Syracuse University is being urged to cease granting college credits to students who intern with an activist group that promotes the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The Syracuse Peace Council (SPC) is listed as one of 14 "internship sites" available to students majoring in Writing Studies, Rhetoric, and Composition, each of which offers three credits and a letter grade.
The calls come in the wake of a gathering hosted by the SPC's Justice for Palestine Committee on January 22 at ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse, which was attended by more than two dozen people, among them Campus Reform correspondent and SU student Justine Murray.
Speakers at the event — titled "Palestine: Behind the Wall" — repeatedly denounced Zionism, a diverse movement that supports the Jewish people's right to national self-determination, and at times appeared to legitimize violence.
While speaking one-on-one to Murray, Julia Ganson — identified by her LinkedIn profile as a former program manager at SU — was recorded agreeing when asked whether young kids should be taught about the Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and all "the good work they do."
"I think so, yeah, yeah," Ganson said of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. "We've made it into this very simple thing, you know, Hamas is a terrorist group so we shouldn't have anything to do with them. They have done a lot of good for Palestinians."
At another point in the event, speaker Pat Carmeli claimed that author Norman Finkelstein has argued that under international law, Palestinians "actually have a right to use violence ... they have a right to fight their oppressors."
"He said Israel on the other hand, who is often charged with using excessive force, according to international law — as oppressors, as illegal occupiers — they have actually no right to use violence," she added.
Another speaker — Avigyle Carmeli, whose relationship to Pat could not be confirmed — separately told Murray after she asked whether violence against Zionists is justified, that while she is "not a violent person, and I don't really condone violence ... I think that fighting a racist ideology and sometimes with violence might be the answer for some people."
Murray also asked Avigyle, this time before the rest of the audience, whether she could dispute Zionist assertions that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where people who identify as Jewish can live openly and safely, specifically by naming an alternative.
"What is a place that's safe for Palestinians," Avigyle retorted, as unidentified members of the audience laughingly offered locations such as "Syracuse," "Brooklyn," and "Florida."
"I think Zionism needs to end, there can't be a Zionist state, it's just really wrong," Avigyle added.
Miriam Elman — associate professor of political science at SU and the new executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes the BDS campaign — was critical of the SPC event and the work of the Justice for Palestine Committee.
The committee's, which in April was involved in the disruption of an on-campus speech by an Israeli diplomat, "has been engaged in a troubling pattern of virulent anti-Israel, and in some cases antisemitic, activism that is betraying its mission and legacy," Elman told The Algemeiner.
She called on the university to remove the SPC from the list of approved organizations for which students can receive course credit through internships.
"At a time when antisemitism is growing at an alarming rate in our country and on our campuses, particularly in New York State, Syracuse University cannot ignore that its students are receiving course credit for interning with an organization that tolerates offensive rhetoric toward Jews, provides a platform for antisemites, and justifies — based on a misinformed reading of international law — violence toward Israelis," Elman said.
"The statements made about Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict during this videotaped presentation were demonstrably false, but its the explicit hatred expressed for Zionist Jews along with remarks supporting violence and terror organizations that are even more disturbing," she added.
Her concern was echoed by Sarah Levin, executive director of Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA).
"When groups like the Syracuse Peace Council who purport to be champions of human rights not only dismiss, but mock the very real ethnic cleansing and dispossession of close to one million indigenous Jews from the Middle East and North Africa they prove themselves to be not only anti-Zionist, but extremely ignorant and biased against Jews," Levin said. "Rather than promoting equitable solutions and relationship building efforts between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, these groups care only about vilifying Israel and its supporters; thus exposing themselves as misguided at best and antisemitic at worst.
SU and SPC did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner's request for comment.