University Mock Eviction Notices Not Quite What Islamophobes Claim
by Sheila Musaji
Last year we published the article at the bottom of this page Students for Justice in Palestine Unfairly Maligned in response to false claims about mock eviction notices “targeting Jewish students” at Florida Atlantic University.
This year during Israeli Apartheid week at Harvard, the same sort of claims have come up again. It is difficult to believe that the Islamophobes just recycle the same discredited arguments over and over again. Fortunately, this year, Alex Shams has published this response Bogus anti-Semitism smears against Muslim students at Harvard during Israeli Apartheid Week:
In the last few days, the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee has been attacked by various outlets of the right-wing Zionist press spreading a vicious lie that we have targeted Jewish students at Harvard with fake eviction notices (see “Jewish Harvard students receive mock eviction notices,” Arutz Sheva (Israel National News), 7 March 2013).
The claim is not only baseless and slanderous, it also carries echoes of last year’s outrageous accusation against Florida Atlantic University students, who were falsely accused of targeting Jewish students and subjected to intense pressure for a simple awareness-raising campaign about Israel’s practice of evicting Palestinian families and destroying their homes. These false allegations and the ensuing pressure escalated to death threats against Palestinian solidarity activists there.
In the last week, a blogger at The Jewish Journal, Orit Arfa, has followed up on the claims at Harvard and called for a campaign against Muslim students in response, raising the banner of a religious war against Harvard students based on completely unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism (“Jewish Harvard students: Be smart!,” 7 March 2013).
These rightwing groups have pretty much outdone themselves this week in attacking students and inciting hatred. So how did this all happen?
This year’s Harvard Israeli Apartheid Week, organized by the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee, attracted widespread campus attention as usual. The week began with an advertising campaign that included mock eviction notices placed in dormitories across the university.
These notices informed students that their dormitories were to be demolished before explaining that the notices were actually intended to raise awareness about Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian homes. They were posted on the outside of suite doors in dormitories across campus, a common place for flyers.
In the last two years Israeli Apartheid Week has become a central part of the activist calendar at Harvard University, drawing hundreds of students to events and conferences and reframing a dialogue about Zionism and the State of Israel at one of the country’s most prestigious institutions of higher education.
With each passing year the discourse has noticeably shifted, and critique of Israel’s egregious policies of apartheid and human rights violations against the Palestinian people has become increasingly a part of the campus mainstream.
In response to this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week, The Harvard Crimson, the major campus newspaper, published an editorial that began by dressing Israel down for its discriminatory policies “in the territories” and its history of human rights abuses, but cautioning its readers that the word “apartheid” itself was divisive (“Keeping us apart,” 8 March 2013).
It was a sign of the sea change in campus debate that the relatively conservative student newspaper felt the need to begin by condemning the State of Israel before being able to discuss the use of the word “apartheid.” Editorials with a similar tone would have been unthinkable even a year or two ago. The campus newspaper has been accused of having a history of anti-Palestinian bias. It has repeatedly condemned Palestine solidarity actions and academic conferences on the topic before they even occurred, as well as subjecting pro-Palestinian authors to unusually intense pressure. Surprisingly, however, this latest editorial struck a relatively less Zionist tone than past articles.
Israel lobby’s “outrage”
Tellingly, Harvard Students for Israel did not express much outrage about the flyers themselves, with the main statement coming from the group’s co-chair Sara Kantor, who was quoted in The Harvard Crimson saying Israeli Apartheid Week is “inherently problematic” (whatever that means) and that she “felt bad responding” because the week doesn’t promote dialogue. Not exactly condemnation from the most pro-Israel group on campus (“Mock eviction flyers incite debate,” 5 March 2013).
For reasons that are unclear, the Anti-Defamation League then decided to make its voice known on the matter, issuing a statement expressing “outrage” that the campaign attempted to “silence and intimidate pro-Israel advocates” (“ADL: Mock eviction notices at Harvard intimidate students,” 5 March 2013).
The statement was of course extremely silly; we had posted the flyers on the doors of suites, a common location for posting advertisements, and while the style of the advertisement may have been provocative, there was absolutely nothing “intimidating” about them.
At this point, however, the story took a much darker turn. As news of the eviction notices spread, Israel’s Arutz Sheva decided to publish its aforementioned piece with the blatant lie that only Jewish students at Harvard had received the eviction notices, suggesting that the Palestine Solidarity Committee had somehow targeted Jewish students exclusively.
The claim was an outrageous slander, and there was no evidence to suggest this was even a remote possibility, neither as reported by The Harvard Crimson newspaper nor by the ADL statement.
In effect, the right-wing Zionist press was inciting outrage through a complete fabrication of anti-Semitism, spreading a rumor that implied we had somehow compiled lists of Jewish students and targeted them with the flyer. Not only was the claim completely fabricated, but, as it was repeated in other outlets, some even referred directly to reporting from The Harvard Crimson even though the paper made absolutely no suggestion of an attempt to target Jews.
Since then, the claim has been reprinted in Atlas Shrugs, the blog of infamous rightwing extremist Pamela Geller, under the title #MyJihad at Harvard: : Jewish students receive eviction notices from Muslim supremacists and Algemeiner, among many other sites giving the lies credence.
Incitement to violence
Orit Arfa, the blogger for The Jewish Journal, repeated the claims in her post, urging Jewish students at Harvard to respond by fighting fire with “hotter fire” and targeting “the Muslim groups.” She claimed that “Muslim student unions fight dirty,” and urged Jewish students to “make the Muslims go cry to their superiors” by posting notices on the doors of the Palestine Solidarity Committee with notices saying things like, “If Jews do not leave this land, preferably at the hands of other Jews, we have the right to kill you in the name of jihad,” or “72 Virgins Await for You in Heaven if you Kill Jews.”
Not only was Afra calling for reprisals against “Muslims,” even though the Palestine Solidarity Committee is not a “Muslim” group, she was practically attempting to incite religious warfare on campus. The Jewish Journal should be ashamed of the blatant falsehoods spread by this blogger and we urge its editors to denounce the calls for the campaigns against Muslims at Harvard she has made, if not disassociate themselves from her altogether.
The last week’s attacks on the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee reflect the increasingly virulent use of claims of “anti-Semitism” to bolster Zionist propaganda and to launch attacks on Palestine solidarity activism across the country.
How the ADL blatantly misconstrued a poster campaign into an attempt to “silence” students is inconceivable. And given the amount of outside advertising for Zionist events and trips that occurs on the Harvard campus (without even the pretense that any student group is organizing them), it is laughable that the ADL somehow convinced themselves that Harvard PSC could “intimidate” students with an informational flyer.
The spread of blatant lies and baseless accusations by Arutz Sheva, The Jewish Journal and other outlets reflects the sad reality of the right-wing Zionist press today. While the Harvard Crimson and the student population more broadly have become increasingly aware of the realities of Israel’s brutal policies of segregation and widespread human rights abuses, these media outlets react with fabricated claims of anti-Semitism in order to deflect blame.
As the world increasingly awakens to the reality of Israel’s apartheid state, much of the Zionist press falls further into a world of violent delusion where calling for campaigns against “Harvard Muslim students” is an acceptable response to an informational poster campaign.
Alex Shams is a second-year graduate at Harvard University and a member of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee. Last year, he was an organizer of the One State Conference at Harvard. He is currently on the organizing committee of the Right of Return Conference, scheduled for next month at Boston University.
You can see a copy of the actual mock eviction notices posted “randomly” at Harvard here.
Students for Justice in Palestine at Florida Atlantic University Unfairly Maligned (published 4/12/2012)
by Sheila Musaji
On April 3rd Noor Fawzi reported on Mondoweiss that Florida Atlantic University’s Students for Justice in Palestine had posted 200 mock “eviction notices” on random campus dorm rooms.
The objective was to raise awareness for the plight of the Palestinian people, in general, and in particular, a real Palestinian grievance that is grossly ignored by mainstream media and educational circles in the United States.
The fake notices were clearly marked in large bold print NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE. NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE COUNTY. The fliers were also approved ahead of time by the housing office at the University.
On April 10th, Phan Nguyen reported that YNet, the Times of Israel, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and the Jewish Daily Forward had published an article about this incident that falsely charged that Jewish students were specifically targeted with the fliers.
Nguyen gives a detailed account of how this entire incident enfolded. The entire article is worth reading. This passage lays out the bare bones of the incident:
Complaints to the Jewish Journal led to the paper correcting its coverage. The references to “200 Jewish students” were changed simply to “200 students.” Unfortunately, the Jewish Journal did not indicate that it had updated the article. The damage was done, but the extent of the damage would not materialize until April 9.
On April 9, Ynet published an article headlined “Florida: Pro-Palestinian Group ‘Evicts’ Jewish Students.” The article was based entirely on information from the Sun Sentinel article and the original uncorrected Jewish Journal article, and featured two additional errors:
1.a quote attributed to the Sun Sentinel actually appeared in the Jewish Journal.
2.Ynet claimed that the incident had occurred “on Friday,” implying April 6—when actually it occurred the Friday before the Sun Sentinel and Jewish Journal pieces appeared, meaning March 30.
In less than twelve hours, the article had registered over a thousand Facebook recommendations, making it one of the most popular articles on Ynet. When the article was reprinted by John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, it registered an additional 5,000 Facebook shares.
A few hours after the Ynet article went online, Greg Tepper in the Times of Israel published his own version of the story, using virtually the same headline as the Ynet article, “Pro-Palestinian Group ‘Evicts’ Jewish Students.” Tepper’s article provided only one new piece of information—that the eviction notices were posted “on Friday night, which was the first night of the Passover holiday,” thus contriving another Jewish connection.
Yet Tepper, as with Ynet, had gotten the dates mixed up. The first night of Passover was on April 6. Before Passover began, the SJP action had already happened on March 30, and both the Sun Sentinel and the Jewish Journal had already reported on the story.
Soon after the Times of Israel article appeared, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) published its own report, entitled “Pro-Palestinian Student Group Sends Jewish Students Fake Eviction Notices.” The JTA piece was entirely based on the uncorrected Jewish Journal article.
The Jewish Daily Forward then picked up the JTA article, renaming it “Jewish Students Get Fake Eviction Notices,” but otherwise reprinting the article word for word.
Misreporting leads to death threats
On the same day that these articles appeared, student activists at FAU began receiving hate mail and death threats. Noor Fawzy, the campus SJP president, received a death threat to her personal email, while another death threat was sent to the SJP general email address. Both threats were reported to FAU police.
I asked Fawzy if the death threats were explicit or “merely” hinted at. She told me that the death threat sent to her explicitly detailed the method in which she would be killed.
Fawzy also stated that SJP had not been contacted by any of the media outlets that published the April 9 stories. Instead, she contacted Ynet to request that they correct their misinformation, which they have not done.
As if there wasn’t already enough confusion and misinformation out there, Pamela Geller posted an article Muslims Target Over 200 Jewish Students in Pogrom at Florida University, Hamas-CAIR Cries “Backlashophobia!”. This title adds yet another error, assuming that the Students for Justice in Palestine organization are all Muslims. A simple look at their website and membership roster would have shown her that this was a false characterization.
She opens with Jewish students were targeted by Muslim students at Florida Atlantic University. 200 Jewish students received “eviction notices.” Who gave the Muslims the students’ names and addresses? Students for Justice in Palestine is a militant Muslim group, virulently anti-Jewish. This century’s brownshirts.
Geller posts an article from Arutz Sheva, and one from Commentary, and includes her own comments such as What’s the response to this pogrom by Muslim groups in America? As expected, these bullies and thugs are whining like little girls about non-existent “threats.” They claim now that they are receiving death threats. Who do they think they are kidding?
Look at the flier which you can read very clearly here. Here is the actual text from that flier:
We regret to inform you that your home is scheduled for demolition shortly. You have three (3) days to vacate the premises pursuant to code no. 208.2a or you will be subject to arrest. If you do not leave, we reserve the right to destroy your home. Anyone left inside is not our responsibility.
Harsh? So is this reality: The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions reports about 25,000 homes have been destroyed by Israeli military forces since the Occupation of Palestine began in 1967. Hundreds more are currently slated for demolition, a number that’s growing. After their homes are destroyed, Palestinian families are subjected to discriminatory bureaucracies that prevent them from obtaining legal permits for new homes, because of their ethnicity. This contributes to the already overwhelming Palestinian refugee crisis.
“Demolitions are carried out without warning, giving no opportunity (for residents) to salvage possessions.” — Amnesty International, 6 June 2010.
“The Israeli government is depriving Palestinians of the right to live in their own homes,” says Sarahy Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. “Israeli authorities allow buildings that will benefit Jewish citizens while demolishing Arab houses next door. That obviously discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis, but officials haven’t given any justification for this clear difference in treatment between citizens.”
Rachel Corrie was an American peace activist working to stop illegal home demolitions in the Gaza Strip. She was killed while defending the home of a doctor from an armored bulldozer. It ran her over, then backed up again over her body. She was 23.
The forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes is a direct violation of International humanitarian law, Israeli authorities must be held accountable for their human rights violations.
SOURCES: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, OCHA.
Students for Justice in Palestine is a student run human rights organization. All who value justice and peace are welcome.
NOT A REAL EVICTION NOTICE.
NOT AFFILIATED WITH COUNTY
This notice is meant to spread awareness for the plight of the Palestinian people. Remember, American tax dollars pay for Israeli Occupation.
The University investigated the incident and Charles L. Brown, senior vice president for student affairs at FAU, said in a statement that the university has been meeting with students, staff and members of the community since the incident. The university discussed expressing beliefs within the law and university policy as well as with “respect for divergent views,” Brown said. The posted fliers did not meet university policy and should not have been distributed, Brown said, but there was “no evidence that the postings were intended to target or intimidate individuals of any particular religion, national origin or faith.” He added the fliers were “distributed randomly.” Brown said there have been “threats of violence” stemming from the incident. He said the university will work with law enforcement to prosecute individuals who make such threats.
It just isn’t possible for any literate person not to understand that this is a fake eviction notice, clearly marked as such. This wasn’t a Muslim/Jewish issue, or a religious issue of any kind. It was a group of students exercising their freedom of speech. Reasonable people can disagree about the issues involved in the Palestine/Israel crisis, but to characterize any disagreement with terms like “pogrom”, “brownshirts”, etc. and to make false statements about the incident does no one any good.
And, as is usually the case after Geller, or one of the other Islamophobes riles up their anti-Muslim base with some distorted take on an issue, her readers’ comments show that they get her message. Here are a few of the comments under this article
— Fight back. I’m sick and tired of seeing jewish students get trampled on by these Palestinian and anti Israel students with ZERO consequence for their actions. And yes, would any of this kind of behavior targeting hispanic or african students be tolerated? Of course not, and to boot, people would probably get beaten, stabbed or even worse as a result. Last time I checked, we jews swing a pretty big f*ckin stick this side of the pond. Let the University know, donations will run dry from its jewish contributors if this sh*t doesnt stop. And hit them at their own game; they want to call Israel a barbaric state, child killers, rapists, etc? Its time these Palestinians over here got a dose of why Israel treats them the way they do over there. Make them feel like the dogs they are! Issue all these “students” ID cards, or tell them to report to the nearest checkpoint and turn themselves in! DO SOMETHING!
— How this is reActed to is crucial. THIS IS A TEST BY THE MUSLIMS. The University ,either takes IMMEDIATE ACTION AGAINST THE MUSLIM STUDENTS,or the Jewish Students have to be TOUGH and DO IT TO THEM. As the Sean Connery character so eloquently put it in “The Untouchables”: ” The Chicago Way”- paraphrase>Do NOT bring a knife to a gunfight,bring a cannon. They put one of yours in the hospital,you put one of theirs in the morgue. The Jewish Students MUST STAND UP NOW! Now it’s fake eviction notices,next ????? Jewish Students at ALL campuses should LEGALLY BUY GUNS and TRAIN THEMSELVES TO BE SHARPSHOOTERS.
The story with incorrect facts (lies) was also posted on The Blaze and one of their readers signing themself “Grimmy” posted
Just kill those muslim rat bastard, problem solved. I will wait for your retort encinom, you plick.
And, of course Bare Naked Islam also posted the slanted story, and their readers comments included these gems:
— Let them keep showing their true colors. Bide our time until the moment is upon us. Then strike like a rattlesnake. America isn’t Britian the shots gonna hit the fan. Americans carry guns.
— They want a fight to the death so why wait?!
It is expected when the Islamophobes distort a story, malign Muslims, and stir up anger and hatred in their base. It is disappointing when even mainstream organizations who should know better participate in this double standard. A representative of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) said “FAU’s administration is still avoiding the fact that the mock eviction notices were of an anti-Semitic nature. [The notices] contained a modern blood libel and false accusations intended to demonize Israel, which also has the effect of causing otherwise uninformed students to associate those bad attributes with Jews in general. What the university needs to understand is that anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism.”
The ADL issued a statement that called the statement by the University “unsatisfactory”. The statement also said
“You indicate that you have taken ‘appropriate corrective steps with University staff.’ It is imperative that you make those steps public, so that other University staff members understand that there are consequences for that behavior,” wrote Yael Hershfeld, ADL Associate Florida Regional Director, and David Barkey, ADL Civil Rights Area Counsel, in a letter to Dr. Brown. “We also believe that there must be consequences for SJP, and for those members who participated in this incident. Your statement falls short of setting a standard, such as publicly suspending members of the group, which would send a message and ensure a similar incident will not happen again.”
The League also took issue with the University’s finding that there was no evidence the mock eviction notices “were intended to target or intimidate individuals of any particular religion, national origin or faith,” and called on the University to further investigate allegations that Jewish students were specifically singled out for the eviction notices.
“We believe that any student, not just Jewish students, could be intimidated by an eviction notice on his or her university home bearing both the official seal of Palm Beach County and the FAU Housing Authority,” the League’s letter stated. “Furthermore, there remain allegations that SJP specifically targeted Jewish students with these postings. While you maintain that the investigation has not uncovered evidenced of this, we believe FAU bears the burden to further investigate allegations and news reports to the contrary.”
I have read the actual “eviction notice”, and cannot see what is “anti-Semitic”, or “intimidating”. On what grounds should these students be “suspended”?
If any of these groups showed the same concern for events such as David Horowitz’ annual Islamo-Fascism Awareness weeks held on campuses across the country, or for campus Hillel groups showing the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” their position against bigotry “might” be a little more believable.
Originally published 4/12/2012