Around 400 pro-Israel students, as well as Holocaust survivors, say they were barred from a public pro-Palestinian gathering at Rutgers, New Jersey's state university, on Saturday night.
"The event page on Facebook [said] that the event was free and open to the public... [and] a suggested donation of $5-$20 would be asked for at the door," wrote Rutgers News Real blogger Aaron Marcus, who led the Zionist students in protest. "Only after 200- 400 pro-Israel supporters showed up did the event – held in a state school, paid for by both tax dollars and student fees – begin to discriminate who could enter the event free-of-cost."
Rutgers student Binyomin Sheis told The Jerusalem Post, "We came straight from Havdalla [the service marking the end of Shabbat], and hardly any of us had money. However, I saw an older woman give [organizers] five dollars, and they gave her money back."
Sheis added that there was also a physical effort to block the group.
"While we were waiting near the front of the line, [members of BAKA – Students United for Middle Eastern Justice] pushed their tables toward us to physically keep us out," he said. "We just had to compact [ourselves] against the wall while members of BAKA mocked us by pushing through to use the bathroom, like 'hey, we can get in and out.'" Sara Kershnar, of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, responded to the allegations.
"The accusation that anyone was excluded from this event due to his or her ethnicity or political views is a complete fabrication," Kershnar said .
"Many of the organizers and participants of this event are Jewish, and anyone who paid the nominal $5 admission was welcome."
Kristin Szremski, a spokesperson for American Muslims for Palestine, said student organizations that had initially publicized the event said there would be a "suggested" admission fee.
"The $5 admission was made mandatory only after expenses escalated in the face of organized disruption publicized by Zionist organizations, " Szremski said. "As a result, o n l y endorsing student organization members – who include Jewish students – were admitted free of charge."
To Marcus, who attempted to enter the gathering, it looked like "those in anti-Israel apparel, keffiyehs and hijabs, were taken aside, given green wristbands, labeled as 'staff' and given free entrance." Other sources reported that students wearing yarmulkes were banned from the event.
"The police acted like bouncers in a club," Sheis told the Post, adding that campus security personnel acted as if they had been given a limit as to how many Jewish- looking students could enter.
The gathering, a stop on the "Never Again for Anyone" tour, was organized to protest the use of the phrase "never again" for only the Holocaust, applying it to what the organization calls "ethnic cleansing of Palestine" and "attacks and persecution of Muslim and Arab communities in the US and Canada." The tour was established by Dr. Hatem Bazian, chairman of the American Muslims for Palestine, and by Auschwitz survivor Dr. Hajo Meyer.
The Rutgers event was hosted by BAKA and sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Americans for Muslims in Palestine, and the Middle East Children's Alliance.
"Despite the attempted disruptions, more than 160 people attended the program, which stressed its opposition to all forms of racism and oppression," Szremski said.
Marcus said that he, Rutgers Hillel president Sarah Morrison and many others viewed this event as an "outright minimization of the Holocaust and defamation of the Jewish people."