After consulting with a number of people for whom I hold respect at San Francisco State University, I have decided to back off the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) story until the university has the time to go through its procedures, come to its conclusions, and take whatever disciplinary action it deems necessary.
Ultimately, of course, the real question here is not so much about GUPS, nor Mohammad Hammad, the president of that organization, but about San Francisco State University and political trends in higher education in the United States, more generally.
Although many people, including SFSU president Les Wong, speak about safety and security on campus, I do not believe for one moment that there is much current likelihood of racial violence at my old alma mater.
What does concern me, however, are the precedents being laid down and the gradual impact of those precedents on the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel, as well as the changing nature of acceptable political speech on university campuses.
What has to be emphasized beyond all the noise and apologetics is the simple fact that GUPS, and other groups, called quite specifically for killing. They called for the killing of “colonizers.” Who are these people that are in need of killing, exactly, and since when is the university in the business of handing out cash to people who call for the murder of other people?
That’s the bottom line.
We understand that when a Palestinian-Arab student holds up a sign calling for the killing of “colonizers” that he or she means the Jews of the Middle East. There is no other reasonable interpretation. He or she may be calling for the killing of other people, such as white people, but is most definitely calling for the murder of the Jews of the Middle East. Any interpretation which denies this is disingenuous and seeks to white-wash incitement to violence.
SFSU earned a reputation for being anti-Israel and, in some measure, anti-Semitic a long time ago and is, at least as of this moment, doing an excellent job of maintaining that reputation. It was bad enough that several political student organizations, including GUPS, held up signs that for all intents and purposes called for murder, but to have the president of GUPS discuss his desire to murder Jews on social media sites is simply unacceptable.
And, yet, it is accepted.
The question is what, if anything, does the university intend to do about this?
In his undated statement on this matter university President Wong wrote this:
There is no place at SF State for celebrating violence or promoting intolerance, bigotry, anti-Semitism or any other form of hate-mongering.
For the moment, at least, president Wong is mistaken. There is most certainly a place at SFSU for celebrating violence and hate-mongering and it was there for all the world to see on November 7th at the Edward Said mural event. Although it is true that GUPS, as a whole, cannot be held responsible for any one of its members’ behavior, it does not speak well of either the organization, or the university, that the president of this organization held up a knife on a social media site and discussed his desire to see the murder of Jews.
The university deserves the time to consider who, exactly, has done what and to consider its disciplinary actions. My only question is whether or not there will be disciplinary actions?
We shall see what the new year holds.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.