On Nov. 15, members of Binghamton University’s Zionist Organization (BUZO) entered Lecture Hall 5 for their guest speaker event. Inside, they found pro-Palestinian posters lining the walls and desks.
The event — posted to BUZO’s Instagram the week before — featured Charlotte Korchak, an international senior educator at StandWithUs, an Israel education nonprofit. The posters urged universities to end the censorship of pro-Palestinian students and criticized New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $75 million designation to expand surveillance on primarily CUNY campuses. They also referenced specific instances of students being punished for protesting the “genocide in Palestine,” with one reading “the students united will never be defeated.” Officers from the University Police Department, hired as security for the event, were called into the room and remained through the evening for participants’ safety.
Saul Hakim, BUZO’s president and a junior double-majoring in Judaic studies and political science, said that there have been concerns about the safety and inclusion of the Jewish and Zionist student bodies at BU since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
“Such an act not only targets our organization but also undermines the sense of security and belonging that every student deserves at their university,” Hakim wrote in an email. “Many people question why Jewish students are insisting on security at their events and this is exactly why. What was meant to be a safe space and open forum for dialogue was turned into a tool used to intimidate our members.”
The organization released a statement shortly after the incident, describing it as “deeply disturbing” and that they immediately filed a police report. Hakim said that though police are taking the matter seriously, they have yet to hear of any significant breakthroughs in the case.
Ryan Yarosh, the University’s senior director of media and public relations, added that BU’s posting policies have been violated this semester and called for respectful dialogue on campus.
“The posters were not posted in accordance with university posting policies,” Yarosh wrote in an email. “There have been other similar posting violations during the semester, and we have reminded student organizations and students generally of posting policies through prior announcements. We hope all members of our community will respect university policies and each other as they communicate their messages to the campus community.”
Videos from the incident were subsequently shared by “@StopAntisemites,” an X account with over 275,000 followers. The account blamed BU’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, though BUZO requested a retraction, as the investigation is still ongoing. They also reached out to SJP to let them know about the post and their effort to be proactive in correcting it.
“This incident, unfortunately, adds to the existing tensions on campus, especially in the context of the current situation in the Middle East,” Hakim wrote. “We believe it is crucial to foster an environment where such issues can be discussed in a respectful and constructive manner. It’s important to differentiate between healthy debate and targeted, intimidating actions that silence and marginalize specific student groups.”
Hakim added that he reached out to multicultural organizations following their statements expressing solidarity with Palestinians and criticizing University President Harvey Stenger’s comments amid rising tensions on campus, encouraging them to attend the event. Only two responded, both rejecting the invitation.
Hannah Katz, BUZO’s membership director and a sophomore majoring in biology, said that she had been excited to attend the event before walking into the Lecture Hall and finding it “defaced with anti-Israel propaganda.”
“It wasn’t just disturbing but rather intimidating,” Katz wrote. “This was clearly a very well-planned attack on our mentality. However, we will not allow people to silence us. We are a strong community and intimidation only makes us stronger. We were left speechless but felt stronger than ever. We will never be afraid to show our faces as proud Zionists and Jews no matter how much anyone tries to intimidate us.”