A male student was captured on video harassing two members of Binghamton University’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group as they tabled in the Glenn G. Bartle Library.
The video, which was posted to Facebook by SJP on Tuesday evening, showed the male ripping up the organization’s poster board. According to a statement from SJP posted with the video, the male also tore SJP flyers, threw them at the members and yelled insults, shouting that “Palestine [and] Arab values are in contradiction to Western ‘progressive’ values.”
Tousif Khan, president of SJP and a freshman double-majoring in classical and Near Eastern studies and physics, said he asked the male to leave during the incident, but the male refused and continued to yell at the members.
“He said a few racist things,” Khan said. “What made me mad was the person who was with me was visibly shaken by his actions. This was her first time ever experiencing something like that, and he said, ‘What, you gonna cry about it?’ and that was just terrible.”
According to Khan, the incident is not the first time SJP has faced verbal attacks. In the statement posted by SJP, the group wrote that they were insulted and harassed at several other points throughout the day while tabling.
“Criticizing Israel, on any college campus, we expect people to come to us and argue, but this guy went too far with the stuff he did,” Khan said. “We had more opposition than usual that day. Other people that are Zionists came, and they were arguing to further silence us … I think people that agree with [that student] sought us out. Even when it was happening there were students nodding in agreement, and it was really disheartening when he was acting in such a manner and no one was coming to our defense.”
The group also wrote that the incident highlights the tension between group members and the Jewish and Zionist organizations and individuals on campus. According to Hillel at Binghamton, the University’s student body is roughly 30 percent Jewish, the highest percentage of Jewish students at any public university in the United States.
“This assault and destruction of our property was uncalled for and a representation of the relationship between Zionists and Palestinian activists on Binghamton campus,” the statement read. “Unable to engage in civil discussion or find any way to justify the ongoing occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians they resort racist violence to silence us.”
In response to the incident, Hillel and the Binghamton University Zionist Organization (BUZO) posted statements on Facebook condemning the attack.
“Although we support Zionism and see it is an imperative, we also support and encourage discourse and dialogue,” BUZO’s statement read. “BUZO does not by any means condone intimidation, aggression and violence in any form. We do not consider those who choose to engage in these inexcusable behaviors as part of our community … We hope that those who felt attacked today know that we are here to lend our support to them.”
The incident, which is currently being investigated by Binghamton’s New York State University Police Department (UPD) and the Dean of Students office, was met with concern from students on social media and prompted a statement from the University released on B-Line on Wednesday afternoon.
“The University deplores all acts of racism and any action that limits the expression of ideas,” the statement read. “Freedom of speech is fundamental to the core mission of the University; academic inquiry and the exchange of ideas rest on the principle that all have a right to express their beliefs. We strongly condemn any acts that impede the expression of those beliefs and caution anyone who attempts to inhibit another’s free speech.”
The University also wrote that “swift and decisive action” will be taken against the male once the investigation concludes.
However, Khan said the University’s statement was not adequate, calling it “vague.”
“[There was] no mention of SJP or Palestine or the core point that Palestinians are allowed to voice their concerns without having to face racist insults and aggressiveness,” Khan said. “The attack on the poster was a racist attack on Palestinian voices to shut them down, and the statement in no way recognizes that or consoles those groups affected by it.”
According to Khan, he and other group members are open to respectful discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he said although SJP opposes Israel’s actions in Palestine, the group is not anti-Jewish, listing anti-Semitism as an offense in its constitution.
“I respect people who come to us generally wanting to have a conversation about the conflict, even if they’re from the other side,” Khan said. “People who can do that, respectfully, even while also listening to us and showing they’re here to converse rather than to silence us or argue with us — those people are who I have respect for.”
Valerie Puma and Jeremy Rubino contributed reporting to this article.