George Washington University suspends students for Justice in Palestine chapter

George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine has been battling the school’s administration to push the boundaries of its campus activities since Hamas’ terror invasion of Israel on Oct. 7.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

George Washington University in Washington DC on Tuesday became the third private university in the United States to suspend its Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, citing the group’s unauthorized projection of pro-Hamas messages on a library named after deceased Jewish supporters of the school as cause.

The news was first reported by The GW Hatchet, a campus newspaper, which added that the suspension has two phases, first a 90-day period in which SJP is banned from sponsoring and holding events on campus, and a second, beginning on Feb. 12, 2024 and lasting for the remainder of the academic year, in which the university will “continue to restrict” its activities.

“GW is continuously proving, as they have proven time and time again for many, many years, that they will always align with the Zionist lobby and against the right to free speech and the right to assembly of their own students,” a representative for SJP, whom the paper granted anonymity, told the Hatchet, accusing the school of “repressive tactics” and vowing that the group will seek ways to circumvent its suspension.

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Two other universities have suspended their SJP chapters. On Friday, Columbia announced that it had suspended SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) as official student groups on campus through the end of the fall semester. Days earlier, Brandeis University in Massachusetts revoked recognition of its chapter of SJP over its support for Hamas, saying that its decision “was not made lightly, as Brandeis is dedicated to upholding free speech principles.”

George Washington University Students for Justice in Palestine has been battling the school’s administration to push the boundaries of its campus activities since Hamas’ terror invasion of Israel on Oct. 7, an attack that resulted in over 1,200 deaths of mostly civilians including incidents of rape and torture.

Five days after the attack, President Ellen Granberg censured in strong terms any support on campus for the war crimes Hamas committed, acts that SJP had cheered during numerous demonstrations.

“I not only condemn terrorism, but I also abhor the celebration of terrorism and attempts to perpetuate rhetoric or imagery that glorifies acts of violence,” Granberg wrote in an open letter. “Such messages do not speak on behalf of me, our administrators, or GW.” Granberg also expressed concern for all affected by the week’s events in the Middle East, calling on the campus community to “reach out to a friend, colleague, or classmate and show your support.”

Later that month, on the evening of Oct. 22, students walking through the campus’ Kogan Plaza and down H Street stopped to behold a projection of messages on the eastern perimeter of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.

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The messages said: “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” “GW the blood of Palestinians is in your hands,” “Divest from Zionist genocide now,” and “Glory to our martyrs.” The scene attracted dozens of students, Jewish and Muslim, who spectated while the GW Police Department and a campus official negotiated terms for an end to the demonstration, which had not been authorized by the university.

The conversation, observed by The Algemeiner, was tense. In hushed tones, SJP members accused Granberg of bias against Muslims.

Students told The Algemeiner that night that the act was laden with symbolism. Before her death in 2009, Estelle Gelman was a GW board of trustees member and board member of the United States Holocaust Museum and other Jewish nonprofits. Her husband, Melvin, was an endowed chair in GW’s Judaic Studies Program.

Last month, Florida’s state university system, in consultation with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, directed colleges to “deactivate” SJP chapters for defending Hamas following the terrorist group’s invasion of Israel and massacre of civilians.