Stony Brook University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) released a statement via Facebook which compared Zionists to Nazis and KKK members and criticized Stony Brook University’s Interfaith Center’s Muslim Chaplain for supporting their cause.
“…We ask the university: if there were Nazis, white nationalists, and KKK members on campus, would their identity have to be accepted and respected?” the group questioned in its Wednesday, May 2 post. “Then why would we respect the views of Zionists?”
The post was made in response to an April 25 letter from the Interfaith Center. The letter condemned statements SJP made to The Statesman calling for Hillel to be removed and replaced with what one member of SJP described as a “proper Jewish organization.”
“Such a statement is not only offensive but in direct opposition to the basic principles of respect and diversity that are the cornerstone of our University community,” the co-signers of the letter wrote. “This is not about the political cause of Students for Justice in Palestine, but about their attempt to undermine the identity of Jewish students and dictate to them how to observe their faith and express their cultural and national identity as they see fit.”
In its response, SJP argues that there is a way to represent Jewish voices without supporting Zionism.
“Regarding our statement about wanting a proper Jewish organization, any proper organization regardless of religion, should not prescribe to any denomination of racism, colonialism, or imperialism, including Zionism,” SJP wrote.
Although the letter was signed by all members of the Interfaith Center, SJP’s recent post zeroed in on the Islamic Society and Muslim Student Association (MSA), calling their involvement in the letter “disheartening.”
One portion of SJP’s post was aimed specifically at Muslim Chaplain Sanaa Nadim.
“You have reached a heinous level of betrayal to the Palestinian people by working with and aiding Zionists on their endeavors,” SJP wrote. “For 3 years we have been on this campus, you have not only helped Hillel normalize their Zionist agenda, but also suppressed your own Muslim students from speaking out against the state which has killed our Palestinian brothers and sisters. You have continually harassed our members and slandered our organization with claims of terrorism.”
Nadim has since denied SJP’s claims.
“There’s so many things that I have done to support the Palestinian people and bring their plight and bring their story to light,” she said, pointing to the fundraising work she’s done through the United Nations to provide aid to Palestinian refugees. “But all my life I have always learned that hate is never a component of peace and never creates a platform for a productive solution.”
In Nadim’s eyes, the actions of SJP run counter to the message of tolerance and unity that the Interfaith Center has tried to promote.
“They should use the good energy and the opportunities that we have on campus to create a unified climate that can work on bringing the attention to a resolution for an independent Palestine,” she said.
But President and Founder of SJP and senior political science major, Shehran Uddin, said working with Hillel would defeat the purpose of his organization.
“Everything that we do is in accordance to every other student movement and every other activist group that has come throughout history,” he said. “You don’t work with your oppressors to defeat them and you can’t because it’s not in their interest to drop their Zionist agenda.”
Uddin doubled down on the claims made in the Facebook post, adding that he and the rest of SJP are pushing to have Nadim replaced with a chaplain whose beliefs are more closely aligned with their own.
Despite the backlash against her, Nadim said she respects SJP’s right to express their views on campus, adding that they should afford this same respect to the students in Hillel.
“We as a people cannot create an agenda of hate or alienation, dictating to our fellow colleagues on campus what to believe in and how they should go about observing their religious convictions,” Nadim said.