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SJP holds pro-Palestine demonstration

Students at the pro-Palestine demonstration in front of the Administration building on Thursday, Jan. 25, holding a “Stop U.S. Military Aid To Israel” banner. The demonstration was organized by the Stony Brook Chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

Protests of the Israel-Hamas conflict at Stony Brook University resumed after the winter break on Thursday, Jan. 25, when a group of pro-Palestinian students and faculty gathered at the Administration building to protest the ongoing conflict and loss of life in Gaza.

The demonstration was organized by the Stony Brook chapter of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an unofficial organization that is unrecognized by the University. While the demonstration was planned to start at 1 p.m., it did not begin until roughly 20 minutes later when more demonstrators arrived.

According to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health, over 25,000 Palestinians have died as a result of the conflict. Over 100 Israeli hostages are still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The protest was directed towards Stony Brook’s administration and was centered around the claim that students’ tuition dollars are allegedly funding the war. Several posters announcing the demonstration advertised this idea around campus.

The Statesman contacted Stony Brook officials asking about the allegations, to which University officials responded by sending a one-sentence statement reading, “This claim is false.”

Maabhassa, a sophomore majoring in applied mathematics and statistics and computer science, who requested her last name remain anonymous, expressed her discontentment with the University’s response to the ongoing conflict.

“I don’t know if it’s [Maurie McInnis] speaking personally or if there’s something behind her that’s also playing her hands, but I think we definitely need to hear more from the University because we haven’t heard anything and that’s also a part of the problem,” she said.

After gathering at the Administration building, demonstrators made speeches and recited poetry, paying homage to Palestinian journalists killed in the conflict while expressing discontent with the coverage of the conflict from Western media outlets.

Stony Brook sophomore, Darwin, holding a poster stating “U.S. Out of the Middle East” at the demonstration. STANLEY ZHENG/THE STATESMAN

As declared by the organizers, the protest was in response to a global strike week requested by a Palestinian journalist, Bisan Owda, who has been documenting life in Gaza on her social media since the events on Oct. 7, 2023.

“Stony Brook continues to, directly and indirectly, support systems that perpetuate injustice…”, a student representative of the Muslim Student Association said. “Stony Brook continues to have Starbucks, to have Dunkin’ Donuts, to have Peet’s coffee, while knowing that they openly support or take a neutral stance in the ongoing genocide.”

Josh Dubnau, a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and director of the Center for Developmental Genetics, also participated and gave a speech, comparing the current protests on campus to the demonstrations he had joined during his time as an undergraduate at Stony Brook.

At that time, students were heavily protesting apartheid in South Africa, and Dubnau was deeply involved in the movement. He and his fellow protesters were eventually able to convince the entire SUNY system to divest in South Africa — and he advised the pro-Palestinian protesters that they could do the same.

“You will win … this will win,” Dubnau said in his speech. “It may take time. It may take a lot of protests. It may take a lot of organizing, it will take organizing on this campus, [and] on all 64 campuses of SUNY. For you will win, because history is on your side and you are on the right side of history. So I’m here to say, stay the course.”

After the speeches, protesters marched in a loop around campus, chanting phrases like “There is only one solution / Intifada Revolution,” and “Say it loud, say it clear / We don’t want no Zionists here.”

Following the protest, Stony Brook’s Office of Media Relations sent a statement to The Statesman, expressing that while the University supports free speech and the right to demonstrate, certain phrases that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic would not be tolerated.

“Certain chants expressed at a campus demonstration today could be interpreted as urging the removal of Jewish members from our campus community,” the statement read. “We condemn this language in the strongest terms. The university will undertake a thorough review of the matter, consistent with its existing policies and procedures and will take action as appropriate. At Stony Brook, we respect the right of individuals to express their opinions and beliefs, and we encourage open dialogue and civil discourse. We understand that demonstrations and protests can be an important part of this process. At the same time, our campus policies call for treating people with respect and acting in a manner that supports the safety, freedom, and well-being of others.”

In response to the statement sent by the media relations office, SJP sent a statement to The Statesman saying that from their perspective, they were anti-Zionist — not anti-Semitic and that those two viewpoints have distinct differences.

According to history.com, “Zionism is a religious and political effort that brought thousands of Jews from around the world back to their ancient homeland in the Middle East and reestablished Israel as the central location for Jewish identity. While some critics call Zionism an aggressive and discriminatory ideology that has forcibly pushed out Palestinians, the Zionist movement has successfully established a Jewish homeland in the nation of Israel.”

“We have no interest in constantly justifying ourselves to those who enable this genocide, so we will firmly see it once: Zionists who have an issue with chants in favor of Palestinian liberation are a walking irony,” the statement read. “At our protest, we had [an] [a]nti-Zionist Jewish faculty, a descendant of Holocaust victims and survivors, highlight the striking parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian occupation.”

The statement continues: “This conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is part of a larger tactic to [de-legitimize] Palestinian cause. It is important to distinguish between Zionism and the Jewish people, as the former is a political ideology; the latter a people. Zionism from its inception, has more in common with the Western imperialist tradition of the 20th century, than the national liberation movements that soon followed World War II throughout the Global South. Let us not pretend it is anything other than an extension of imperialist butchery. We will keep saying it loud and clear: we do not want Zionists on our campus.”

Stony Brook Hillel did not respond to a request for comment.

Sarah Chaudhry contributed reporting.

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About the Contributor
Sky Crabtree, Assistant News Editor
Sky Crabtree is an Assistant News Editor for The Statesman and a sophomore studying journalism and political science. He joined the paper in the spring of 2023 as a news reporter and was promoted at the end of the same semester. Outside of The Statesman, you can catch him reporting on WUSB's weekly news show and as a member of the Stony Brook Media Group.
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  • E

    Ethan EskenaziFeb 5, 2024 at 4:07 pm

    Wow, this is embarrassing. It is unfortunate that some members of the SBU community are spreading vicious lies about Israel. These people are seriously comparing the Gaza situation to the Holocaust? That is some massive revisionist history. Let’s be clear that Israel is not committing genocide in this conflict. Meanwhile, Hamas committed a genocidal massacre on October 7, and they certainly would have killed ALL innocent Israelis if they had the ability.

    I don’t know if Stony Brook has any specific investments with Israel or Israeli organizations, but if they do, I strongly encourage the university to continue with these investments and partnerships. DO NOT allow a fringe group of misinformed, hateful extremists to paint a free, democratic nation as equivalent to the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

    SJP said: “We will keep saying it loud and clear: we do not want Zionists on our campus.” This is an insane, hurtful statement. I am proud to be a Jew and a Zionist, and I will never hide my identity. I know in my heart that Israel is a good, moral country. On the other hand, Palestinian terrorists and their supporters lack basic morality.

    .עם ישראל ישיג ניצחון

    Reply
  • M

    MichaelFeb 3, 2024 at 2:31 pm

    This article glosses over the terrorist massacres of Oct. 7th, i.e. “the events of October 7th.”

    The definition of Zionism from History incorrectly assumes that the term ‘Palestinian’ in 1948 meant ‘Palestinian Arab,’ as it does today. Prior to Israel’s re-establishment, all of the people of the land were ‘Palestinians,’ and identified communally as ethnic Jews, Arabs, Druze, etc. respectively. Palestinian Jews declared independence from Mandate Palestine, re-establishing Israel as the third Jewish commonwealth. Zionism is not inherently religious, but anti-Zionism is inherently antisemitic.

    You cannot want to deprive Jews of political autonomy in their ethnic homeland (Zionism) while also claiming to not be prejudiced against Jews.

    Reply