The executive director of Rutgers Hillel is dissatisfied with the university’s response to an anti-Israel protest by a pro-Palestinian group.
Andrew Getraer said the university’s “warning” to the students involved in the protest seemed to downplay the seriousness of the incident, which caused some students to feel harassed.
The incident occurred on Oct. 6, when members of Students for Justice in Palestine slipped mock “eviction notices” under the doors of students in university housing on the Rutgers New Brunswick campus. The notices were meant to call attention to the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza by Israeli security.
Hillel asserts that the flyers were a “blatant” violation of the university’s code of conduct regarding solicitation on campus, which prohibits the posting of “advertisements, announcements, and signs…to the walls of Student Centers, doors, windows, stairwells, or hallways,” including residence halls.
In a statement, Hillel said the flyers made students “feel unsafe in their homes” and their distribution was part of an overall strategy by SJP to “propagate half-truths, misstatements, and historical inaccuracies” to push its political agenda.
“SJP knew the rules and purposely broke the rules and then purposely publicized they broke the rules by posting it on their website and sending it” to the Rutgers campus newspaper, The Daily Targum, Getraer told NJJN. “It’s not as if some student group was holding an event and forgot to ask the dorm adviser before putting notices under the door.
“Treating this like a student group that made a mistake is a mistake by the university.”
In a letter to the Targum, junior Aviv Alter wrote, “These fraudulent solicitations were used to frighten and intimidate students with the intention of invoking sympathy based on false and deliberately deceptive information.”
In an e-mailed response to NJJN, Rutgers spokesman E.J. Miranda said the university completed its investigation of the incident and issued a warning to the students involved. “The organization has been issued a formal warning from Student Life, educated about the posting policy, and informed that any further violations of this policy will result in additional consequences,” said Miranda.
Miranda said the flyers were distributed randomly. He said the student who lodged a complaint about the protest — Jake Binstein, Hillel Israel advocacy cochair — had been informed of the results of the inquiry, and the Residence Life committee has advised students of the resources available to them if they feel “stressed or unsafe” in their residences.
Rutgers “is a welcoming institution for people of all faiths,” Miranda wrote. “The university is committed to addressing any allegations of bias while maintaining an educational environment that encourages freedom of expression and civil discourse.”
Posting on her Facebook page and the page of the Muslim Student Association at Rutgers, student Amanda Najib wrote that she and six other board members of SJP distributed 850 of the mock eviction notices across the campus, “hitting every apartment building, dormitory, and residence hall we could gain access to.”
“Though SJP New Brunswick will wake up in the morning with no doubt major repercussions — the Rutgers community will receive a lesson on the plight of the Palestinian people — who have been systematically and illegally pushed out of their homes,” she wrote.
A request for comment posted on her page by NJJN was not returned.
In a statement, Hillel called the flyers a “a publicity stunt” and said the notices “were so real-looking, in fact, that many students were, at first, led to believe they were being evicted from their place of residence.”
Binstein said Hillel did not initially make an issue of the matter because it didn’t want to give publicity to an Oct. 10 SJP event celebrating “the existence and resilience of Palestine,” which was promoted in the flyer.
The event received funding from the Rutgers University Student Assembly, which Binstein said was not an issue. However, it would be a violation of university rules to use RUSA funds to print the flyers, he said. Binstein said it appeared the university did not investigate this matter, nor allegations of the deliberate targeting of Jews.
While he acknowledged it was “unclear at this time” whether Jewish students were targeted by SJP, he said it appeared that a significant number of Jewish students received flyers and he knew of at least one instance where a particular student was the only Jew on the dormitory floor and the only person there to receive the flyer.
According to the Hillel website, there are approximately 6,000 Jewish undergraduates and more than 1,000 Jewish graduate students at Rutgers.