University of Michigan professors establish anti-Zionist org claiming school aids ‘genocide of Palestinian people’

They demanded that the school divest any of its holdings in companies linked to Israel.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

A group of professors and other workers at the University of Michigan has formed a “Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine” (FSJP) chapter and as its first act published a guest column in The Michigan Daily accusing the school of “horrific suppression” of anti-Zionist viewpoints and “brutal actions against students.”

Claiming to be “engaged in education, advocacy, and action in solidarity with Palestinian liberation,” the group, which is a companion to the extreme anti-Zionist group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), railed against University of Michigan president Santa Ono for taking steps to cool the campus climate and discourage rhetoric that denigrates those who have staked out positions on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

One action the group singled out for opprobrium was the university’s decision in November to cancel a campus-wide vote on an anti-Israel resolution accusing the Jewish state of “genocide” and “apartheid.”

Another vote on a resolution condemning Hamas as well as bigotry targeting both Jews and Muslims was also canceled. In a statement issued on Dec. 5, Ono defended the decision, saying both measures “have done more to stoke fear, anger, and animosity on our campus than they would ever accomplish” if adopted as policy.

FSJP called his plea for civility hypocritical.

Regarding its claims of “brutal actions against students,” FSJP cited to two incidents in which a crush of anti-Zionist protesters stormed administrative buildings while screaming “ceasefire now,” a call for Israel to halt its military operations aimed at eradicating the Hamas terror group from Gaza.

In one of the demonstrations, held on Nov. 22, the protesters attempted to force their way into Ono’s office in the Alexander G. Ruthven administrative building, pushing past Division of Public Safety and Security (DPPS) officers while clamoring to see the president.

An altercation caught on video ensued between the demonstrators and the police, and a female Muslim student was arrested. The faculty group as well as Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) claimed that footage of the arrest showed an officer ripping off the student’s hijab while attempting to handcuff her. The Algemeiner has viewed the footage, however, and cannot substantiate the allegation.

In total, police arrested 40 students from the building that day. A similar incident occurred four days earlier, when the protesters clashed with police after successfully taking over the Ruthven building.

“Forty students were arrested and cited for trespassing because they dared to request a meeting with their president,” FSJP wrote. “All of this, in a campus community that waxes poetic about its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and its exceptional status as ‘leaders and best.’”

The campus employees added that they believed the University of Michigan has tried to “bury the university’s complicity in the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people” and demanded that the school divest any of its holdings in companies linked to Israel. “A genocide carried out by the Israeli government and facilitated by corporations in which the university invests,” they continued.

The University of Michigan has long been a hub of anti-Israel activity. In January, anti-Israel student protesters there chanted, “Kamala, Kamala, you can’t hide, you’re committing genocide,” during US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to campus, where she was scheduled to discuss climate change.

They also chanted, “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution” while waving Palestinian flags. A student who appeared to be leading the demonstration condemned the Biden administration for approving aid to Israel, which she referred to as “the Zionist entity.”

FSJP is a new effort organized and supported by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), a nonprofit organization that lobbies universities to adopt an academic boycott of Israel.

The group advocates policies stipulating that “projects with all Israeli academic institutions should come to an end” and delineates specific restrictions that adherents should abide by — for instance, denying letters of recommendation to students who seek to study in Israel.

On its website, USACBI says professors should form such chapters “in response to the genocidal assault on Gaza and the crackdown on pro-Palestinian voices” and asks that “founding members make a commitment” to supporting academic boycotts of Israel.

The movement to form new “Faculty for Justice in Palestine” groups is growing. So far, chapters have cropped up all over higher education since Oct. 7, including at New York University, the Claremont Colleges, the University of California system, University of Florida, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Rutgers University, Haverford College, Princeton University, and Harvard University.

Critics argue the movement’s growth poses a threat to the well-being of Jewish college students. According to a recent study conducted by the AMCHA Initiative, an antisemitism watchdog, a positive correlation exists between college faculty who support boycotts of Israel and the occurrence of antisemitic incidents on college campuses.

AMCHA researchers found that the “presence and number of faculty” who supported academic boycotts before Israel’s last war with Hamas in 2021, which began after the terrorist organization fired more than 150 rockets at Israeli territory, “were strongly and reliably associated with every measure of faculty and student-perpetrated antisemitic activity during this period.”

They also found through a series of regression analyses that schools with “five or more faculty who had expressed support for academic BDS [the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel] prior to May 2021” were 5.6 times “more likely to have a student government that issued an anti-Zionist statement,” and 3.6 times more likely to have incidents of antisemitic harassment and intimidation.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, the director of the AMCHA Initiative, reiterated that point on Thursday.

“AMCHA’s research has shown consistently that promoting BDS in the classroom is highly correlated with increased antisemitism in the campus square,” Rossman-Benjamin told The Algemeiner. “So if the University of Michigan really wants to address the problem of antisemitism, it must start with ensuring that its faculty are prohibited from using their academic positions as bully pulpits for spewing hatred of the Jewish state and its supporters and encouraging activism to harm them.”

“Not only are FJP groups charged with giving support and academic legitimacy to the BDS efforts of their campus SJP groups, they are also committing their members to bringing academic BDS and its goals of delegitimizing and dismantling the Jewish state into their classrooms and conference halls,” she added.

Miriam Elman, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), a nonprofit that promotes academic freedom in higher education, told The Algemeiner that while faculty should form groups centered on common interests, doing so for the purpose of denigrating others is grossly inappropriate.

“Unfortunately, based on its first public statement, the Michigan FJP appears bent on uplifting the Palestinian cause while demeaning and denigrating Jews on campus,” Elman explained. “It’s astonishing that in its lengthy initial public statement the group could find no space to advocate for the 100 plus hostages including US citizens and young women, who continue to be held in captivity by Hamas.”

“What’s most concerning about these new Faculty for Justice in Palestine groups is that they’ll end up giving a faculty ‘pass’ for the bad behavior and hostile and bigoted rhetoric that we’ve seen from all too many Students for Justice in Palestine and affiliated clubs in recent weeks,” she added. “Students tend to take their cues from faculty. On campuses where these groups are forming, I wont be surprised to see an uptick in student peer-on-peer harassment, anti-Israel activity, and antisemitism.”