BDS (boycott, divestment & sanctions) campaigns on U.S. college campuses delegitimize Israel and are seen by many as “a contemporary manifestation of antisemitism” (Brandies University Report, 2015). Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are the organization most directly responsible for creating a hostile campus environment saturated with anti-Israel events, BDS initiatives, and speakers. This document reports on and analyzes the resources, both financial and non-financial, for these anti-Israel BDS campaigns, highlighting two tiers of BDS activities: (1) SJP’s requisitions of student government funds on nine California campuses; and (2) the central role and allocation of major resources, by a network of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), that support SJP and other BDS activists with financial assistance, training, and legal advice. This report should be seen as a springboard for future research into SJP and its allies. Freedom of Information requests, where relevant, can help to shed light on the financial ties between various BDS-supporting groups and provide a clearer picture of the promotion of BDS on campuses throughout the United States.
As an organization, SJP exists without an apparent central leadership or central structural framework. Each SJP chapter operates independently and is responsible for forming its own constitutions, finding funding sources, and organizing activities. Indeed, several SJP chapters, such as Palestine Solidarity Committee at Harvard College and Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at Washington University do not actually carry the name Students for Justice in Palestine. However, SJP has developed regional networks to aid in coordinating campaigns across several campuses, hinting at greater consolidation. While the majority of visible funding for SJP activities comes from student governments, SJP chapters do receive funding from groups such as American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and WESPAC. However, due to a fundamental lack of transparency on the part of SJP and its donors, only a fraction of SJP’s funding is known and publicly accessible. It is highly difficult to ascertain how much funding SJP receives from sources outside universities.
Background: NGOs that support campus BDS
Another set of BDS resources comes from a network of external NGOs that provide training and advice to campus activists. This includes the BDS “summer camp” run by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), as well as AMP’s campus activism workshops. During the 2014-2015 academic year, JVP established chapters on 14 campuses in the United States. Similarly, AMP and Palestine Legal publish guidebooks designed to refine and hone the messages of BDS on campus, and AFSC official Dalit Baum has drafted divestment resolutions for student governments.
In order to determine the resources available to campus BDS activists from university sources, this report makes use of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. These documents detail the transfer of funds from student governments to SJP groups, as well as the access to facilities, at nine California universities: UCLA, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley, San Francisco State, San Diego State and California Polytechnic State. The majority of the documents obtained are from 2010-2015, although some date back to 2001.
SJP BDS Campus Activity
According to the Israel on Campus Coalition, there were over 1,600 anti-Israel events on college campuses in the U.S. during the 2014-2015 academic year. With over 150 chapters throughout the United States, SJP is the organization most directly responsible for BDS on campus, and it frequently organizes numerous pro-BDS events on campuses, including the annual “Israel Apartheid Week.” Typically, several events are spread throughout the week, including anti-Israel film screenings, guest lectures, educational panels, and Palestinian cultural events. In addition to organizing BDS campaigns on campuses, SJP also conducts “guerilla activism” that increases tensions on campuses, including erecting mock versions of the security barrier referred to as “The Apartheid Wall,” distributing mock eviction notices to students, operating “mock checkpoints,” and simulating the deaths of Palestinians in “Die-Ins.”
In line with these activities, SJP has published a “media handbook” to train BDS activists in public advocacy. The handbook, promoted by the BDS umbrella group US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, includes pro-BDS talking points, promotes apartheid rhetoric, adopts the Nakba narrative, and contains suggestions interacting with the media. The handbook also excuses Hamas terrorism by suggesting that suicide bombings were merely a response to the 1994 Cave of Patriarchs massacre carried out by Baruch Goldstein.
Also significant is the role played by SJP in promoting divestment resolutions in student government frameworks. To date, nearly 70 divestment campaigns have taken place on U.S. college campuses. Many of these resolutions are sponsored by SJP members, who then lobby for their passage.
BDS Speakers on Campus
SJP often brings pro-BDS speakers to campus. The following are some of the prominent proponents of BDS who frequently speak at SJP events across the United States.
Omar Barghouti is one of the leaders of the BDS Movement and is a staunch supporter of a one-state solution with a Palestinian “right of return,” a way to end Israel’s Jewish majority by flooding the country with Palestinians, thus dismantling the Jewish State through demographic means. He deems the one-state solution “more just, moral and therefore enduring alternative for peaceful coexistence.”
Hatem Bazian is a professor at UC Berkeley, Chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and a co-founder of SJP. Bazian is a prominent supporter of BDS, employs “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide” and “Nakba” rhetoric and called for an intifada in the United States.
Chicago-based Ali Abunimah runs the website Electronic Intifada, one of the leading purveyors of antisemitism online.
Based in San Francisco, Dalit Baum is the head of AFSC’s “Economic Activism Program” and founder of the clearinghouse for BDS information “Who Profits?” Her specific involvement in campus divestment will be discussed below.
Remi Kanazi is a New York-based pro-BDS activist who writes anti-Israel poetry, referring to Israeli “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and racism.
Steven Salaita was denied a teaching position at the University of Illinois after he wrote a series of antisemitic (here, here, here, here and here), anti-Israel (here, here, and here), and pro-Hamas (here, and here) tweets during the 2014 Gaza conflict.
Based in the Washington D.C. area, Josh Ruebner is a senior member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. In addition to hosting pro-BDS speakers, SJP events have also featured speakers who support terrorism against Israel:
As part of the 2012 “Israel Apartheid Week” at American University, the local SJP held a “Skype talk” with Khader Adnan, former spokesman for the Islamic Jihad terror organization.
As part of the 2010“ Israel Apartheid Week” at UC Irvine, Malik Ali affirmed his support for Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and referred to Zionists as “the new Nazis.”
University-Funded Events and Speaking Engagements
A series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were made for data regarding university funding of SJP events at nine public California schools. The following are some of the examples of student government funds being used by SJP to host pro-BDS speakers, based on the documents released under those requests:
SJP at San Diego State University received a combined $14,000 to host “Palestine Awareness Week” in 2010-2013. It also received $1,100 to screen the film “Occupation 101” on November 8, 2010.
SJP at UC Irvine received $2,280 for a January 3, 2013 event that featured Omar Barghouti, one of the leading BDS ideologues.
Barghouti was also one of three speakers who were invited to speak over the course of the 2010 “Palestine Awareness Week” at San Diego State University. Also featured at the event was Berkeley Professor Hatm Bazian, Chairman of American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the founder of SJP. SJP received $4,000 in student government funds for that event.
The 2011 “Palestine Awareness Week” at San Diego State also received $4,000 in university funding. $2,600 was spent to host three speakers: Miko Peled, Huwaida Arraf, and Diana Butto. Peled is a proponent of BDS and has referred to all Israeli cities as “settlements” in arguing for a “one-state solution.” Arraf is a founding member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and supports armed resistance against Israel, arguing that “the Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics – both nonviolent and violent.” Butto, a former spokesperson for the PLO often accuses Israel of “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing.”
SJP at UC Irvine received $1,600 for the “Rhymes for Palestine” event on March 1, 2010.
San Diego State’s SJP received $1,100 for a November 8, 2010 screening of the film “Occupation 101” that included director Abdallah Omeish and Allison Weir as speakers. Omeish, alongside his brother, Sufyan Omeish, directed the film, which portrays Israel as enacting “apartheid.” Weir, who narrates the film, is the founder of the BDS group “If Americans Knew,” participated in a 2014 Holocaust denial conference in Iran, and promoted a modern blood libel in the form of accusing Israel of harvesting Palestinians’ organs.
In 2008, SJP at Cal Poly State received $1,000 to host Assad Abu-Khalil. Abu-Khalil explains that the aim of BDS is to “bring down the State of Israel.” Abu-Khalil is fully supportive of this goal, asserting that “justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the State of Israel.”
In 2013, SJP at California State at Long Beach received $850 to host “Palestine Awareness Week.”
SJP at UC Irvine received $550 to host Dalit Baum of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) on January 2, 2013.
In 2011, SJP at UC Irvine received $350 to host a panel discussion featuring Ali Abunimah, JVP activist Estee Chandler, and Matan Cohen, a pro-BDS activist from the group “Anarchists Against the Wall.”
The NGO Network Supporting SJP
SJP’s campaigns are aided by a network of pro-BDS NGOs that provide funding, guidance, training, and legal assistance. Some of these groups also co-sponsor events with SJP.
1. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
A major proponent of BDS, US Campaign bills itself as “A national coalition of more than 400 groups,” working “to end U.S. support for Israel's occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.” US Campaign listed its total revenues for 2013 as $423,675 and its total expenses as $477,740.
Several of the organizations in the support network for BDS on campus are affiliated with US Campaign, including SJP, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), National Lawyers Guild and WESPAC.
2. American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Led by SJP co-founder Hatem Bazian, AMP works to advance BDS in the United States, particularly on campus. This organization provides training and funding for BDS activists as well as promoting the Nakba narrative and calling for the “right of return.” AMP lists AJP Education Foundation Inc. as its fiscal sponsor, with total revenue of $567,188 and total expenses of $536,301 in 2013. Hatem Bazian is listed as AJP Education Foundation’s principal officer.
3. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is one of the leading pro-BDS Jewish organizations in the United States. The group’s strategy, as stated by JVP’s executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson, is to create “a wedge” within the American Jewish community to generate the impression of polarization over Israel. The tactic is to dilute support for Israel in the Jewish community, toward the goal of reducing or eliminating the United States government’s economic, military, and political support for Israel.
In addition to support for BDS, JVP’s political warfare strategy against Israel includes a sustained campaign of demonization such as accusations of “apartheid” and “racism,” and support for a Palestinian claim to a “right of return,” with the ultimate goal of dismantling Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. JVP lists 2012 total revenues as $1,181,372 and total expenses as $1,031,138.
4. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
One of the largest Quaker groups in the U.S., AFSC’s BDS strategy includes training campus activists and assisting them in divestment campaigns, alongside participating in boycott campaigns and calling for the “right of return.” AFSC also claims to challenge “militarized societies,” suggesting that Israel is responsible for police militarization in the U.S. by stating that “AFSC works to transform the systems and processes that create and sustain structures of violence in Israel, Palestine and the US.” For 2014, AFSC listed total revenue as $32,325,160 and total expenses as $33,853,122.
“WESPAC demands the US “end all aid to Israel, diplomatic, economic, military… to this apartheid, racist state.” In addition to supporting BDS, the group also serves as apologists for Hamas, arguing that “military occupation is a cause of violence and terrorism not vice versa.” WESPAC listed its total revenues for 2013 as $677,548 and its total expenses as $380,749.
Al-Awda focuses their efforts on securing the “right of return” for Palestinians. However, they are also involved in BDS efforts such as their “Community Boycott Campaign.” Al- Awda, under the formal name of “The Palestine Right to Return Coalition,” lists its total revenues for 2013 as $83,024 and its total expenses as $85,890.
7. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
CCR can be considered part of the legal arm of the BDS Movement, providing legal assistance to BDS activists and partnering with the National Lawyers Guild to create Palestine Legal.
In addition to its support of BDS, CCR engages in “lawfare,” launching legal proceedings in order to harass Israeli officials with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations for “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and other alleged violations of international law. In this vein, CCR has filed “war crimes” lawsuits against leading Israelis such as Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Shabak Director Avi Dichter. CCR listed its total revenue for 2013 as $6,799,179 and its total expenses as $7,234,448.
8. Palestine Legal
Palestine Legal aims to “bolster the Palestine solidarity movement by challenging efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction.” The organization regularly manipulates and distorts the position of pro-Israel advocates, as well as the reality on campus grounds, to advance its own highly biased and politicized agenda of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel in the international arena.
Palestine Legal is a fiscally-sponsored project of the Tides Center. The Tides Center funds a host of BDS organizations including JVP, AFSC and CODEPINK, and dispersed $128.8 million in grants in 2014.
9. National Lawyers Guild
National Lawyers Guild, a Marxist organization, engages in anti-Israel “lawfare,” using legal means to promote BDS as well the narrative of Israeli “war crimes” and “genocide.” In 2013, National Lawyers Guild listed its total revenues as $498,303 and its total expenses as $564,213.
10. International Socialist Organization
In addition to collaborating with BDS groups and speakers, The International Socialist Organization (ISO) is adamantly supportive of Hamas: “We unconditionally support Hamas when it is engaged in military or non-military struggles against Israel, because it weakens the Zionist state and terrifies the Arab regimes and the United States, and therefore strengthens the potential for class struggle in the Arab states against this imperialist system.” ISO does not publish financial information.†
As this report will highlight, the NGO network provides significant resources to BDS activists on campus. Unfortunately, due to a lack of transparency on the part of these organizations, it is difficult to identify all funding for campus BDS activities. However, groups such as AMP and WESPAC are known to provide undisclosed funds to BDS groups on campus and openly provide financial support to SJP:
WESPAC has provided funds to allow SJP members to travel to national SJP conferences, and SJP directs those interested in donating to the organization to send money to WESPAC.
Similarly, AMP, a close ally of SJP, also claims to provide funding to the student group; due to a lack of accountability and lack of transparency on the part of both organizations, the extent of the funding relationship is unclear. AMP calls on supporters to “donate to AMP so we can continue to publish educational materials, host lectures, workshops and conference and support SJPs across the country” (emphasis added).
Training and Handbooks
The NGO network also provides campus activists with various types of non-financial assistance. One form of this aid is guidebooks that serve to train activists and hone their message:
1. Media and Activism Guidebooks
US Campaign is involved in supporting campus BDS activities through the publication and promotion of materials that guide campus activists in conducting anti-Israel political advocacy. One example is a guide to founding a campus advocacy group, using SJP as an example of a successful organization.
† ISO is closely connected to the Center for Economic Research and Social Change (CERSC). Some have alleged that CERSC is ISO’s 501(c)3 affiliate, while others maintain that the two are separate entities that work closely together. CERSC is the publisher of Haymarket Books and the International Socialist Review, both of which are distributed by ISO. CERSC also founded and funds Mondoweiss.
AMP is also involved in producing various “campus activism resources” in its effort to further BDS on campus:
AMP produced a campus activism handbook that coaches students on how to liaise with the media and conduct various types of demonstrations including sit-ins, die-ins and mock funeral processions.
Additionally, AMP has produced several “campus activism resources” including factsheets, anti-normalization material, and Power Point presentations that parrot the Hamas narrative of the 2014 conflict, claiming that “Palestinian resistance was born out of the occupation and the siege, plain and simple.”
2. Training Workshops and Participation in Divestment Campaigns
AMP trains SJP members through its “Campus Activism Track” as part of the AMP national conference. The organization also has a “Campus Activism Coordinator” who liaises with local SJPs and assists them in their BDS campaigns.
JVP and ASFC have also contributed to the training of BDS activists through their joint “BDS Summer Institute,” billed as a “five day intensive program focused on building skills for divestment campaigns. It will be co-led by student participants and BDS movement leaders.” Like AMP, JVP has an “Academic Advisory Council Coordinator” on staff.
As the head of AFSC’s “Economic Activism Program,” Dalit Baum lobbies for BDS on campuses. Baum, founder of the clearinghouse for BDS information “Who Profits?,” authored an April 2014 divestment resolution that was submitted to the student government at Loyola University of Chicago. She has also presented workshops at SJP conferences and events.
AFSC’s 2012 annual report boasts “Across the U.S., AFSC trained 85 students from 12 college campuses in basic organizing, advocacy, and campaign planning skills and educated them about issues in the Middle East. Their work on the divestment campaign contributed to financial services giant TIAA-CREF’s removing Caterpillar Inc. from its portfolio of socially responsible investments.” (emphasis added)
Legal Assistance and Advocacy on Behalf of Campus Activists
At times, campus BDS organizations have run afoul of the law and university regulations by being disruptive or violating the civil rights of other students. In these cases, a host of organizations are active in defending campus BDS activists.
Palestine Legal works to provide legal cover for those advancing the BDS agenda. This organization argues that pro-Palestinian activism is “repressed” on college campuses as a result of measures taken by school administrators, “false charges of terrorism,” and attempts to conflate “criticism of Israel with antisemitism.” Additionally, Palestine Legal provides legal assistance to pro-Palestinian activists. In preparation of the 2015-2016 academic year, Palestine Legal launched a grassroots fundraising campaign, seeking $8,000 to defend campus BDS.
While operating under its former name, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, Palestine Legal partnered with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) to publish a “Legal and Tactical Guide: Palestinian Human Rights Advocacy in the U.S.”:
“This guide is meant to provide basic information on legal issues that Palestinian rights activists may face, and tips on how to navigate them. It provides some generally applicable information and some campus-specific information for student activists.”
The guide focuses on various legal issues that may arise for activists, including possible violations of U.S. anti-terror laws. Activists are informed that,
“The ‘material support’ laws do not restrict independent advocacy… For example, independent statements expressing solidarity with a FTO [Foreign Terrorist Organization] or individuals affiliated with it should be outside the scope of the material support statute.” (emphasis added)
“The government thinks that providing support for someone working for or on behalf of a FTO can be the same as providing support to the FTO itself, but agents of FTOs are not typically listed by name on the government lists.”
“The material support laws have had the effect of chilling speech and activity that expresses solidarity with Palestinians, since several Palestinian groups are labeled FTOs.” (emphasis added)
The guide also discusses strategies for engaging in mock checkpoints, disrupting public speeches, and drafting divestment resolutions. It also cautions activists that “Law enforcement (local police, federal agents) can use a number of methods to spy on you… Assume that your activities and communications may be monitored without your knowledge.” The guide then suggests various techniques for interacting with members of law enforcement if they question or ask to search the home of an activist.
Mock Eviction Notices
Palestine Legal provides guidance on how to distribute “mock eviction” notices to campus dorms. Included in the suggestions are, “Post to every room in the dorm to avoid false accusations that Jewish students were targeted,” and “Expect to be falsely accused of antisemitism for criticizing Israel’s human rights violations” (emphasis added). The organization also suggests that students engage in these activities, even in circumstances where they are prohibited by campus regulations:
“Remember, even if the rules forbid it, the decision whether to engage in civil disobedience and break the rules is yours. Just make sure you make an informed decision.” (emphasis added)
Palestine Legal also suggests a “media strategy” to accompany the “mock eviction actions.”
The National Lawyers Guild, Palestine Legal, CCR, and others sent a November 2014 letter to over 140 universities, defending mock-checkpoints and mock-eviction notices and cautioning these universities against “censoring” these and similar activities on campus.
In 2013, Title VI complaints were filed against UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Irvine, alleging that the activities of pro-Palestinians on campus, created a hostile environment for Jewish students. AMP, JVP, CCR, National Lawyers Guild and others lobbied the Department of Education to dismiss the complaints.
In 2012, National Lawyers Guild launched a legal hotline to aid anti-Israel activists during Israel Apartheid Week.
In light of the filing of the Title VI complaints and UC’s publishing of a report describing the negative environment on campus for Jewish students, AMP, CCR, National Lawyers Guild, and others sent a letter to University of California President Mark Yudof, in 2012 “advising him of the need to protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus.”
Palestine Legal has provided legal assistance to SJPs and others promoting campus BDS at a number of schools, including NYU, UCLA, Colombia, Loyola, Northeastern and Pitzer College, alongside supporting BDS resolutions from the American Studies Association (ASA) and United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 in California.
JVP runs a blog titled “Muzzle Watch,” which bills itself as “Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.” These often refer to complaints lodged against campus BDS activists for violating various laws and regulations or to attempts to prevent schools from hosting BDS events. In a number of the cases detailed on the site, JVP has gotten directly involved in supporting campus BDS activists.
Co-Sponsorship of Events, Cooperation and Encouragement
Many organizations co-sponsor events alongside campus BDS groups, such as protests, panels, speeches, and other gatherings designed to further BDS. The following is a sampling of the many such events that saw collaboration between these organizations and campus BDS activists.
Called for an “International Day of Action on College Campuses for Palestine,” on September 23, 2014. AMP called on students to “make Free Palestine and Ending the Siege on Gaza part of campus education by holding teach-ins, rallies, sit-ins, civil disobedience, and push for BDS activities.”
JVP-Vassar and SJP-Vassar co-sponsored a BDS panel at Vasser College on April 30, 2015.
JVP and SJP co-sponsored a “Nakba” workshop at the University of Chicago on May 13, 2015.
JVP and SJP were co-sponsors of a pledge calling on all candidates for UCLA student governments to refrain from participating in paid trips to Israel.
WESPAC has been one of the co-sponsors -alongside SJP- of “Israel Apartheid Week” in the New York area.
WESPAC Executive-Director Nada Khader was a panelist at an event at Pace University’s March 2015 “Israel Apartheid Week.” She also participated in “Israel Apartheid Week” events at New York University (NYU) in 2010.
4. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
AFSC recommends that students wanting to “support peace in Israel/Palestine” can start an SJP chapter and organize a divestment campaign.
Organized a March, 2015 speaking tour, Palestine Youth Organizers, to connect Palestinian youth with U.S.- based organizations involved in BDS.
5. International Socialist Organization
ISO chapters have co-sponsored protests with SJP chapters, including during the 2014 conflict in Gaza, and co-sponsored campus appearances of BDS speakers, such as Ali Abunimah’s April 2014 talk at UMass Amherst.
ISO holds an annual conference under the headline “Socialism,” which has included several pro-BDS speakers such as Omar Barghouti and Ali Abunimah.
Has supported BDS initiatives on campuses, including at San Diego State University in 2015 and UC Berkeley in 2013.
On April 13, 2015, Al-Awda’s Suzanne Adely was the featured speaker at a John Jay College-SJP organized event titled “Everywhere is settler colonialism. Everywhere is Zionism.”
Al-Awda conferences have often included SJP chapters as part of the conference’s “host committee.”
Additionally, at conferences where no “host committee” is listed, the event schedule includes programs aimed at university students, including the promotion of divestment on campus. These conferences have also included other calls for BDS.
Campus BDS groups, the most notable being Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), claim to represent “grassroots” activism. However, this posturing is belied by the extensive professional resources that a large network of NGOs devote to aggressively supporting BDS and other forms of political warfare against Israel.
As this detailed analysis has shown, SJP and its allies are not transparent about their sources of funding, grantees, financial connections, and other partnerships – all of which contribute to BDS on campuses across the United States. Further research is required. Freedom of Information inquiries may be helpful, although they provide limited utility with regards to private foundation processes.
Nevertheless, there is great urgency in exposing and “naming and shaming” the NGO network responsible for fueling hostility, and at times antisemitism, on college campuses.
The Canary Mission database was created in order to document people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on cllege campuses in North America
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