FAQ: Mock Eviction Notices, Free Speech, and “Restorative Justice” at NYU

What’s the three sentence overview?
NYU Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) slid mock eviction notices into dorm rooms last Wednesday to call attention to certain abuses of the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. A far-right campus organization, TorchPAC, responded with false allegations of anti-Semitismand financial ties to Hamas, and these lies echoed uncritically throughout the mainstream media. Under pressure from the right, the NYU Administration has now told The Jewish Week that it will force all parties to dialogue “under the direction of our Muslim and Jewish chaplains.”

What did the eviction notices say?
The fake eviction notices stated that the U.S. government backs a brutal Israeli occupation that has destroyed 27,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. 160,000 Palestinians have been left homeless as a result of these policies. NYU’s faculty pension fund is also invested. The notices said “THIS IS NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE” in large capital letters on the bottom.

Whom did SJP target with its mock eviction notices?
SJP distributed flyers into two dorms because they were large and convenient to where SJP members lived. A TorchPAC member claimed that these dorms were targeted because of their high Jewish population; this claim lacked any evidence – both because it was false and because the dorms were not known for having a particularly Jewish character – and was rejected by the NYU Administration itself.

Who funds SJP?
A TorchPAC member claimed that SJP “absolutely” has financial ties to Hamas. Neither she nor anyone else has made any attempt to present evidence for this claim, which is ridiculous on its surface, since, among other reasons, SJP’s positions are not nearly aligned with Hamas’s, and SJP receives sufficient funding for its activities from the NYU Administration itself as a so-called “All-Square Club.”

Who funds TorchPAC?
I am absolutely sure that Vladmir Putin funds them. And also Mel Gibson. If they can’t prove otherwise, I’m right.*

Have SJP members been harassed since the TorchPAC member made fictitious claims in the mainstream press about anti-Semitism and ties to Hamas?
Yes. SJP members have reported receiving intimidating phone calls since the slanderous allegations.

Why did TorchPAC make up these lies and why did they find such a warm reception in the conservative media?
The aim of those who support the Israeli occupation is to silence anyone who manages to draw attention to its gross injustices. U.S. support for the occupation is vital to its success, and the more Americans learn about it, the more aghast they become. A great deal of effort has therefore gone into ensuring that the population remains ill-informed. This is the latest such episode. TorchPAC’s ability to fabricate sheer nonsense and have it stick in the mainstream press is a damning indictment of our political culture.

Wait – did you say in the summary that NYU is going to require both parties to engage in a religious dialogue to solve this?
Yes. Although NYU has not yet informed SJP, it did talk to a journalist of the following: “among other steps, through the process known as ‘restorative justice,’ we will bring together the parties to work together under the direction of our Muslim and Jewish chaplains, as well as trained moderators, to reverse the cycle from negative to affirmative exchanges.”

But is SJP a Muslim organization?
No. SJP is not a religious organization. And the occupation is not a religious occupation. SJP is an organization opposed to the oppression of Palestinians, regardless of their religion. In fact, SJP’s membership features a high percentage of Jews, and several of its recent presidents happened to be Jews as well.

So what do Muslim and Jewish chaplains have to do with this?
Nothing. At least, not except that NYU is forcing SJP to have a dialog moderated by them.

Will there be Christian, Druze, or Hindu religious figures as well at the “restorative justice” session, since some Israelis and Palestinians practice all of these religions?
No, the NYU administration is only including Muslim and Jewish chaplains.

What about the B’Hai religion? Will there be a B’Hai representative?
No.

Would people from the different religions sing Kumbaya at the end of the “restorative justice” session?
Possibly.

Wait – but doesn’t the First Amendment protect political speech like SJP’s? And doesn’t NYU claim to foster a policy of open exchange?
Yes, and yes. But free speech at NYU is apparently taking a back seat to reactionary but powerful political interests.

What do NYU professors think?
A growing number of them (around 100 as of this writing) have signed a statement denouncing any disciplinary action against SJP. They state that “the First Amendment right of NYU students to express, and advocate for, their opinions on issues of public concern must be respected and protected.”

Have many professors come out in support of punishing SJP?
No, because punishing students for putting mock eviction notices under people’s doors is a terrifying assault on the right to free speech.

What about the general public?
1,052 people have signed a petition to stand in solidarity with SJP as of this writing. A petition in opposition to SJP, which used to accuse them of “hate speech” but then removed the phrase after almost nobody was signing, now has 361 signatures.

*This is intended to be satirical. TorchPAC, like SJP, receives its funding from NYU.

This post originally appeared on Farce Politics.

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