AMCHA’S Responses to Antisemitic Activity at Binghamton University

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1.  An Internal SJP Document Calls for Illegal Action Against Pro-Israel/Jewish Events

  • INCIDENT: The foundational document of the SJP group at Binghamton University (SUNY), entitled “Declaration of Principles and Strategies,” has a section called, “With Regards to Tactics and Strategies Used to Counter Zionist Normalization,” which spells out a strategy for disrupting pro-Israel events. Specifically, the document details the engagement of, “non-violent disruption of the event in question” depending on the number of SJP members present. The disruption of on-campus events violates New York State law. Sec. 240.20 of the New York Penal Law outlaws “disorderly conduct,” which includes “without lawful authority,…disturb(ing) any lawful assembly or meeting of persons.” All states have similar laws restricting the disruption of public events if this same tactic were to be employed by other SJP chapters. The document is extremely troubling in that it outlines a clear strategy for targeting, ostracizing, harassing and silencing students. It advocates behavior consistent with “anti-Zionist normalization” campaigns being waged by SJP groups across the country, whose explicit purpose is to delegitimize all pro-Israel perspectives and actively suppress their expression on college campuses. These campaigns have resulted in dozens of Jewish and pro-Israel students’ events being disrupted and Jewish and pro-Israel students feeling harassed, intimidated, and stripped of their constitutionally-protected freedom of expression and association.
  • 10/28/14 – AMCHA & COALITION’S RESPONSE:  AMCHA Initiative joined 14 other groups in sending a letter to Binghamton University President Stenger to draw attention to potential illegal activity stating, “in calling for the disruption of other student groups’ on-campus events, the SJP is advocating behavior that violates BU’s Student Code of Conduct…while acknowledging First Amendment freedoms, the Code rightly makes it clear that those freedoms cannot be exercised at the expense of the rights of others, noting that ‘abusing the rights of any one person or group ultimately endangers the rights of all.’ Accordingly, the Code specifically prohibits ‘disorderly or disruptive conduct that interferes with the normal operations of the University or infringes on the rights of others’ – exactly the kind of conduct that the SJP is apparently encouraging its members to engage in. Besides encouraging behavior that violates the letter and spirit of BU’s Student Code of Conduct, the SJP may well be inciting criminal conduct in violation of New York State law. Sec. 240.20 of the New York Penal Law outlaws ‘disorderly conduct,’ which includes ‘without lawful authority, . . . disturb[ing] any lawful assembly or meeting of persons.”
  • 11/9/14 – BINGHAMTON UNIVERSITY’S RESPONSE Associate Council Barbara M. Scartlett responds in a letter which states, “To the extent that the Declaration can be characterized as advocating behavior that violates our rules, such advocacy is protected expression.  What is not protected of course would be actual behavior.  To the extent any organization declares its intent not to associate with certain other organizations, provided they do not infringe upon the associational rights of their individual members,that too is not proscribable. We will remain vigilant in upholding our rules of conduct.  We will continue to monitor and manage campus events mindful of safety concerns and the rights of all of our community members.  We will express our own commitment to inclusivity and a respectful community and model those ideals in our own actions as university officials.  We value the contributions so many of you have made to our community and look forward to our continued collaboration to strengthen the educational experience for all students at Binghamton.  Thank you for YOUR continued vigilance.”
  • 11/17/14 – AMCHA & COALITION’S RESPONSE:  AMCHA Initiative, along with the coalition of 14 other groups, responded with a letter that expressed gratitude, acknowledged the distinction between protected speech and behavior that is illegal and reiterated the coalition’s concerns. The letter stated, “Thank you very much for your response…In your analysis of the SJP Declaration, you have made an important distinction between a document which advocates behavior that violates university policy or law, which is protected expression, and engaging in the disruptive behavior itself, which is unprotected expression and a violation of university policy and the law.  Like you, we are first and foremost concerned with behavior that could violate the rights of fellow students and even lead to a dangerous and threatening environment for those students.  However, we also question whether a group whose foundational document calls for illegal behavior, as well as hateful and discriminatory actions directed at fellow BU students, should be afforded an official university charter.  We know the BU SJP is a very new group on campus, which is why we wanted to bring to your attention the discovery of its “Declaration of Principles and Strategies” as a window into its plans on campus. Our primary goal is the safety and well-being of Jewish students.  We greatly appreciate you taking this matter seriously and look forward to working together on these important issues.”.