Less than one week before the National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference kicks off at Columbia University, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a press release highlighting its concern over the imminent threat of “emerging trends on campus designed to delegitimize Israel and silence its supporters”.
As is expected from an organization that staunchly defends Israeli policy, including the de facto apartheid emerging through the military occupation of Palestinian lands, the ADL is quick to label this student-run pro-justice conference as a direct assault against the state of Israel and its supporters.
According to the statement released on October 11, the ADL’s primary allegation is that the SJP Conference promotes “refusals to dialogue with pro-Israel groups and efforts to shout down and intimidate speakers”. ADL National Director Abraham Foxman fears that this conference “can have a chilling effect on free speech”.
It is clear from the beginning, however, that the ADL wishes to disguise itself as the defender of “free speech” while deceitfully strategizing to censor those who stand in solidarity with the occupied Palestinian people. “Dialogue” with pro-Israel groups is nothing more than an emotion-based tactic meant to shift attention away from the reality of the situation by chatting about one another’s feelings. Sitting at a round table and discussing the prospects of love and peace without tackling the main issues at hand, such as illegal settlement building, the siege on Gaza, and the maintenance of “Israeli-only” roads in the West Bank, will not change anything. Refusing to participate in “dialogue” is a moral imperative for those who intend to demolish the status quo.
As for shutting down speakers, if the conference’s objective really is to establish a national protocol on how to interrupt pro-Israel speakers, the student organizers would have named it the Michael Oren Treatment Conference instead. But if the ADL even bothered to consult the program for the SJP Conference, something American Thinker writer Jan Suzanne Krasner also failed to do, Foxman would understand that the ultimate task of the conference bears greater significance: to de-normalize the violation of human rights and international law.
It just so happens that these violations form the backbone of Israel’s policy towards Palestine, and it this particular reality that necessitates the SJP Conference and the groundbreaking, pro-justice campaigns developed by the students attending the event.