The David Horowitz Freedom Center plastered derogatory posters on and around campus Oct. 5 in an attempt to suppress student activism for Palestinian human rights and scare potential supporters. The posters implicated Students for Justice in Palestine as a pro-terrorist, anti-Jewish organization that acts as a recruiting tool for future terrorists in the Middle East. It should be noted the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented the Freedom Center as an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black hate organization.
But despite their hateful views and tactics, the Freedom Center is no pariah. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Maccabee Task Force, a new Israel advocacy group with a budget of at least $50 million, provided funding to the Freedom Center. The funding of such an organization, along with social media campaigns and subsidized trips to Israel, is part of the overall strategy led by Sheldon Adelson – a right-wing Las Vegas casino tycoon – to foster a positive image of Israel on US colleges campuses. The Freedom Center and the Maccabee Task Force are part of a larger cohort of Israel advocacy groups that are trying to suppress student activism for Palestinian human rights.
The Maccabee-funded Freedom Center has, in the past, displayed hate posters against Palestinian human rights activists. But during spring 2016, the Freedom Center escalated its campaign of intimidation by naming students individually, implicating them as anti-Semitic terrorists and murderers. As a result, students have reported feeling unsafe on campus. And now the Freedom Center, with its most recent campaign, shows no signs of stopping.
For Palestinian students and allies like myself, the experience has been all too surreal. Because of my activism for Palestinian human rights, I have been placed on an online blacklist – an anonymous website ran by students and “concerned citizens” – that is trying to prevent me from being employed, and that blacklist provides the Freedom Center with the information needed to launch its hateful campaign of intimidation. Ever since my name was listed on the posters, I have been followed, bullied and harassed on social media. Like other students, this has caused me to worry for my safety. This experience has also caused me a great deal of psychological trauma, and I worry about my well-being.
However, campaigns of intimidation by outside Israel advocacy groups are no surprise. Because of the work SJP does, the student body is becoming conscious of Israel’s oppressive policies that deny Palestinian freedom. That is why – with the support of a diverse array of individuals and student organizations – UCLA’s student governing body voted in 2014 to divest from corporations that profit from Israel’s racist colonial network and violence that violate Palestinian human rights. Now, we will amplify our call to the University of California Board of Regents to hold true to its commitments of socially responsible investments and obey the nearly unanimous call by its undergraduate campuses to divest our tuition dollars from corporations that profit from the human rights abuses inflicted upon the Palestinian people.
Israel advocacy groups that protect those abusive policies are in a panic. So they’re descending onto campus in an attempt to inject fear and stop our activism.
But Palestinian students and allies will not be silenced by hate organizations like the Freedom Center, nor will we be silenced by multimillion-dollar Israel advocacy groups like the Maccabee Task Force that fund them. We will never terminate our quest for Palestinian freedom, and we urge the campus community to stand in solidarity with SJP and our fight for human rights, equality and justice for the Palestinian people.
Despite hateful and intimidating campaigns to suppress us, we will continue to educate the campus community and demand our tuition dollars be divested from corporations that profit from abuse of human rights in Palestine. Our support on campus is strong and only growing. As for students who know nothing about the struggle for Palestinian freedom, we urge them to attend our future meetings and events to learn about Palestine and what they can do to achieve human rights. Together, we will prevail in the face of hate and intimidation.
Robert Gardner is a fourth-year political science student.