Brandeis becomes first private university to ban Students for Justice in Palestine on campus

Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz: ‘Chants and social media posts calling for violence against Jews or the annihilation of the state of Israel must not be tolerated.’

Brandeis University

Several weeks after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned Students for Justice in Palestine from the state's public universities, Brandeis became the first private university to enact such a ban on its campus in Waltham, Mass.

Brandeis University on Monday became the first private university to ban the campus chapter of National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Insider has learned. 

SJP’s open support for Hamas, which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, was the driving factor in the decision, according to a source familiar with Brandeis’ plans. The source noted that the National SJP has called on its chapters to engage in conduct that supports Hamas in its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people. 

The crackdown comes on the same day that Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz published an op-ed in the Boston Globe saying that student organizations that participate in antisemitism should “lose all privileges associated with affiliation at their schools.”

“Specifically, chants and social media posts calling for violence against Jews or the annihilation of the state of Israel must not be tolerated,” Liebowitz wrote. 

“This includes phrases such as ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ — which calls for the erasure of the Jewish state; ‘there is only one solution’ — which echoes the Nazi strategy of killing all Jews; and ‘intifada, intifada’ — an incitement to violence against Israeli civilians.”

JI obtained a copy of a letter that was sent to SJP on Monday informing the group that it had been banned. 

“This decision was not made lightly, as Brandeis is dedicated to upholding free speech principles, which have been codified in Brandeis’ Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression,” the letter said. “However, those Principles note that ‘The freedom to debate and discuss ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish, or however they wish,’ and that, ‘…the university may restrict expression…that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment…or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university.’” 

The letter continued, “The National SJP has called on its chapters to engage in conduct that supports Hamas in its call for the violent elimination of Israel and the Jewish people. These tactics are not protected by the University’s Principles. As a result, the University made the decision that the Brandeis chapter of the National SJP must be unrecognized and will no longer be eligible to receive funding, be permitted to conduct activities on campus, or use the Brandeis name and logo in promoting itself or its activities, including through social media channels.” 

The letter further states that students who choose to participate in conduct that supports Hamas

“will be considered to be in violation of the University’s student code of conduct.”

“Students who wish to express their support for the rights of Palestinian civilians may form another student organization, through established procedures, that complies with University policies,” the document continues. 

The move comes on the heels of a letter jointly written by the Anti-Defamation League and the Louis D. Brandeis Center in late October to nearly 200 university presidents that claims SJP “provides vocal and potentially material support to Hamas, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” demanding that schools “investigate the activities of your campus chapter of [SJP] for potential violations of 18 USC 2339A and B, and its state equivalents, that is, for potential violations of the prohibition against materially supporting a foreign terrorist organization.” 

Brandeis, founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian Jewish university, has one of the highest concentrations of Jewish students at any college in the country — Jewish students comprise about a third of undergraduates. The school also has a large number of international students, including Palestinians.

In February, an SJP rally at Brandeis, organized as a response to an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, drew national attention for its antisemitic rhetoric. 

Dozens of national Jewish groups and campus organizations have called on universities to withdraw their recognition and funding for groups affiliated with SJP. Most of the group’s chapters, which commonly go by the name Students for Justice in Palestine but have other names on some campuses, have celebrated or defended Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack against Israel.

SJP was outlawed last month by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the state’s public universities. 

“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” the state university system’s chancellor, Ray Rodrigues, wrote in a memo in October to university leaders. 

The move marked the first time a state has outlawed SJP. The Florida university system said its SJP ban is based on a “toolkit,” issued by the national organization to chapters ahead of its Oct. 12 “Day of Resistance.” JI obtained a copy of the “toolkit,” which has since been removed from the internet. The seven-page kit referred to Hamas’ massacre of 1,400 Israelis on Oct. 7 as “the Palestinian resistance.” 

A request for comment from Brandeis’ SJP chapter was not immediately returned. 

A “Vigil for Palestine” planned for Monday night was canceled in an announcement on the chapter’s Instagram page. “With heavy hearts, we would like to announce that our chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has been unjustly de-chartered,” the Instagram caption said. “This comes as a part of Brandeis University, an institution that values social justice, trying to silence us from speaking our truth… from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

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