FAU Students: We Were Punished for Nonviolent Protest

Categories: Politics

fau_palestine.jpg
Monica McGivern
Members of Students for Justice in Palestine -- Gabi Aleksinko, Noor Fawzy, and Matthew Schneider -- in 2012

On April 19, an Israeli military officer, Col. Bentzi Gruber, came to Florida Atlantic University to give a presentation called "Ethics in the Field," explaining how the Israeli Defense Forces thwart attacks and defending the Israeli military against accusations of human rights violations.

Five students, members of the FAU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, disrupted his speech by standing up after it began, making a few comments about war crimes committed against Palestinians, and then walking out. They then protested outside briefly.

For this, students say, they have been sanctioned by school administrators.

In a letter to the editor published yesterday on the website of the FAU student newspaper, University Press, three of the students, Nadine Aly, Noor Fawzy, and Renata Glebocki (the other two students chose to remain unnamed), wrote:

[Gruber's] speech was propaganda, touting the ethics of the Israeli military. He offered a defense of his own actions in Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli military operation that resulted in the killing of over 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, and at least 300 minors. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented evidence that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the 2008-2009 attacks.

As FAU students and Palestinian human rights activists, we could not stand idly by as this member of a foreign military that is guilty of committing serious war crimes used student tuition-paid public space to spread falsehoods about what happened in Gaza. Two days before the event, we addressed two university officials. We expressed our concerns and disapproval of an event of this nature. We reminded the officials that some students on campus had family members killed by the Israeli military during Operation Cast Lead. We received no response, and it became clear to us that the university administration was apathetic to human rights when it comes to those of Palestinians.

According to a police report on the protest, the students' actions were brief and nonviolent, and Gruber's presentation continued without further incident.

Still, the school launched an investigation of the students for a possible violation the school's student code of conduct.

The students' letter continued:

After a four-month university effort to discipline us, all five of us--two of whom wish to remain anonymous out of fear of further retaliation--decided to sign agreements that keep the incident off of our records and confirm that we have not been found responsible for the charges brought against us. But the agreements place harsh conditions on those of us who remain at FAU this year.

Two of the five students have already graduated, but the others, they say, had to accept punishment to keep the incident off of their school records: Two of the three remain on indefinite probation until they graduate, two are banned from leadership positions in student groups, and all three have to go through a "University Campus of Difference" training program. One is also required to complete 25 hours of community service.

The students go on to describe the training program as "officially sanctioned re-education" and the agreements as a "miscarriage of justice" and "clear violation of our First Amendment rights." They say the university "intends to silence our activism and stifle our right to free speech."

This continues a tumultuous year for FAU. President Mary Jane Saunders resigned after protests over the school's move to name a stadium after private prison operator GEO Group. Students who protested that initiative likewise had problems with administrators over their rights to protest. Professor Deandre Poole faced controversy over the "step on Jesus" free-speech exercise in his class. FAU's "free speech zones" have been mocked, and the Daily Caller last week called the school "the worst place in America to attend college" because of its "speech code."

See also:
-- FAU Trustees Keep Saying Ridiculous Things, Blaming Others for Their Ineptness
-- Student Protests and Death Threats: The Israeli- Palestinian Conflict Gets Personal at FAU

New Times has sought comment on the SJP students' claims from FAU administration and from the group Owls for Israel, which sponsored Col. Gruber's appearance. We will update if and when they reply.




My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
michael.sirbola
michael.sirbola

Did they contact the local branch of ACLU... don't see why they can't even now. Can we see a copy of the contract they had to sign. If the contract includes a gag order about the agreement itself, then what of Florida's Sunshine laws? And... this is 2013... can MyVoiceNation please leak and publish the contract anyway, with the personal details blacked out. Inquiring minds would like to know how neo-Nazi the anti-Nazi nut's at FAU have become. :)

cptnsnowbe1
cptnsnowbe1

Both sides are wrong in this case. Both Israel and Palestine have committed war crimes. So stop the boo hoo and do something about it. Bunch of keyboard commandos.

Dana Ross-Cohen
Dana Ross-Cohen

These idiots are paying for the privilege of having their first amendment rights trampled. Wow... yeah college isn't for everyone.

goldbergwi
goldbergwi

All Americans have the right to freedom of speech, and Academic institutions should support that idea.  Jews, Palestinians, Nazis, Christians - who is to judge what speech is acceptable?  What happens if those who we empower as judges opposes your views on a given day?  I also find it comical that many of the people who blindly support the 2nd amendment, refuse to support the first.  

I think Americans should trust other Americans to make up their own minds about who to support or believe, and give a voice to everyone.  We cannot only give a voice to the ones who make up the majority or are the most powerful.  

Stephanie Lynn
Stephanie Lynn

i love how FAU is brainwashing their students to believe mass genocide is okay and ethical...Im actually disturbed. Because Sheeple actually thrive in these enviroments

bbob1125
bbob1125

First of all there is no such thing as a Palestinian, secondly these people need to deal with the consequences of disrupting a university sanctioned event with THEIR propoganda.  The PLO is a terrorist organization and there should be no Palestinian state because there are no Palestinian people only Arabs who decided to take over the land of the Hebrews after they were exiled by the Romans.

Steve Sharrow
Steve Sharrow

OH! So that's what this whhole "difference" thing is......a nice way of saying don't fuck with the man. Makes sense now.

Ben Pogue
Ben Pogue

ethics and military, that's got to be the oddest coupling I've ever heard of.....

Rockin_Rich
Rockin_Rich

But when you perform an act of civil disobedience, there are consequences. See MLK, Gandhi et al

Abel10
Abel10

You're fuckin' stupid.  

Even if you were right and Palestine and Israel are both committing war crimes and Israel didn't truthfully hold a dominant position that amounts to an apartheid, these students should still have a right to this protest.

goldbergwi
goldbergwi

@bbob1125 Who are you to decide whether there are Palestinians or not?  Most Jews I know, including Israelis would disagree with you. 

fire.ant
fire.ant topcommenter

@no003 Was this "civil disobedience"? They left the meeting when ordered to.

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII topcommenter

@fire.ant @no003 Ordered to? Seems as if they left on their own. Mission accomplished. Kudos to them. Shame on FAU, my alma mater.

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