In a November 11 Instagram post, the University of Chicago chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) urged students to “Boycott Sh*tty Zionist Classes.”
SJP at UChicago particularly opposes three classes: “Religion in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Peacemaking” (CRES 20240), “Security, Counterterrorism, and Resilience: The Israeli Case” (PBPL 26020), and “The Political Theologies of Zionism” (NEHC 25806).
Thinker chief of staff Rachel Ostergren has previously characterized SJP at UChicago’s posts as “ragingly antisemitic.” This time around, the outfit accuses CRES 20240, PBPL 26020, and NEHC 25806 of pushing “[Z]ionist propaganda.”
SJP at UChicago criticized this course’s description for referring to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” arguing instead that Palestinians are victims of “subjugation and genocide.”
The claim that Palestinians face genocide is complicated by the fact that in every year since 2000, the Palestinian population has grown at a faster pace than the Israeli population.
SJP at UChicago also found fault with CRES 20240’s aim of exploring why the conflict remains unresolved, arguing that “there can be no ‘resolution’ . . . except for the dissolution of” Israel.
In its critique of PBPL 26020, SJP at UChicago observed the class’s characterization of Israel as a liberal democracy, claiming instead that Israel “is an apartheid state . . . that sits upon stolen Palestinian land.”
Referring to Israel as an apartheid state is inaccurate at best, considering that Israeli Jews and Arabs enjoy equal rights under Israeli law and also that many Israeli Arabs hold prominent posts in the country’s government.
The claim that Israeli sits on stolen Palestinian land is problematic considering the three millennia of Jewish presence in the territories that constitute the State of Israel today.
The group also objected to the PBPL 26020’s focus on intra-Israel terrorism, which they believed “is a politicized term used to vilify Palestinian resistance to colonialism and occupation.”
Under commonly held academic definitions of terrorism, however, one would find it difficult to argue that Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian terrorist organizations’ targeting of civilians does not constitute terrorism.
A critique of the NEHC 25806 was not present in SJP at UChicago’s post, though the group nevertheless urges a boycott of the class.
Past is Prologue?
SJP has long advocated for Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS), a movement dedicated to boycotting Israel and all things Israeli. Critics have characterized BDS as antisemitic and opposition to the movement is bipartisan.
SJP at UChicago’s call for a boycott of “Sh*tty Zionist Classes” falls in line with objectives of the BDS movement and could be termed antisemitic under the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism. After all, SJP at UChicago “justif[ies] the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology” by excusing Palestinian terrorism and denies the Jewish people their right to self-determination.
When asked for comment, Thinker chief of staff Rachel Ostegren stated:
At a time of increased antisemitism, it is no surprise that SJP has decided to join in. It is an unfortunate reality that many students at elite universities are woefully ignorant of Zionism, Israeli history, and the undeniable Jewish connection to the land of Israel. Here at the University of Chicago, we value rigorous debate and intellectual diversity. Calls to boycott classes, regardless of the subject matter, go against these principles.