Students for Justice in Palestine facing disciplinary charges from GW after protest

Media Credit: Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor

A Palestine Legal release states GW charged SJP and its president with a student conduct violation “for misconduct related to property” for their protest outside a speaker event with Doron Tenne, a former IDF intelligence officer, at the GW Hillel building.

Students for Justice in Palestine is facing disciplinary charges from GW in connection to a protest outside the GW Hillel building in October against a speaker who formerly worked for the Israeli Defense Forces, according to a Palestine rights advocacy rights group.

Palestine Legal – the Palestine rights advocacy group representing SJP in its disciplinary case – stated in a release Tuesday that a student conduct hearing Friday could sanction SJP’s president with disciplinary probation and censure or limit the “privileges” of the entire student organization. The release states GW launched an investigation into SJP after students gathered outside the GW Hillel building in October to protest Doron Tenne, a former IDF intelligence officer who was speaking at an event hosted by GW for Israel and GW Mishelanu, an organization dedicated to Israeli American heritage.

GW charged the president and the student organization with a student conduct violation “for misconduct related to property,” according to the release. A video posted online following the protest showed about 15 students demonstrating outside the Hillel building holding signs that read statements like “War criminals GTFO.”

Before the October protest, SJP led a postering campaign to demonstrate student support for Palestinian rights and pasted messages around campus like “Decolonize Palestine” and “GW for a Free Palestine” – actions which remained in compliance with the University’s “freedom of expression” policies, according to the release. The release states the University’s “continued repression of student expression in support of Palestinian rights” breaks its political expression policy, which outlines GW’s commitment to free speech, assembly and protest.

“SJP followed all the rules around postering and directed their members and allies to do the same,” Palestine Legal attorney Dylan Saba said in the release. “But GW is selectively targeting this group for punishment, when there is zero evidence of any wrongdoing. This looks like racist, anti-Palestinian profiling and the law does not support it.”

University spokesperson Julia Metjian said when the University receives reports of student activity that may violate GW policy, University officials respond in accordance with the GW Code of Student Conduct and applicable University policies and procedures. She declined to comment on disciplinary proceedings. 

“The University continues to support the right of all members of the University community to engage in debate and discussion, as well as protest, in accordance with University policies,” Metjian said in an email.

SJP defended their decision to protest in a statement they released after the demonstration, “wholeheartedly” condemning the event with Tenne.

GW Hillel and GW for Israel also released statements saying Jewish students felt targeted by the protest, and GW for Israel called the protest a display of “antisemitism.” GW Hillel said they were “deeply troubled” by posters condemning Zionism prior to the protest, including one that stated, “Zionists f*** off.” 

Interim University President Mark Wrighton released a statement that said officials heard that Jewish community members felt the October protest was directed toward them.

The statements from GW Hillel and Wrighton did not include context about the speaker event featuring the former IDF official, which organizers said was the sole reason behind the protest.

Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement in October that GW Hillel and GW for Israel mischaracterized the protest when they claimed the protests were targeted at GW’s Jewish population instead of just Tenne. The Palestine Legal release states that Israel advocacy organizations and media outlets “smeared” protesters supporting Palestinian rights online, with one site allegedly calling on its following of 60,000 people to dox the students by publicly posting their personal information. 

Palestine Legal filed a civil rights complaint with DC Office of Human Rights against the University last November, alleging that the University had discriminated against its Palestinian students by being “selective” in its trauma service offerings. Palestine Legal says the DC OHR has charged the University with national origin discrimination but that the investigation is still ongoing. 

Nikki Ghaemi contributed reporting.

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