Anti-Palestine posters cause stir on Grounds

SPJP denounces signs

nsspjppostercourtesyattiyalatif

Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine claimed the posters were an attempt to create a rift between religious groups at the University.

Posters reading “Students for JUSTICE in Palestine #JewHaters” with an image of a body being dragged through a street were posted around Grounds on Sunday.

Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine — an organization advocating for human rights — denounced the posters, claiming it was an attempt to create a rift between religious groups at the University. Most of the posters, which were placed around Bryan Hall and Clark Hall, have since been taken down.

First-year College student Attiya Latif, one of the students responsible for the removal of the posters, said in an email the posters were a blatant act of hatred and prejudice.

“I was highly offended by the fact that someone was trying to create a rift within our U.Va. community,” Latif said. “They create a monolith out of an ethnicity and misconstrue the name of an organization of good people, many of whom I know and am close friends with.”

President of SPJP Yahiya Saad, a third-year College student, said the posters are highly misconstrued statements of the organization’s mission.

“We are a humanitarian organization, we want to hold people accountable for human rights violations,” Saad said. “We are not a religious organization.”

Both SPJP and JStreet — an organization which aims to address both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — have said they suspect the poster is an act of one individual.

JStreet President William Baker, a fourth-year College student, said he was shocked at the posters’ presence on Grounds, citing a normally respectful political atmosphere at the University.

“We have a very respectful precedence, a very respectful tradition of dialogue between these two groups and mutual understanding, if not agreement,” Baker said. “It’s disturbing to see these posters threaten that respect that we have for each other and that we ought to have for people who have different views.”

Baker echoed Saad’s sentiments toward the inaccuracy of the posters and said they implicate the Jewish community when these are not the feelings they have towards SPJP.

“There are definitely a lot of members of the Jewish community who disagree with what they advocate for,” Baker said. “But I don’t think that this sort of public accusation is reflective of the opinion of the Jewish community or the tone that the SPJP strikes.”

Saad said he is unsure as to what prompted the posters but is committed to rectifying the issue.

“I’m not sure who did this but I think they are trying to tell people around Grounds that we are anti-semitic,” Saad said. “We are going to do our best to set the record straight.”

Saad said this type of demonstration is best fought with compassion.

“I will personally invite these people over for dinner and we can talk,” Saad said. “I’ll try [to] convince them that’s not what we’re about.”

Vice President of SPJP Luma Abunimer, a second-year Engineering student, said the organization held a series of demonstrations on Grounds last semester in response to the war in Gaza which occurred last summer.

“There was not any negative reaction to that from the community,” Abunimer said. “In the last few days, we made an event on Facebook, Israeli Apartheid Week.”

She said the use of the word “apartheid” can elicit strong feelings from pro-Israeli groups.

Saad considered the possibility of the posters as a reaction to this event.

“Between March 23 and 27 we will be holding a series of events to help fundraise the organization,” Saad said. “I guess whoever may have done this caught wind of that.”

SPJP is still discussing how the organization should approach the affront and will soon be meeting with Dean of Students Allen Groves to construct a statement in response to the issue. The Honor Committee is also aware of the incident, although they have not yet had an official meeting with SPJP.

Saad said SPJP is trying to handle the issue with care, as they do not know if the incident is isolated or the beginning of a greater campaign. He said a possible response could be hanging posters with the phrase “#loveheals.”

Baker also saw this as opportunity for the University community to begin a constructive dialogue on the issue.

“The Jewish community can use this as a jumping off point to build some more bridges with the Muslim community and specifically with Students For Peace and Justice in Palestine,” Baker said. “I think we need to take this as an opportunity to reach out to those organizations and have a constructive dialogue about how we can talk to each other about these issues and how we can be constructive about these issues on grounds.”

Latif said that she also hopes the posters will begin a dialogue at the University.

“We should address this as a community and create a positive message of solidarity with one another,” she said.

related stories