On Nov. 17, Rep. Marc Molinaro, a Republican who represents New York state’s 19th congressional district, called for the banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Binghamton University and other schools. This idea is harmful to the BU community, college campuses everywhere and our constitutional right to free speech. As college students who care about student safety, as well as having the democratic freedom to speak freely about global events, Molinaro’s stance is unacceptable. Molinaro misses the clear difference between hate and activism. Let us make it more clear for him.

This perspective is entirely misaligned with the reality of the situation on this campus, which Molinaro should perhaps learn more about by communicating with all student leaders at BU. The recent protest was an instance of students peacefully advocating for reduced censorship and surveillance. It is still unknown who was responsible for the posters, thus Molinaro’s mention of SJP is misdirected, dangerous and irresponsible.

SJP’s work has provided an important perspective and voice to this campus over the past couple years — now more than ever. SJP is responsible for organizing rallies, producing educational material and workshops about Palestine, and fundraising for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Not only does Molinaro’s categorization of SJP as a hate group misrepresent SJP’s beliefs and work, but it also dangerously provokes tensions on campus and feeds a harmful narrative that organizations fighting Islamophobia writ large are inherently vicious.

It is entirely fair to criticize the placement of posters in an organization’s designated meeting space without permission. Yet, calling for the removal of SJP and other pro-Palestinian organizations altogether because Molinaro does not believe in the content of their protest is strictly a threat to free speech. Furthermore, eliciting hate toward other groups of students and perpetuating harmful stereotypes directly targets Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students when their safety should be a priority. Prioritizing the safety of Jewish students on campus and prioritizing the safety of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students should not be mutually exclusive.

Jewish students’ voices and concerns are important, and they should be heard.

Arab, Muslim and Palestinian students’ voices and concerns are important, and they should be heard.

By singling out SJP and pro-Palestinian students, Molinaro endangers an entire group of students and deepens the divide on campus.

Throughout the past few months, innocent Palestinian and Jewish people throughout the United States have faced violent threats and hate speech at an unprecedented level. While we should be working together to advocate for a cease-fire in Gaza, both to prevent the starvation and killing of innocent Palestinians and protect innocent Israelis against Hamas’ attacks, the violence and hate speech poisons the simple human message of protecting the innocent on both sides.

Just a few weeks ago, in Vermont, three innocent Palestinian college students were shot by a stranger while they were walking down the street.

In October, a landlord in Chicago fatally stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian boy and later faced murder and hate crime charges after saying that he was angry at the boy and his mother for what was going on in Israel.

Meanwhile, the New York District Attorney has also charged a man with assaulting, stalking and using anti-Semitic rhetoric against an innocent Israeli man in Times Square this past October.

At Cornell University, just an hour away, a student was arrested in connection to an anti-Semitic post on an online discussion board in which he graphically threatened to attack a kosher dining hall.

These examples of harassment and violence are a few among many and demonstrate a stark difference between the hate that Molinaro charges SJP with and the reality of actual hate that should be prevented. Molinaro should focus on combating hatred instead of repressing freedom of speech.