After subjecting Palestinian student activists to an extensive and abnormally elongated vetting process that lasted over a year, Fordham University in New York City has banned its chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights stated that the ban “blatantly violates [the University’s] promise to guarantee freedom of inquiry on campus,” calling on Fordham’s administration to “immediately permit and facilitate the formation of SJP.”
On Monday, FOSNA Executive Director Tarek Abuata sent an open letter to Fordham’s administration urging them to reinstate the chapter. The letter can be read below.
President Rev. Joseph M. McShane
Keith Eldredge, Dean of Students
Office of the President, Fordham University
441 East Fordham Road
Bronx, NY 10458
Dear President Rev. McShane and Dean Eldredge,
Friends of Sabeel North America is a Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through nonviolent advocacy and education. As executive director, I write to express deep concern that Fordham University has decided to prohibit students from organizing a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter on your campus.
You may have seen this week’s statement from the Catholic Bishops of the 2017 Holy Land Coordination. This statement provides an urgent plea for the people of the world (and Catholics in particular) to pray and act for justice in the Holy Land:
Fifty years of occupation demands action.
For fifty years the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza have languished under occupation, violating the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis. This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed. Our Coordination has called for justice and peace every year since 1998, yet the suffering continues. So this call must get louder. As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognise our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.
So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarising social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity.
We implore you to encourage your students to become active for justice and peace in Palestine and Israel by allowing the SJP chapter to form. As you know, throughout history students have been at the forefront of debating and organizing for justice causes (women’s rights; abolition of slavery; equality in racial, ethnic, and economic matters; opposition to war and to the apartheid regime in South Africa).
The First Amendment protects free speech as a hallmark of our democracy. Free debate and open inquiry are hallmarks of university study. Please give to the students who seek to debate, organize, and advocate for justice in Palestine and Israel this fundamental opportunity as part of their educational experience at Fordham University.
Friends of Sabeel North America has worked closely with SJP groups across the country. We find they are composed of bright, compassionate, highly conscientious students. SJP chapters are usually comprised of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular students. They represent a cross-section of ethnic, racial, and religious diversity.
Please allow your Fordham students the freedom all Americans hold dear. Encourage rather than prohibit their work for justice in Palestine and Israel as the Catholic Bishops of the 2017 Holy Land Coordination have urged.
With warm regards,
Tarek Abuata, Executive Director
Friends of Sabeel North America