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The Daily Tar Heel

Op-ed: UNC SJP responds to hostile campus climate and anti-Palestinian racism


Editor’s Note: This op-ed is part of a series of contributions related to the Israel-Gaza war. Letters and op-eds are sent in by community members and do not represent the beliefs of The Daily Tar Heel. The other op-eds related to this conflict can be found here

Submit your own op-ed or letter to the editor to More information about submissions can be found here

UNC Students for Justice in Palestine is appalled by the anti-Palestinian racism, anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia at UNC since Oct.7. 

UNC has long ignored threats directed at students exercising their First Amendment right to condemn Israel’s decades-long colonization and occupation of Palestine; and as Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza intensifies, so does the harassment of pro-Palestine students, faculty and staff. 

Furthermore, we are disappointed by Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s message to the community on Oct. 13. We reject the claim that events in Palestine can be reduced to a religious conflict between Muslims and Jews.

This framing erases the history of co-existence between Palestinian Jews, Christians and Muslims prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. It also erases the existence of Palestinian Christians, many of whom witnessed the damaging of one of the world’s oldest Greek Orthodox churches in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza last week. 

In addition, the notion that a Muslim/Jewish religious conflict is the root cause of the 75-year-old settlement of Palestinian land dismisses the thousands of Jewish voices calling for an end to Israel’s apartheid regime.

We are aware that the UNC administration contacted Israeli students and Jewish organizations soon after Oct. 7, but, to our knowledge, failed to reach out to Palestinian, Arab and/or Muslim students — many of whom have family in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. 

On Oct. 27, we hand-delivered a letter to the UNC administration calling for the University’s divestment from Israeli apartheid. We continue to await a response and are disappointed by the administration’s failure to act promptly. 

This careless approach demonstrates the administration's failure to support all the members of this community. Moreover, it shows that the administration values the life and well-being of certain students more than others. We condemn this lack of concern for Palestinians, especially given that we know UNC students whose family members have been killed during Israel’s indiscriminate bombing in Gaza.

During SJP’s Oct. 12 rally, the consequences of the administration’s lack of concern for Palestinian students and allies were on full display. Pro-Israel counter-demonstrators physically and verbally harassed students participating in the rally. A faculty member disrupted the non-violent demonstration when he harassed students, violating their personal space to such an extent that he was led away by campus police. 

Since Oct. 12, individual members of UNC SJP have faced death threats, targeted harassment and other forms of doxxing. The national organization as a whole has been characterized as antisemitic by the U.S. Senate, as well as a current presidential candidate who proposed the deportation of non-citizen students engaged in pro-Palestine activism. 

We reject the characterization of the Oct. 12 rally or any of SJP’s other activities as antisemitic. Anti-Zionism and antisemitism are not the same — many of SJP’s executive board members are Jewish. Furthermore, we reject the assertion that supporting colonized peoples’ right to resistance is the same as endorsing violence in our community. 

More than 10,000 civilians have now been killed in Israel’s nearly month-long assault on Gaza. We call on the whole UNC community to stand in solidarity with Palestinians against this ongoing genocide. 

— UNC Students for Justice in Palestine

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