Source: Jewish Journal
Writer: Jared Sichel
Date: (Approximate) February 28, 2015
Posters linking the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) with Hamas – the Islamist terror group that controls the Gaza Strip – were spotted Sunday at several locations around UCLA. The posters also appeared at other campuses nationally. At UCLA, campus police and students quickly took them down.
David Horowitz, a right-wing activist and founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, took responsibility for the posters in an interview with the Journal. He said they coincided with the launch of a new Freedom Center project called, "Jew Hatred on Campus." The center is based in Los Angeles.
One of the posters included a “#JewHaters” hash tag and an illustration derived from an infamous photo from the summer 2014 war between Israel and Hamas; the image shows two masked Hamas gunmen holding automatic weapons and standing over a man on his knees with a bag over his head, ostensibly waiting to be executed. Another poster of a motorcyclist dragging the body of an accused informer derives from an image taken from an earlier war.
The Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper, reported Sunday that the posters had been seen at four locations – on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Veteran Avenue, outside Ackerman Union, near Powell Library, and in the campus’ North Village.
For the past year, UCLA has been a hotbed for pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activism, culminating with the campus’ student government passing a symbolic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolution against Israel in November.
On Sunday, a Facebook post by SJP’s chapter at UCLA characterized the poster as hate speech: “They rely on Islamophobic tropes to paint Palestinians as terrorists and to label SJP as anti-Semitic.”
Early Tuesday, five Jewish UCLA groups—Hillel, Chabad, Bruins for Israel, Jewish Awareness Movement, and J Street U—released a statement in the Daily Bruin condemning the posters and whoever was behind them. “As soon as we became aware that these posters had been put up,” the statement read, “We immediately contacted university police, reached out to SJP to express our dismay and support and even sent them volunteers to take them down.”
Avinoam Baral, president of UCLA’s student government and a leader among UCLA’s pro-Israel students, said that he’s “disappointed” by whoever put up the posters.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time criticizing actions that SJP has taken,” Baral said. “[But] stooping down to the level and calling people “Jew hater” is something that I think, quite frankly, is very inappropriate and very offensive.”
He added that he believes an outside organization is behind the posters. “[They have] no knowledge of the people they are talking to,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
But not every Jewish student is condemning the posters. Pardes Seleh, a junior at UCLA, said that she found out about them when her friends texted her images from around Westwood.
“I support anything that comes out and condemns SJP for what they are,” said Seleh, who's also a contributing writer for TruthRevolt, a conservative news site based in Los Angeles. “We need groups like Bruins For Israel to openly condemn SJP for their hatred of Jews instead of condemning those who condemn SJP.”
Asked whether she thinks the connection between SJP members and Hamas executioners is a fair one, she said, “Yes, of course. SJP will not condemn Hamas.”
TruthRevolt is a project of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, but an official at TruthRevolt said the group had no involvement in the posters and that Seleh had no knowledge of them in advance. Seleh said she didn't know who was behind the posters at the time of her interview.
Ricardo Vazquez, a UCLA spokesman, wrote in an email Monday that campus police were “investigating the vandalism”, and said UCLA staffers had removed all of the posters on campus and around Westwood.
“While the university cherishes free speech, the posters recently discovered on and off campus stigmatize and stereotype a particular group, and we repudiate them in the strongest possible terms,” Vazquez wrote.
In a public letter issued Tuesday afternoon, before Horowitz took responsibility, UCLA chancellor Gene Block condemned both the anti-SJP posters and a recent incident in which some members of UCLA’s student government questioned the objectivity of a Judicial Board nominee because of her Jewish background.
“The UCLA Police Department is vigorously investigating the matter of the posters,” Block wrote. “No student should be compared to a terrorist for holding a political opinion.”
Sightings of similar posters were also reported at UC Irvine, Drake University in Des Moines, DePaul University in Chicago, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. Horowitz said in the interview that his group put up similar posters at about 50 campuses nationally.
Feb. 24, 1:40 p.m.: This story has been updated with new quotes and more details.
Feb. 24, 5:30 p.m.: This story has been updated with information indicating who was behind the posters.