Letter to the Editor: We Can’t Whitewash SJP Violence

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There’s a violent history that follows Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 

The Jewish community is all too familiar with the 250+ chapter organization: Nazi posters, cartoons of hook-nosed Jewish caricatures, defenses of swastika memes, harassment of Holocaust survivors. The Fordham SJP chapter has shared conspiracist doctored images of organ-harvesting (blood libel conspiracy), videos with cartoons of Orthodox Jewish men taping the world’s “mouth” closed using yellow tape labeled “anti-Semitism” (representing ”false” accusations and world control), and a speaker who said (in the Ram Café Atrium), “The Jews…the Zionists are using you as the token brown guy.”

Fordham SJP driving force and co-founder Gunar Olsen also promotes conspiracy theories, with posts that leftists should take a break from the feminist culture wars,” frequent dismissals of Black Lives Matter as a bulwark to the neoliberal project” and tool of the ruling class and a tweeted podcast of anti-masker, anti-vaxxer Trumpian conspiracist Mark Crispin Miller. He also retweeted Glenn Greenwald’s defense of Parler and Max Blumenthal’s assertions that anti-Semitism is “manufactured” with apologies “compelled” by the Israel lobby.

Fordham’s status as a private institution hasn’t been legally contested. Only Instagram meme account LC Sinners questioned this in posts critiquing the SJP and Austin Tong controversies. Treating all federally funded organizations as if they’re governmental bodies would require a massive legislative overhaul. 

However, I’m troubled by the Observer article’s characterization of SJP as “non-discriminatory” based on “a wide array” of popular support. It lists numbers of followers and “hundreds of likes,” unsurprising data at a predominantly white Christian university. Many historical atrocities had white and Christian populist support. 

The aforementioned political cartoon on Fordham SJP’s Facebook page came from a Holocaust denial competition. It also appeared on David Duke’s social media. SJP did inspire immense “fear and condemnation” within the Jewish community. Vetoing an organization like SJP is much like the removal of Robert Moses statues, the introduction of gender-neutral housing and bathrooms, and the investigation into Jaworski: a hopeful consequence of marginalized students finally getting heard.

For a quick demonstration of SJP violence, please view the Benedictine SJP controversy with Harold Kasimov (the gaslighting toward him can be triggering). We can’t commit to social justice and then whitewash populist violence toward the Jewish community. Let’s cherish Jewish students instead of playing political football with their lives.

-Brandon Satz-Jacobowitz, FCLC ’19