The National Lawyers Guild issued the following statements in support of students at Fordham University who were denied the right to form a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on their campus. To support Fordham SJP, please take two actions: 1. sign on to the student support petition and 2. send a letter to the university’s administration.
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) joins the Center For Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and community and civil rights groups in condemning Fordham University’s discriminatory ban on the Palestinian rights student organization, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The NLG condemns this latest act of anti-Palestinian discrimination and manifestation of the “Palestine exception” to free speech and calls for the immediate instatement of the SJP Chapter at Fordham University.
On January 17th, after one year of unprecedented scrutiny of the students involved in forming the campus group, Fordham University Dean Keith Eldridge vetoed the formation of the SJP chapter despite approval for the formation of Fordham SJP by the student government. Indicative of Fordham University’s true motivations behind the ban of the SJP Chapter was the nature of the questioning of the students, which revolved around their views on Palestine, the Israeli occupation, and the controversial Israeli lobby. These events are reminiscent of the role of the Israel lobby in Britain, which was recently exposed as having infiltrated and attempted to pressure British student groups while targeting British elected officials who have been publicly critical of Israel or supportive of Palestinian rights.
Dean Eldridge’s allegation that his veto was motivated by his concern about the “divisive and provocative nature” of the proposed SJP chapter is belied by the unobstructed history of events on Palestine and Israel hosted at the University, largely organized by pro-Israeli groups, as well as the plethora of other diverse student groups established without the same scrutiny or obstruction used against Fordham Students for Justice in Palestine.
NLG member Lamis Deek, a New York-based Palestinian human rights attorney and activist said, “This latest act by Fordham University exemplifies a long and ubiquitous history of anti-Palestinian censorship rampant across campuses, government, and civil institutions that has largely gone under-reported, unchallenged and is often coordinated with many Israeli groups. But the tide is turning. Civil rights groups are increasingly defeating these efforts which threaten the constitutional rights of all students and all Americans. Ironically, these repressive tactics have had the effect of exposing the imbalanced treatment of Palestine in our society and while scaring away many students, they have attracted many more who have helped expand the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which has its roots in the South African anti-apartheid campaign.”
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights board member and human rights attorney Bina Ahmad added, “Fordham University’s decision to suppress speech about the genocide and apartheid conditions faced by Palestinians under the Israeli regime is a gross violation of the principles of free speech and open dialogue Fordham claims to uphold. Fordham University’s fear of ‘polarizing’ issues is not only an embarrassment but a potential violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”
The NLG calls on Fordham University to immediately rescind its ban against Fordham Students for Justice in Palestine and demands the University implement mechanisms to ensure the equal and fair treatment of the students involved.