(JTA) — George Washington University has suspended Students for Justice in Palestine for at least 90 days, making it the third U.S. college to curtail the group’s operations this month.
A new pro-Palestinian student group has already been announced and is staging a rally to support the suspended SJP chapter.
George Washington University made international headlines last month when members of the pro-Palestinian student group screened anti-Israel messages including “Glory To Our Martyrs,” “Divestment From Zionist Genocide Now” and “Free Palestine From The River To The Sea” on the outer wall of the Gelman Library, named for two prominent local Jewish figures.
University president Ellen Granberg said the next day that the projections were antisemitic and violated university policy. Now, administrators say an investigation confirmed the violations and the group would be suspended as a result.
“The university determined that SJP’s actions violated university policies, including the Gelman Building Use Guidelines and the university’s policy against non-compliance, as SJP initially refused to comply with university officials’ directives to end the projections,” the administration said in a statement issued Monday. “As a result, effective immediately, the university has prohibited SJP from participating in activities on campus.”
The group will not be able sponsor or organize on-campus activities or use any university facilities for at least the next 90 days. It also cannot post communications on university property until May 20, 2024, the end of the school year.
The suspension adds GWU to a growing list of schools where SJP has been reined in since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,200 and taking hundreds of hostages. The national SJP organization praised the attack, causing an array of Jewish groups and lawmakers to press universities to stop funding the group’s local chapters.
On Nov. 6, Brandeis University permanently banned Students for Justice in Palestine, saying the group “openly supports Hamas.” Last week, Columbia University suspended both Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace for violating university policies and expressing “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”
In addition, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida ordered public universities in that state to “deactivate” SJP chapters, though state officials said last week that had not happened.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Wednesday afternoon, praised universities that had cracked down on their SJP chapters.
“Now we have seen some administrators step up,” Greenblatt said. “Today GW announced that they are suspending the SJP chapter for violating the conduct code at GW. It happened last week at Columbia University. At Brandeis they actually expelled them. But I don’t think there should be a place on any campus for organizations like SJP that threaten people based on their ethnicity or faith or nationality.”
SJP members at George Washington University told the GW Hatchet student newspaper that they saw the crackdown on their chapter as part of a disturbing trend.
“We see this very clearly as being a political response to a growing wave of backlash and repression towards Palestinian organizing, but specifically the Palestinian student movement that’s been happening the past few weeks,” a student representative told the newspaper under the condition of anonymity, citing the risk of harassment.
Pro-Palestinian students at George Washington have already announced the formation of a new group, the Student Coalition for Palestine, which says it is a “coalition of student organizations struggling towards the liberation of Palestine and an end to GW’s complicity in genocide and settler colonialism.“
The Student Coalition for Palestine is organizing a protest on Wednesday in solidarity with SJP, demanding that the university reinstate the suspended group.
“We stand against Zionist intimidation tactics. We stand against the repression of the growing student movement against the ongoing genocide in Gaza. We demand that GW reinstate SJP immediately,” the new group wrote in a social media post calling on supporters to bring face coverings and noisemakers to a rally at the heart of the school’s Washington, D.C. campus.