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Tufts SJP Announces Pledge to Boycott Student Orgs “That Normalize or Benefit Israel”

Tufts SJP argued that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aims to “to make it economically and politically unviable for [I]srael to continue its violent occupation and colonization of Palestinian land by compelling governments, institutions, and corporations to withdraw their support for apartheid [I]srael.
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March 17, 2022
Tufts University (Photo from Wikipedia.)

Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced a pledge to boycott various student organizations on campus “that normalize or benefit Israel.”

The Algemeiner reported on March 15 that the pro-Palestinian student group wrote about their pledge in a March 14 op-ed in the student magazine Tufts Observer. Tufts SJP argued that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aims to “to make it economically and politically unviable for [I]srael to continue its violent occupation and colonization of Palestinian land by compelling governments, institutions, and corporations to withdraw their support for apartheid [I]srael. It can be practiced on a personal level, by boycotting [I]sraeli goods and companies that are complicit in [I]sraeli colonization, on an institutional level, by demanding that institutions divest their holdings in corporations that help maintain [I]sraeli colonialism, and on a governmental level, by advocating for states to impose sanctions on [I]srael for its actions.”

As it pertains to Tufts, such boycotts include Sabra and Pillsbury products as well as student groups like “Tufts Friends of [I]srael (FOI), Tufts J Street, or TAMID, as well as not choosing to study abroad in [I]srael or participate in Birthright, not taking the Visions of Peace course, and not participating in the Tisch Summer Fellowship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL),” the op-ed stated, calling for students to sign their pledge in support of their boycott efforts.

Tufts spokesperson Patrick Collins denounced the pledge in a statement to The Algemeiner, saying: “The university rejects the BDS movement, elements of which we believe are rooted in antisemitism. We strongly oppose this renewed campaign at Tufts. It is particularly disappointing that the Students for Justice in Palestine have chosen to ask fellow students to boycott not just companies but other student groups on campus.”

ADL New England Regional Director Robert Trestan wrote in a March 15 letter to Tufts President Dr. Anthony Monaco that they view the SJP Tufts boycott pledge as a matter of “grave and urgent concern” because it “effectively creates a litmus test that could be used to restrict Jewish students from full participation in the many facets of student life at Tufts and is likely be used to target and harass them. Creating lists of names of students who either support or, through omission, don’t support the anti-Israel SJP agenda divides the campus and effectively shuns Jewish students who will be forced to either hide their personal views or risk being ostracized and excluded from campus life.” Trestan urged Monaco “to proactively and publicly reassure Jewish students on campus that they will not be targeted or ostracized from full participation in all aspects of campus life.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the Tufts SJP boycott pledge “is a process that shamefully extends the already unacceptable economic and academic boycott of Israel to a *literal boycott of students.*” He asked in a subsequent tweet if “any other country on earth [is] attacked this way at @TuftsUniversity.” “This is hate dressed up as protest, classic antisemitism masquerading as social justice,” Greenblatt added. “@sjptufts’ demands force Jewish students either to distance themselves from Jewish involvement and hide their personal views, or risk exclusion and ostracism on campus. I am a @TuftsUniversity alum & feel deep, deep shame to see the student body bullied by a bigoted minority & how the administration is incapable of basic leadership. Sad how my alma mater has lost the plot and abandoned any pretense of fairness.”

Jewish On Campus (JOC) noted in a tweet that in their op-ed, SJP Tufts used a lower-case “i” in their spelling of Israel “to belittle and delegitimize the very existence of Israeli identity.” “SJP’s call to isolate and boycott clubs which normalize Israel places an antisemitic litmus test on Jewish students to renounce their Zionism to be accepted, inherently differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Jews,” JOC added. “Even worse, SJP calls Zionism—the right for the Jewish people to return to their homeland—a white supremacist ideology, directly equating ninety percent of Jews to people who seek to destroy them. Tufts SJP has asked Jewish students to revoke part of their Jewish identity or face boycott. It is unacceptable for a university club to ask Jewish students to [shed] part of their religious & ethnic identity in light of a fundamentally complex geopolitical conflict. We call on @TuftsUniversity administration to condemn the litmus test given to Jews to disavow the connection to their ancestral homeland.”

In a statement to the Journal, Collins said that SJP does play “an important role” in discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but “their most recent campaign is divisive and harmful.” He added that “President Monaco has reached out to the student leaders of the organizations targeted by SJP” to eventually meet with them. “Unfortunately, the tensions we’re seeing at Tufts are playing out across campuses nationwide. In response, over the past year and with the support of the Board of Trustees, we have implemented initiatives to promote awareness, education, and elimination of antisemitism. We are working with external experts to conduct trainings, and we have elevated conversations about awareness, education, and prevention of antisemitism.”

SJP Tufts did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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