled) September 14, 2016
Following that tweet, SDSU SJP announced on their Facebook page that they would be canceling Peled’s speaking event because his comments were “offensive,” although they claimed that Peled’s “comments are not reflective of Mr. Peled’s principles or character.” The Princeton Committee on Palestine also canceled its Peled speaking event at the time over his remarks.
Peled defended his comments by stating in a Facebook post that “the very people who cry anti Semitism all day long are demanding billions of dollars. This is criminal and it lends itself to the claims of Jews being sleazy money grabbing [people]. It’s not my tweet that gives legitimacy to the stereotype – it’s the actions of the government of Israel that causes hatred of Jews. And since they claim Israel represents Jews and mainstream Jews in the US Support Israel the danger in making the stereotype fit is clear.”
“Supporting Israel is supporting genocide and demanding the US taxpayers pay for it is the lowest form of dishonesty and thievery – and that is the stereotype Jewish [people] like me and [Jewish Voice for Peace people] are fighting.”
Tamtam argued that Peled’s speaking event will only divide the Georgetown community.
“Any attempt to carve out an acceptable lane to deny the Jewish people the right to live in their homeland does nothing to advance the conversation about improving conditions for Palestinians,” he wrote. “I reject this attempt to use Arabs as a prop to demonize Israel and alienate the Jewish students around me. I reject that this event should yet again be another opportunity for the Palestinian cause to be hijacked by those who are frankly disconnected from the reality, the Palestinian community, and genuine interests to fight for what is indeed a worthy cause, rather than just dumping fuel in a highly flammable situation.”
He urged the Georgetown community to pressure the university to cancel the event.
“I believe that hate should have no place on college campuses and I hope that the university will do the right thing and cancel this event,” Tamtam wrote. “I also hope that this will set the precedent that such speakers be rejected from all college campuses that genuinely wish to provide a safe learning space for all of its students.”
Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of the pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs, said to the Journal “Miko Peled has such a hateful record that even multiple SJP chapters felt compelled to cancel events with him. If SJP at Georgetown insists on using their platform to promote his bigotry, the administration should unequivocally condemn both the event and organization hosting it.”
The Stop Antisemitism.org watchdog tweeted, “Hey @Georgetown
HOW and WHY are you allowing a man who called Jews ‘sleazy thieves’ a platform at your school?????”
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) October 15, 2020
Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, director of the pro-Israel group AMCHA Initiative, also told the Journal, “This is par for the course for SJP. They trot around anti-Semitic speakers to spew and incite hatred on campus. The strategy here, and it’s a deliberate one, is the same as divestment resolutions — to suppress all pro-Israel speech on campus by bullying and harassing Jewish and pro-Israel students into silence.”
However, she doesn’t think that Peled should be canceled.
“Just as Jewish students should be able to freely express their pro-Israel views on campus without being bullied or harassed into silence, we also have to permit anti-Semites the same right,” Rossman-Benjamin said. “However, our research clearly indicates that anti-Semitic venom — whether it’s motivated by classic anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism — is often accompanied by acts that target Jewish students. And when that happens the university must act swiftly to address and punish that behavior, no matter the motivation.”
Georgetown SJP and the university did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment. Peled declined to comment to the Journal.
During an event outside of the UK Labour Party’s 2017 conference venue, Peled reportedly said, “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticize and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.”
However, according to the UK Daily Mail, Peled went on to say that there are “limits of tolerance” as to who deserves a platform.
“We don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing,” Peled said.
In October 2019, St. Anne’s Church in London issued an apology to the Jewish community for allowing a Peled speaking event to be held in one of its rooms. St. Anne’s donated the room hire fee to the Community Security Trust, a British watchdog organization against anti-Semitism. Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl told the Jewish News at the time that they were “grateful” for the church’s apology and called on those who have hosted or associated with Peled to “have nothing more to do with him.”
Peled told the Jewish News at the time, “The suggestion that the event in which I spoke in any way shape or form represents hate, racism, homophobia, or antisemitism is outrageous and libelous.” He added that he’s Jewish and Israeli and has “many friends who are Jewish and view the issue of Palestine as I do. I would like to know the identity of anyone who made these false accusations.”