Student protest deepens Israeli-Palestinian conflict

April 28, 2014

The fake eviction notices that were distributed in the Lafayette and Palladium residence halls last week were designed to promote active dialogue about human rights concerns in Palestine. Yet the press coverage from this past weekend shows that they did little to “draw attention to the reality that Palestinians confront on a daily basis,” as the notice said. Rather, the NYU Students for Justice in Palestine protest merely highlighted the ongoing conflict between SJP and the many different Israeli groups on our campus.

University infighting is not exclusive to NYU. In early March, the Barnard College administration’s decision to remove banners hung on campus by Columbia SJP was met with controversy and disapproval. The administrators took action by responding to calls from on-campus pro-Israel group LionPAC that claimed the sign reading “Stand For Justice, Stand For Palestine” was anti-Semitic. The SJP group at Northeastern University was threatened with suspension after handing out mock eviction notices in a fashion similar to the NYU SJP chapter. Northeastern recently lifted the suspension.

The tension between SJP and pro-Israel groups on the NYU campus deepened even further when irresponsible journalism turned a protest of poor taste into an outrage marred by allegations of hate. The Times of Israel ran a piece by NYU student and blogger Laura Adkins, who was featured in an Op Ed Live episode for WSN. Published under the title “NYU Jewish Students the Target of Latest SJP Propaganda Attacks,” Adkins’ article said the group only sent the flyers to Jewish students — which did not appear to be the case — and neglected to mention that the protest extended to other residence halls. Her piece was mentioned in other news outlets — including the New York Daily News, Commentary Magazine, New York Post and Townhall — complete with needlessly inflammatory headlines.

Adkins’ failure to check the facts of her article reflected poorly on the NYU community. While the SJP eviction notices were unquestionably ill-conceived and violated university policies, Adkins’ piece perverted a tasteless protest into hate speech. Not only did she wrongly damage the reputation of our university, but her lack of journalistic ethics made Jewish students feel needlessly unsafe. Most disappointingly, she callously tainted the pro-Israel position — one that is strongly supported both at NYU and throughout the United States — without considering its merits of the full situation.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely sensitive, and its reporting deserves utmost professionalism and seriousness. Both SJP and pro-Israel groups have a responsibility to present accurate information and protest in ways that meet NYU standards. Just as SJP should not have distributed the invasive eviction notices, Adkins should have checked the facts before publishing her piece. This unproductive dissent unnecessarily added flames to the fire of conflict, holding NYU hostage along the way.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 28 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at editboard@nyunews.com. 

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