Fordham students contest ban on Palestine club

Demonstrators hold signs protesting Fordham's ban of SJP

Fordham students have tried to establish a Palestinian rights advocacy group on campus for years, but have been blocked by administration. (Joe Catron)

Students at Fordham University in New York are once again being forced to petition a court so that they can establish a club focused on Palestinian rights.

The New York Supreme Court found, in August 2019, that the college had violated its own policies when it arbitrarily banned Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) in 2016.

The ruling forced Fordham to recognize SJP as an official club and allow students to organize for Palestinian rights on campus for the first time.

It was “the first lawsuit in the country challenging institutional censorship of students advocating for justice in Palestine,” stated the civil rights group Palestine Legal, and a major victory for advocates of free speech on Palestinian rights.

But the college appealed the decision in January 2020.

And in December, a court sided with Fordham, reversing the 2019 ruling.

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal called the December ruling “a hasty decision short on analysis” and admonished the court for giving Fordham “cover to censor students who are calling for Palestinian rights.”

SJP members and their lawyers filed a motion on 21 January at the New York Court of Appeals to review that decision.

“I’m hoping we get our fair chance in court – again,” Fordham SJP vice-president Veer Shetty told The Electronic Intifada.


Fordham’s choice to drag students through litigation in order to censor human rights groups, Shetty explained, belies the college’s recent announcements that it is addressing institutional racism.

“Fordham says it wants to protect the rights and dignity of all students, but this decision [to appeal the 2019 ruling] makes it clear to the Palestinian students on campus that their voices don’t deserve to be heard,” Shetty said.

Radhika Sainath of Palestine Legal said that at a time when students “across the US and across New York are protesting for human rights and racial justice, it’s appalling that Fordham is continuing to spend all this money to stop a student human rights club.”

“I hope the court of appeals will do the right thing,” she told The Electronic Intifada, “and that they carefully do their jobs and look at all of the facts.”




What is a university for? Does Fordham have a pro-Israeli student organisation? Who would be in favour of closing that down? If a university isn't a place where there can be an open exchange of ideas, what is it? Why should the university exercise this extent of control over its students? Shouldn't they be autonomous as far as their own bodies and organisations go and shouldn't they be free to crate what they like given they don't break the law or promote violence, racism etc? Once more we are faced with the astonishing fact that Israel as a settler-colonial endeavour is so emblematic for the rich and powerful they are paranoid about any criticism. This tiny country is of vast importance because what it stands for is the delusion at the heart of the perverted notion of "progress": that a "higher race" as Churchill put it , has the right to displace a lower; that the "lower" race suffers no wrong because it is inscribed in the universe that the "higher" must prevail. For five hundred years we have seen this doctrine of conquest based on racism in pursuit of lucre. It is because that is the implicit ideology of the world's rulers that Israel must not be challenged. If Israel's right to brutalise the Palestinians is taken away, then the fear among the rich is that their right to exploit the world as they like will also disappear. For this reason, students are denied the right to form an organisation in support of the Palestinians. So much for democracy. Israel's behaviour towards the Palestinians is incompatible with democracy. Their only and threadbare excuse is that Palestinians, all of them, children and grandmas alike, are terrorists. Remember when Mandela was a terrorist? Remember when Makarios was? Remember when every Catholic in Northern Ireland was smeared as a terrorist? Such a phoney view of the world can't last. The shame will fall on Fordham. The honour on the students.


What happened to the idea that the university is a place that encourages intellectual argument and social justice. Shame on the Jesuit hypocracy


Is this a Jesuit school? How can this institution cuddle up to former CIA head John Brennan, on the one hand, and disallow the existence of a Palestinian Support Club? I thought that the Jesuits supported human rights. Anyone remember their past embrace of Liberation Theology? Father McShane has some explaining to do!


With Fordham being a Jesuit institution, you would think that because Jesuits have so much to answer for in their past, including assisting Nazis to escape capture, they would be a little more sympathetic now to those who are campaigning against the apartheid and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.


I was educated by Jesuits in high school and college (Georgetown University). It is unbelievable to me that a Jesuit university supports the rights of pro-Israel students but not those who support the rights of Palestinians. I recommend that the Jesuit order and the Catholic church expel Fordham and condemn their anti-Christian behavior.


I also was educated by the Jesuits, and the scandalous treatment Fordham meted out to its students to has absolutely nothing to do with the Jesuit ideals of helping others and standing up for what is right. The Jesuits who were murdered while helping people in El Salvador, in Guyana, in Syria and countless other places would turn in their graves if they knew what these miscreants at Fordham were up to. The situation is positively sickening.

I have sent several letters, firm but very polite, asking the Jesuits at Fordham and the Jesuit Provincial in New York what on earth they though they were doing by taking such an abhorrent stance and displaying their utter contempt for the values they pretend to stand for. Their response was to ignore everything. I have seen real Jesuits at work; they are brave, they have substance, and they are not afraid to fight for people who need to be protected. The charlatans at Fordham University are a shameless bunch, and they are fooling no-one.

I look forward to the day when the Fordham SJP members show them up for what they really are and give them a real lesson on what standing up for the oppresses entails. The people in charge at that university have no backbone and they have no business even uttering the word Jesuit.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).