Students cry foul over Israeli event entry

Student leaders are demanding an apology from MEOR for alleged discrimination when the Jewish student organization blocked their entry to an on-campus event.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine claim they were barred from attending the on-campus Feb. 28 speech of Israeli Reservist Sergeant Benjamin Anthony.

Banu Gumusoglu, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said she was one of about 12 members not admitted into the event. She said when she asked the organizers why they had to leave, MEOR members claimed the event was private. When she and others refused to leave, MEOR called in the University Police Department to intervene.

“It became apparent to us that the sole reason we weren’t being admitted was because of the company we were keeping, which was a mostly Arab group,” Gumusoglu said. “There was essentially no way for the organizers to know who was invited or not invited based on anything besides racial profiling.”

Officers are not required to stand outside events that have less than 100 people, but Gumusoglu said the organization had a few of its members stationed at the door blocking the group’s entrance.

“[One of the MEOR organizers] pushed me with his chest out of the room,” Gumusoglu said. She told UPD she would not press charges when officers arrived shortly after the incident.

Joshua Hollander, campus coordinator for MEOR, said the organizers called in UPD officers “to provide protection and security” for those attending the event.

“Unfortunately, this week’s private event was significantly disrupted by individuals not enrolled in the class whose purpose was to make it impossible for our lecture regarding Israel to be heard,” Hollander said. “Our efforts to ensure a safe and respectful environment for the guest speaker and the students were aggressively threatened.”

He strongly denied that any student was assaulted during the incident.

Students for Justice in Palestine is demanding an apology from MEOR because “in all instances of discrimination and on some level, injustice and oppression, recognition is our right,” SJP member Adam Akkad said.

Akkad said he had heard about the event through a Twitter account called CampusSpeakers1, which had Tweeted hundreds of times Feb. 27 advertising the time and place of MEOR’s event. Hollander said the event he helped organize was private and limited to the 35 students enrolled in the MEOR Maimonides Leader Fellowship program, calling the Twitter account “fraudulent” with “no connection to our organization.”

Anthony’s website advertised several lectures of “Our Soldiers Speak” as part of its nationwide tour, but did not mention the conference held at GW.

Gumusoglu and Akkad said the event did not appear to be limited to students in the fellowship, because there were families in attendance.

“There was no ID check at the door,” Gumusoglu said. “There were small children. There were parents. There were people who told us explicitly that they had never been to a [MEOR] event previously.”

Hollander said the only family in attendance was the rabbi’s family.

Labeling MEOR’s reaction “a preemptive attack,” Akkad said MEOR was anticipating a protest. Other chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine had a history of protesting events hosted by Israeli soldiers, Hollander said.

When asked about his reaction to the students seeking an apology from MEOR, Hollander said his group would accept an apology from Students for Justice in Palestine. He added that the incident “has been blown out of proportion.”

No police report was filed as of March 4. UPD Chief Kevin Hay said officers responded to a report of a “disorderly group who tried to force their way into a small, private event.” He said a student was “bumped” while attempting to enter but did not want to press charges.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this report

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