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Friday, April 23, 2004
Students for Justice in Palestine Distributes Offensive Flyer
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), is a pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel advocacy group at Berkeley known for its recent campaign to pressure the UC Regents to divest in Israel and its disruptive on-campus protests which led to punishment by the University.
At Cal Day, on April 17th, SJP was distributing flyers in front of the Hillel table. Hillel is the center for Jewish campus life. The flyers that SJP was handing out were meant to appear as if they were actual Hillel flyers. SJP even used the exact same logo as Hillel uses on its website and on its flyers. The cover of the flyer read,
The inside of the flyer is even more blatant. There are descriptions of recent speakers (Alan Dershowitz, Daniel Pipes, Natan Sharansky) brought to campus on behalf of Hillel or one of the student groups associated with it. These people's beliefs are caricatured to seem both offensive and extremist. I would encourage you to view the flyer yourself, and it can be downloaded from SJP's website here.
This flyer steps beyond any reasonable discourse between SJP and pro-Israel groups. First of all, Hillel is a center for Jewish students, and encompasses much more than support for Israel. Jews of all political persuasions are involved with Hillel, some who probably would be supportive of SJP's advocacy on behalf of Palestinian suffering. IF SJP was going to target anyone with a flyer like this, they should have at least gone after the Israel Action Committee, which is the most prominent Israel advocacy group on campus. (Although in my opinion, I think it was a poor decision to target a specific group with something like this. If a group wants to argue in favor of some position, they print a flyer with what you believe and why others should support you and hand it out. Don't attack your opponents.)
Secondly, even if SJP wanted to make a point to visiting potential students, they should not have done so by attempting to impersonate another group. Even though people familiar with Hillel might have realized this was a parody, that would not have necessarily been clear to people unfamiliar with Hillel. Even for those who recognized this as a crude attack on Hillel, they could still come to believe that this was just how groups like Hillel and SJP acted, and be turned off of Hillel when they arrived at Berkeley.
Whether or not this is technically libel is irrelevant. The use of this flyer was dishonest and involved a group that was not even a legitimate target for this type of dispute. SJP should apologize for this stunt, and others should condemn this type of action. We should all be supportive of open and vibrant discourse on the Berkeley campus, and I fully encourage SJP or any other group to attempt to get their message out in any way possible, as long as they do not stoop to tactics such as this, which only work to debase the quality of debate on campus.
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