LOS ANGELES, June 23 (JTA) — San Francisco State University has suspended funding for one year to a Palestinian student organization for its confrontational actions during a pro-Israel peace rally on campus. In addition, the university administration put the General Union of Palestine Students on probation, while also issuing a warning letter to the campus Hillel chapter. The move followed a flare-up of tensions over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the California campus and at other colleges across North America. The actions, announced by the university’s news bureau last Friday, followed an investigation of the May 7 confrontation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students, during which police had to escort some Jewish participants to safety following a shouting match between the two groups. No injuries were reported, but the San Francisco district attorney’s office is reviewing the events. After viewing videotapes and questioning witnesses, university investigators found that anti-Israel demonstrators had violated campus rules by yelling racial and ethnic epithets, using bullhorns and drums, and failing to remain in their designated area. Earlier last week, university spokeswoman Ligeia Polidaro told The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco State authorities closed down the Palestinian students group’s Web site, because it displayed an animated image throwing a rock against a Star of David and carried a link to another Web site that accuses Jews of ritual murder. The warning letter was sent to Hillel because some of its members also hurled racial and ethnic slurs and hung flags in the Student Center without permission, while one member used a bullhorn, said Polidaro. Disciplinary proceedings are pending against three students, whose affiliation was withheld by the university. The disciplinary actions already in effect were spelled out in a university news release, in which San Francisco State President Robert Corrigan emphasized a number of constructive steps toward a “a fall semester devoted to civil discourse” on the 27,000-student campus. Planned initiatives include the creation of a presidential task force on the Jewish and Palestinian communities at the school — and a retreat for student leaders, including representatives of both groups. Spokespersons for both the Palestinian group and Hillel protested the sanctions, according to the L.A. Times. “Things were said on both sides,” Nabeel Silmi of the Palestinian group said. However, that his whole group should be held “responsible for everybody’s comments on May 7 is completely unacceptable.” Orli Bein, a coordinator for San Francisco Hillel, praised the university’s actions in improving the campus atmosphere, but objected to the warning letter because “of the extreme care we’ve taken to abide by the rules.” Bein described the administration’s letter as a misguided “effort to criticize both sides to seem impartial.”
Tom Tugend is JTA's Los Angeles correspondent. A veteran journalist, he also writes for the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and the London Jewish Chronicle.