Chicago university latest to investigate students over Palestine activism

Palestinian students at Loyola University Chicago are under investigation by the university administration after they peacefully challenged other students promoting Taglit-Birthright Israel, the students said in a statement Wednesday. 

The Loyola University Chicago’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter was put under temporary suspension on 19 September following the discussions at the Birthright Israel table inside the student center earlier in the month. The suspension was lifted a week later. The university has not made it clear on what particular grounds the suspension was imposed.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) members say that they are “deeply concerned” by the ongoing investigation, which alleges “misconduct” after complaints were made by students at the Birthright Israel table.

The students tabling for Birthright, which sends Jewish young adults on all-expense paid trips to Israel to encourage affinity with Zionism, claim they felt “threatened” and “harassed” by the Palestine solidarity activists.

It is a claim that has been used on campuses throughout the United States to conflate criticism of Israel or solidarity with Palestinians with anti-Semitism and hate speech that would necessitate university intervention and punishment.

Nadine Darwish, president of the Loyola University Chicago SJP chapter, told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday that the Palestinian students were “simply asking if they could register [for the Jewish-only Birthright trips] — it was civil, and there was no harassment, no slurs being thrown around.” 

“The accusations are both exaggerated and inflammatory, attempting to label SJP as an aggressive group motivated by animus against Jewish students, and intent on causing them harm,” SJP at Loyola adds in their press release.

Darwish said that SJP members recorded the interactions and sent the videos to the administration to demonstrate that their discussions at the table contradict the claims made by the Birthright promoters.


SJP at Loyola states that on 9 September, approximately fifteen Palestinian students decided “on an ad hoc basis” to “peacefully line up at the Taglit-Birthright table and ask if they, as Palestinians whose families were expelled from villages inside present-day Israel, could also register for a Birthright trip.”

“Taglit-Birthright Israel is an Israeli government-funded program that sponsors free trips to Israel exclusively for Jewish students on the basis of a claimed ‘Birthright’ to the land, despite the fact that Israel is built upon the dispossession of indigenous Palestinians,” the students note. 

“Any Jewish student worldwide can register for the program, while indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians are not only ineligible for the program, but often are denied the right to live in or even visit their homeland freely,” the statement adds.

Birthright Israel boasts that it has sent more than 400,000 Jewish young adults from 66 countries to Israel.


Darwish told The Electronic Intifada that when the students hosting the Birthright Israel table “had their privilege challenged,” they interpreted that as an immediate threat to their safety and reported it to the administration.

“It shows that when people in privileged situations have their privilege challenged, they feel it as a threat. It reflects their racism against Palestinians on an acute level — really, it’s a microcosm of what happens every day in Palestine,” she said.

In their statement on Wednesday, SJP at Loyola says that pressure on the administration “to investigate, punish and even ban SJP comes from students who actively promote Israel on campus, and from off-campus organizations that intervened in democratic student processes in favor of divestment last year. Actively pro-Israel students themselves have made clear their intention to ban SJP from campus by continuing to complain about its activities.”

Earlier this year, Loyola’s student government twice passed a resolution introduced by SJP calling on the administration to pull its investments in US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation, but the resolution was ultimately vetoed by the student government president Pedro Guerrero following pressure from off-campus groups.

SJP has reached out to Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, which works directly with students facing intimidation and calls to curb discussions on Palestine at US campuses. In a statement released on Wednesday, the legal support group says that it along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago and local attorney Rima Kapitan sent a letter to Loyola administrators raising concerns about the suspension and investigation.

Loyola’s administration said in an emailed statement to The Electronic Intifada today that they had received the video evidence and “it is being considered and included in the review process.”

When asked if it is university policy to conduct investigations into student conduct when two groups of students disagree on a human rights or political issue, director of communication Steve Christensen replied that “any reports of student misconduct” instigate an investigation process as per protocol.

Meanwhile, Darwish said that if Loyola conducts a fair investigation, “the students being investigated shouldn’t face any punishment.”

“College students were challenging their fellow students’ views,” she explained. “I challenge my classmates and my professors all the time. It’s what a college campus is for.”

The full press release from Students for Justice in Palestine at Loyola can be read here.




Thank you to the Electronic Intifada for reporting on this. The support is much appreciated from SJP Loyola.


No Brainer:
Most Palestinian students likely have a much stronger connection and 'birth right' to Israel/Palestine than most Jews from the diaspora.
Surprised that no Palestinian group has done this before.
I know someone who has a 'typical' Jewish name... though no recall of any Jewish connection. She was offered a Birthright Tour on her return to McGill some years back after surviving 2 weeks of Israeli bombing while teaching in a South Lebanon refugee camp. She was mystified but was told... "Oh, with your name you probably have a connection somewhere".
She 'politely' declined the offer.
The BRT's are all a propaganda maneovre.
Well done.


Taglit is now a Birthright for all Jews around the World. To suggest the actions of SJP students (or other non-Jewish individuals) who approach a Birthright information table so as to "challenge their privilege" is anything other than aggressive, is absurd.

Of course it was a provocation by the SJP; it was meant to be provocative, and the Taglit students had every right to report this aggressive act to the administration. The SJP could have just as easily set up their own information table so as to encourage passers-by to stop, but instead they challenged the Taglit based on what they feel is their illegitimacy.

Contrary to the majority-views of this site's readership, Israel is not an illegal country. Israel is not a fake country, with a fake culture that is illegitimate. Israel is a real, legitimate entity, founded on an ideology that the aforementioned readership finds exceptional and therefore racist; a contention that is so fraught with illogical suppositions only applying to Israel, that it is in fact what is racist.

Good for Taglit and good for Loyola University. With luck, more reasoned voices will emerge from within the forthcoming generation of leaders, that we might eventually see a resolution this perpetual mess.


There is a real question, as to whether organizations like Birthright should be able allowed, to recruit at universities or other organizations. Just ask yourself, should student groups that promote trips for only white people, or muslims should be allowed this kind of privilege. Obviously, they are promoting discrimination based on creed, or ethnicity. Why should public institutions permit this kind of activity?


In our country we have something known as freedom of speech (when its not being subverted by vested powers that is). People have every right to civilly ask questions without being falsely reported for threatening or violent behavior. BTW while i would agree that Israel is not a fake country nor culture, its oppression, occupation, and land seizures ARE illegal under international law.


The institutional suppression of nonviolent 'provocation,' 'challenge,' and 'aggression' amounts to an abolition of politics itself; that is, politics as meaningful discourse and meaningful action among members of a community. The enforced separation of members of a community, the preclusion of even the most minor confrontation, is Police logic—the very same employed by the state of Israel. Its sole purpose is to prevent any change in the established order.

This is why the SJP's action was not merely 'aggressive.'


the "legitimacy" of your so-called reasoning fails. profoundly. I am guessing that in your so-called reasoning, a peaceful march against zionism, israel, or the BDS movement is aggressive. You want to understand aggressive? Look what the IDF just did to Ghaza not too long ago... you want to understand absurd? Claiming that Israel is not racist by makeup and policy is absurd, and you are accusing palestinians students for peacefully (not aggressively) lining up at a university booth to ask ironically if they can join the program racist? hahahaha. true, they are political and are annoying you, but they are not racists, just political. And btw, being absurd is not illegal. Stop accusing everyone of being aggressive and racist ("the stupid anti-semite argument"), when in fact this is and has been Israel's policy. And btw, i am not palestininan, not muslim (and also, not a troll- not suggesting you are a troll- your reply hides within its own words, but fails to contain any reasoning). try again!


Hear no Evil, See no Evil, and do All the Evil is the new Zionist policy to quiet the people opposing Israeli Apartheid.


I entirely agree with you. With all that they are still whining about being victims. Their mindset beggars belief.


What a load of rubbish! There is no such thing as a birth right!! Rights in any form are a human construct so who granted said birth right and how is it justified? Were the Jewish students of America persecuted by the Nazi's? Unlikely... Did these Jewish students face ethnic cleansing? No...

Then why is it that they have the "right" to visit or live in Israel? You don't... Do you think that by challenging that belief I am an anti-semite? Then your an idiot...

People who believe in Judaism (a religion not a race btw) have no more right to live anywhere else than I do. That would be like saying Muslims have a birth right to live in Mecca or Buddhists have the birth right to live in India.

It seems like an easy way of masking the ethnic cleansing Israel is engaged against Palestinians (note that I didn't say Muslims, because Islam is not a race its a religion).


Surely the kind of discrimination promoted by taglit should be prohibited under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and the campus is supporting this by providing space for Taglit to advertise?

Of course one should also go after all aid to Israel. I'd have to read the document to see if it's only aid to educational institutions. Well, anyway at least all funding that goes to Israeli institutions should be banned.


Birthright must have a pretty weak argument if it has to call out the cops rather than engage in open discussion and debate. Birthright is a racist program. Even its name is a cruel joke, because Palestinians who can trace their families back to the land now called Israel aren't allowed to participate, while Jews who have no familial connection to Palestine/Israel whatsoever are allowed to join. If you call discussing that a provocation and a threat, then you don't have a leg to stand on.


I agree with you entirely. It's amazing the lengths zionists will go to to prevent any criticism whatsoever of Israel. Their beliefs are quite simply indefensible, hence their incapacity to defend it in open, honest debate.


It's a shame to see that so many people in America are blinded by love to zionists and support Aparthied.But no wonder, as they are the descendants of ones who uprooted Indians


As I mentioned in my original post, the views of this site's readership are such that Israel is both illegitimate and a pariah; a contention made all the more clear by the commentary that has been provided. The right to maintain that contention and even advertise it is not an issue, nor is that right in dispute.

However the specifics of the case is that the SJP was attempting to disrupt something that they could not agree with based on their aforementioned contention described above. The extent of that disruption, the unintended consequences (how Taglit would react - which should have been anticipated by SJP), as well as the ramifications of both the disruption and consequences are what is presently being discussed.

The Taglit students felt threatened. They went to the administration to register their concerns - this is the correct way to react. The SJP could have established an information-table that countered the Taglit table. They could have informed students, Jewish or otherwise, of why they feel the way they do about Taglit.

Instead, they took an aggressive approach in an attempt to agitate the situation. Therefore, based on the attitudes of those who have provided incendiary commentary on this site, it is reasonable to assume why the Taglit students felt threatened.

The University reacted appropriately.

As an aside, I am a Jewish individual who has been on Taglit on numerous occasions. I have also worked and lived in Jordan, Egypt and the West Bank. I would suggest that if you want to "peacefully" challenge Israel (or destroy it), understand the system where Israel (and Western nations) function. Use the Loyola situation as an example - Taglit set up an info-booth; SJP should do the same and ignore Taglit. Let people decide for themselves based on merit rather than suppositions. I assure you, Taglit will ignore the SJP.


Unfortunately this type of reaction from Zionist groups is widespread and becoming more and more so. I find that the questions of SJP perfectly reasonable and not at all aggressive but the reaction of Taglit not just unreasonable but downright aggressive.
I am sure that the Taglit students did not feel threatened at all (in the way you mean!), they just don't have any reasonable answers to explain Israel's racist policies, which are totally indefensible, and so their only response is to attack. I have come across this type of reaction from a number of these groups but never any answers.


I have been at the information tables myself - and I have seen what happens when so-called "peaceful demonstrators" attempt to agitate. I was however not at the Loyola campus and cannot vouch for the conduct of either the Taglit people, nor the SJP. I can say that the reason you did not receive any "answers" when you exercised your right to challenge the legitimacy of Taglit, is because the Taglit people are not required to answer you - or, they are exercising their right to ignore you and/or your questions. They have most likely been instructed to not engage with you or those types of questions as it is beneath them to do so, and will not yield any positive results. Having an open-dialogue is fine, in the proper forum - approaching a bunch of students in a student section to protest their outreach to other students is not that forum. Moreover, it is completely reasonable to assume that people from SJP who came to tell those at Taglit that they are "wrong", or that their activities are "racist" or whatever was said, would be considered aggressive and threatening. This aggression may not have manifested into violence right away, but the appropriate thing to do is pacify the situation by alerting the authorities, rather than taking it upon themselves to do so. That is the reasonable and acceptable response to something that is both unreasonable and unacceptable.

The same way those on this forum have described Zionism as "racist and indefensible", the actions of the SJP are what is in fact indefensible, particularly when the alternatives are so stark and obvious; set-up your own info-table without trying to intimidate those who may want to visit Israel.

Incidentally, the discussion on this forum is a thematic-microcosm of the situation of Israel versus her neighbors and brethren. Israel and the Diaspora behave in accordance with international norms, whereas the Palestinians and their Diaspora don't; and then object when those norms are applied to them.

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).