The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a proud supporter of our Hillel here in New College and Ringling College, providing funds for an Outreach and Engagement Professional on the New College Campus as well as underwriting the costs associated with Hillel’s programming.
A Synopsis of the BDS/SJP Situation at USF
By Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Executive Director, Hillels of the Suncoast
This past year saw an incredibly vociferous BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Campaign at the University of South Florida by the USF Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Group. They had very visible programs including a petition with what they claimed had 10,000 names calling on the USF Foundation to Divest from Israel.
Our students did an incredible job, behind the scenes, thwarting the efforts of SJP. We did not organize any open demonstrations against their programs which left them poorly attended and, without any conflict, came and went without even making a ripple. While SJP was busy getting signatures on their petition, our students prepared a brief for the USF Foundation Board showing how the signatures on the petition were not all valid, thereby drawing the entire petition into question. They then showed how students were not informed about the specific content of the petition, only that it was in support of human rights. Or that students were given free pizza if they signed the petition, and some students were actually badgered into signing. In addition, there was an online option which said, “if you are not a student at USF, you can sign the petition and use “U1234567” as an id number. This in addition to one-on-one meetings with Jewish trustees led to a unanimous rejection of the SJP motion for the USF Foundation to divest from Israel.
In light of the current conflict in Gaza and the fact that Tariq Khdeir (the American teenager who was beaten by Israeli police during a riot in Jerusalem) is from Tampa, we anticipate a much more vicious anti-Israel campaign this year.
SJP had sponsored a fundraising event for Gaza in the Marshall Student Center, which featured Tariq Khdeir and Sheikh Monzer Taleb. However, TruthRevolt.org posted an article which exposed Taleb as a fundraiser for Hamas. With this, SJP withdrew their sponsorship and the program was moved from the Marshall Student Center to the Embassy Suites Hotel on Campus. We are waiting for more about this from Truth Revolt.
We have added an Israel Fellow to our staff and, with the help of several outside agencies, anticipate bringing speakers to campus and raising the pro-Israel profile at USF. For the past couple years, our students have been working quietly behind the scenes building alliances with other student organizations and getting involved with student government in order to thwart the efforts of SJP. This year, they are taking a much more open and visible approach to providing pro-Israel programs and educational events on campus.
It’s going to be a busy and difficult year, but we are certain that our USF Israel Activists will do a wonderful job of presenting Israel in the positive light that she deserves across the campus.