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SJP Vassar: Sorry, Not Sorry

The Vassar chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine has finally issued an apology for posting anti-Semitic material. They say: “Up until this point, the social media platforms (tumblr and twitter) associated with SJP Vassar’s name have been managed by one person and the SJP general body was not involved in decisions made about what was being posted. We condemn any and all hate speech including any form of anti-Semitism and we are deeply sorry several offensive posts were made in SJP Vassar’s name.”

This apology is better than anything SJP Vassar has said so far, though it does not account for the rant, linked to on SJP Vassar’s Facebook page, that I wrote about earlier in the week, accusing its critics of being “Zionist watchdogs,” paid by “Zionist watchdog organizations” to make “slanderous claims.” This rant, issued in the name of the organization, was presumably written in full knowledge of the posts the “SJP Vassar General Body” now disavows.

Now consider the post that immediately follows the apology, a quotation attributed to George Habash. “In today’s world no one is innocent, no one is neutral. A man is either with the oppressor or the oppressed. He who takes no interest in politics gives his blessing to the prevailing order.”

COMMENTARY readers will know that Habash founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization committed to the recovery, through violence, of the whole of what is now Israel, or what Habash called “the Occupied Territories of 1948.” The “only language,” says the PFLP’s founding document, “that the enemy understands is the language of revolutionary violence.” The PFLP pursued its program not only through a series of airline hijackings but also through actions like the 1972 Lods Airport massacre, in which terrorists working with the PFLP fired machine guns and threw grenades into crowds of people waiting in what is now Ben Gurion airport, killing 39. It is in this context that we have to consider the Habash quotation which begins, “Has it been said that these operations expose the lives of innocent people to danger?” Or, as Habash stated more boldly in a 1970 interview, to “kill a Jew far from the battlefield has more effect than killing 100 of them in battle.” That the new post-apology era begins with Habash is, to say the least, not encouraging.

In its apology, SJP Vassar says that it is “now reevaluating how social media associated with SJP Vassar will be managed as we sincerely want these outlets to reflect our mission of social justice, opposition to all forms of racism, and solidarity with the Palestinian people.” The first fruits of this reevaluation suggest that disentangling the ostensibly nonviolent radical movement of which SJP is a part from the romanticization of violence against Jews is going to be more difficult than the students or the faculty members who guide them imagine.



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