Amid growing violence in Gaza and tension in the United States, Rep. Marc Molinaro, who represents Greater Binghamton in the House of Representatives, has advocated for the banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), both at Binghamton University and at universities across the United States.
Molinaro’s position, confirmed to Pipe Dream from a representative in his office, reflects growing debate about free speech on college campuses. BU’s campus has seen heightened student activism since the Oct. 7 attacks launched by Hamas.
“When will we say enough is enough?” Molinaro wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Jewish students don’t feel safe on college campuses because of hate groups like SJP. They should be banned from [BU] and schools across America.”
This semester, BU’s SJP chapter, which describes itself as an activist group advocating for the empowerment of the Palestinian people, has organized a “Rally for Palestinian Solidarity” and a walkout for Palestine. The organization has also held events to educate the campus community about Palestinian history, celebrate Palestinian culture and participated in a potluck with the Arab Student Association and the University’s Center for Middle East and North Africa Studies.
“With the rising injustice toward the Palestinian people, it only seems fit that the oppressors would want to silence our voices by shutting down and banning SJP chapters,” SJP’s E-Board wrote. “From Meta, Instagram and the most popular media outlets taking down posts about Palestine, to most mainstream news outlets reporting unjustly about the topic, it is clear that the very values America claims to stand for have been abandoned when it aligns with their pockets. We have not seen this kind of response nor backlash by media outlets toward Zionist misinformation [and] the very fact that it was able to reach far enough to be stated by President Joe Biden is evidence enough.”
Molinaro’s office did not respond to a Pipe Dream request to expand on his official position. He has expressed strong support for Israel throughout his congressional tenure, voting to pass $14 billion in aid to Israel and supporting legislation to restrict federal funding to colleges that “authorize [anti-Semitic] events on campus.”
Founded at UC Berkeley, SJP consists of largely autonomous and loosely connected chapters, has no national headquarters and an anonymous national student steering committee, according to reporting from the New York Times.
As Israel’s military campaign in Gaza persists, several college campuses across the United States have restricted or disbanded their SJP chapters. On Nov. 7, Brandeis University in Massachusetts was the first private institution to revoke recognition of SJP, alleging the group’s use of hate speech. At Columbia University, the suspensions of SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace — a progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization — for most of the fall semester have drawn national news coverage and criticism from Columbia students, faculty and alumni, as well as some elected officials.
The suspensions and derecognitions, which also occurred at George Washington University, have drawn concern from free speech advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). An open letter delivered to over 650 university presidents across the United States, urged them to resist calls to investigate and punish pro-Palestinian campus groups.
“The experience of our country’s universities during the McCarthy era demonstrates that ideologically-motivated efforts to police speech on campus destroy the foundation on which academic communities are built,” David Cole, the ACLU’s legal director, wrote.
Recent congressional debate has centered around adding conditions to Israeli aid, including increasing humanitarian assistance to Gaza and ensuring that Israeli forces will do more to minimize civilian deaths. The discussions represent a break from longstanding tradition in the Capitol, where for decades, lawmakers have approved military funding without many constraints.
“Fearmongering and misinformation have been the critical tools used every time a country tries to justify genocide, and it is the same thing going on right now,” SJP’s E-Board wrote. “When so many Americans are upset with the way the government is going about the ‘conflict,’ yet the government responds by further demonstrating their unwavering support, as well as overwhelming unanimity, shows that the government is no longer acting in the interest of its people, but rather in the interests of its own pockets.”