Pro-Palestinian students suffer from harassment, police intimidation and death threats on US campus

Dr Sarah Marusek | reposted from the Middle East Monitor
Friday, 16 August 2013

Last April, the Zionist Organization of America and the student group Owls for Israel invited Israeli Colonel Bentzi Gruber to speak at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).

Gruber was traveling across the US for a series of talks on “Ethics in the Field: An Inside Look at the Israel Defense Forces,” in which he proposes the moral and legal justifications for “Operation Cast Lead,” the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza that Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described as “a brutal, nearly unrestrained attack on a poor, helpless, besieged population that had nowhere to flee, save the sea, and on armed Palestinian groups, with meager equipment and primitive weaponry.”

US students protest for Palestine

US students protest for Palestine

According to a statement that was published this week, the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which counts Jewish students among its members, expressed their concerns to university officials about Gruber’s lecture two days before the event, reminding them that some students on campus had family members killed by the Israeli military during “Operation Cast Lead”. SJP received no response, and so the students decided to stage a protest during Gruber’s lecture. Noor Fawzy, one of the students who led the protest, recounts how after the speaker’s opening remarks there was a lull, so the students stood up and went to the front of the room to state a few of the war crimes the Israeli forces committed during “Operation Cast Lead,” which have been documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Fact Finding Mission known as the Goldstone Report. They also displayed a banner that read “War Criminal,” until police came to escort them out. The protest lasted no more than two minutes, during which time some members of the audience called the protesters “spies,” “terrorists,” and other offensive names. They briefly continued their protest outside the event in the company of a police officer.

Four months later, the university formally decided to punish the five students who staged the protest, three of whom are still students at FAU. Two of the three have been placed on indefinite probation, two barred from holding any leadership positions in official student organizations, and all three are required to take part in a mandatory “University Campus of Difference” training program during the fall semester, based on a curriculum created by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

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