Rare look into the NSJP conference planning process and power dynamics
Now, in 2014, this all happened quickly. So back in 2014, the SJPs at CUNY, in cooperation with RSCC, formed this group, this informal group, to basically have its own contingent to go to the national SJP conference. Some of us have been there and are familiar with this conference. National SJP is not the representative of SJPs around the country. It just has the name National SJP. There have been multiple attempts to make National SJP consolidate its power over Palestine student groups around the country. However, these attempts were just quickly destabilized because of these people and it was never able to actually happen.
They quickly wanted to take over National SJP. They started to hold these meetings just to talk shit about NSJP and how, according to them, undemocratic NSJP was. Now I’m not here to say if NSJP was democratic or not. I have limited familiarity with NSJP, but I’m pretty much taking the view … taking an objective view point on how they were attempting to take over NSJP. Regardless of how valid their concerns were, they were trying to take a national organization and not take the viewpoints of all the hundreds of other activists all around the country.
What they did was, NSJP held a town hall discussion as part of its conference. That’s why we don’t see that town hall discussion part happening anymore at their annual conferences. It was quickly disrupted and taken over by these people, RCSS and their SJP members who started attacking the members of the organizers of NSJP and shouting at them and telling them that they’re not democratic and that they play favoritism and other accusations. It was a really heated time at the national conference. No one was expecting this. Palestine work, NSJP, operated for years without such dynamics developing, where other self proclaimed Palestine organizers would come disrupt a town hall discussion. Some of the organizers got traumatized and were crying and then for hours, all night, people were just arguing.
The truth comes out! Harassment and hostility at SJP planning meetings
Okay, so a lot is happening up until now, we’re still going through the timeline. In spring 2015 RSCC annexes Hunter SJP, claims it to be under their own leadership and that RSCC has the authority to dictate the SJP at Hunter and tell it … tell Hunter SJP what to do. Tafadar was basically the commander of this whole cult. So someone who is not Palestinian, someone who doesn’t even go to Hunter would tell organizers at Hunter what to do. They used to hold separate meetings to discuss what they can do for SJP, what kind of Palestine solidarity work they can do on campus. What kind of events they can hold. These were only for members of RSCC. I wasn’t a member of RSCC so I wasn’t allowed to attend these meetings. Then they would dictate what kind of events I could participate in.
Then there was a meeting in March 2015, which, unfortunately, I actually called for it, where members from RSCC and members from SJPs across CUNY and New York, even Columbia was part of that meeting. Pace University was part of that meeting, too, and that was when the idea of NCY SJP was first brought up, in this meeting that I called for in March 2015. Right? In the same month, there was a meeting after a lot of conversations, after a lot of experiences, after a lot of incidents, there was myself and another member of Hunter SJP who also had mental illness, like me. We decided to bring every criticisms up to a meeting and pretty much criticize the leadership for how things were going in the organization.
It ended up being very hostile where basically three SJP organizers, Nerdeen was one of them and then two other white people, surrounded me with their chairs. It was basically a form of harassment and it really made me feel very uncomfortable to the point where I went to our faculty advisor, his name is Chris Stone, to tell him to help us. Kind of make a mediation effort because it was really uncomfortable and I knew something bad was going to happen afterwards, which did end up happening…
She’s very active in Palestine organizing. Very active and always given a platform. Yes, there was shouting against me and that other member and there were accusations of us being there for other reasons for not to do Palestine work, of us taking too much time, wasting time to talk about ableism. There was … they were laughing about terror concerns. The other member ended up leaving the room crying and just didn’t want to be in that space anymore. It ended up me being alone with all the other organizers, three of them surrounding me with their chairs and all the other people just watching and smiling. Eventually, I was kicked out based on false accusations which I’m gonna show in screenshots later on and severely bullied and harassed in the Palestine activism scene and really traumatized, severely traumatized by what happened.
SHOCKING! The big NSJP coverup. Details here!
Now, in March 2016, National SJP decided to hold this specific regional SJP gathering called SJP East. I was the only PSA member who was there, and also NYC SJP and RSCC attempted to also take over SJP East by saying that we should adapt to these specific points of unity. They would call for specific, lets say, a Marxist point of unity. But not everyone agreed with that position, and the way they would push forward for that position was through shouting and through taking over the mic, and through just trying to silence other criticisms.
And the documents I’m gonna show soon, are gonna demonstrate how they were able to … How they were trying to hijack these certain conferences. And tragically, in April, just right after, just a week after this conference, actually, the same people who were at that conference, just shouting, just the week after became exposed as rapists. There were around 10 rape and sexual assault survivors who spoke out, and basically said, “We were sexually assaulted by these RSCC members, including…and we were traumatized by them.”. And that, of course, that caused a lot of controversy, I mean why wouldn’t it? And not even as much controversy as it showed. And, eventually, once that came out RSCC was dismantled.
Now, we mentioned earlier how RSCC was dismantled, but several of the groups that Risk created are still active on the scene today.
Now, later on, in the same month, there was a specific rape survivor who was pretty open about her assault, she wasn’t hiding, holding it as a secret. She went on Facebook, asking NYC SJP to actually disassociate themselves from these serial rapists. And, what happened was, NYC SJP activists ended up silencing them because they were trying to take down Palestine Work. And, they have screenshot I’m going to show of that.
The sectarianism still continues, even after RSCC got dismantled. In April 2016, same month, Brown University, publicly issues a letter of concern about NYC SJP’s silencing of rape survivors. In May 2016, documents were leaked that showed that Risk, very closely with NYC SJP, were discussing, pretty much explicitly, how they can isolate people from Palestine Work.
SJP is rampant with homophobia, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, ableism, bigotry, and bullying among SJP members.
There were multiple times between September 2015 to November 2015, I was away working at a refugee came in Lebanon during the summer so they weren’t able to harass me that time. But once the fall semester started, the harassment continued. They were sometimes … I would go to the SJP club room and just sit quietly and then all of a sudden you would see five people, like Dan and Michael…just shout at me and call me a Zionist and call me really disgusting things, telling me to get the fuck out of the room and really harmful stuff.
This didn’t only happen at the SJP clubroom. It also happened at protests and events that were even outside of Hunter. I would just attend a protest because they would make a protest in the name of my homeland so it felt important to go and then all of a sudden I would see people who I didn’t even know, like new people. I never recognized, never met them, don’t even know their names, show up to me and surround me, physically surround me, while shouting at me and calling me really ableist terms like calling me antisocial, right in front of my face. I don’t even know these people. Like, bro I never heard of you and they would just come and harass me.
Shortly after I quickly realized there’s no more hope for Hunter SJP and after some conversations with two other members at Hunter, we decided to co-found together PSA, Palestine Solidarity Alliance in February 2016. We were afraid we wouldn’t get accepted by the administration but after months of writing statements, doing applications, talking to USG, consistently with student government, I actually got accepted.
Shaming and exclusion is and SJP past time when not busy with hateful BDS
And I wasn’t a member of RSCC, when Risk was in control of Hunter SJP. I didn’t agree with them on some stuff. At one point, I was the only non-communist that was in SJP. And there was also this personal ego thing where basically five people, three of them were white, only one Palestinian, Nerdeen, the five of them were establishing this clique and this hierarchy over Hunter SJP. To basically control whatever’s going on in consultation with Tafadar and people outside of Hunter to tell us what to do.
You see, they consistently excluded me from meetings that they would have. Not tell me about them. Then I would tell them, “Why didn’t you tell me about this meeting?”, and they would get so upset that I would go and tell them that, because they thought I would just not care about it. And then, during our meetings when I would bring up ideas and raise my own comments and criticisms they would just make faces to each other, laugh about them, dismiss them. As if it’s something petty or something too liberal, and they always called me too liberal.
But, just because someone disagrees with you politically, that doesn’t mean that they have the right to bully them, and to marginalize them. You see, if you have a conservative point, you educate that person, you don’t isolate that person. You know what I mean …
Co-opting social causes, an SJP specialty!
Exactly. Thank you for sharing that. It speaks to you about their attempts to co-opt and hijack the Palestine Solidarity Movement.
And, last part of the contradictions is in February 2018, NYC SJP renamed itself to Within Our Lifetime. So, that’s really what they operate under right now. I know some of you were confused, who is NYC SJP? Is it Within Our Lifetime? Pretty much the same group. RSCC, NYC SJP and now Within Our Lifetime. In April 2018, us under PSA, one of our members, Iman, who was there and watched it all happen, she said she’s coming in the afternoon. Hopefully she does and she can speak to us, maybe tell you more about what happened through her own viewpoint.
It was under PSA, Adalah New York an ally, JVP NYC, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, us together, we wanted to hold a protest for Gaza. And we published on Facebook that we’re having this protest, and all of a sudden, just a few hours before our protest, we find out that Within Our Lifetime also scheduled … They literally scheduled a protest just half an hour before ours, at the same location. So, we were all just so concerned, and just not knowing what to do, just having conference calls all day to see what’s a safe decision to make that would protect us from their harassment, and that wouldn’t allow them to co-opt our protest.
And, it ended up being pretty tense, in the beginning, we both had two protests at the same time, right next to each other, and then they sent two of their members to come speak to us, to mediate. And, it became confrontational between me and another person from National SJP, and two of their own members, where both of us didn’t want to work with them and they kept on insisting on us to work with them. So, basically after some arguments, they agreed to have us share the mic and have an equal amount of power, and for us to send our own speakers too. But, it was really troubling, because that’s how they always try to do, basically, in the movement, to just co-opt any action, co-opt any organization, co-opt any campus, so that they can just be in control of it.
“There are those within the [SJP] leadership who have shown awful gender practices”
To make things worse, there are those within the leadership who have shown awful gender practices, and that continuously ignored the needs of the survivors and help the guilty to stay silent as this process continues. It shows a lack of responsibility and a disregard for how these people use their activist credentials to influence and harm other people. This is why we claim that NYC SJP is complicit in rape culture, no matter the individual protestations of its members.
These two people…are not just bad seeds, but a symptom of the continued prevalence of the patriarchy within our circles. We must always be conscious to listen to the voices of the survivors, and also be proactive rather than reactive, to these situations by constantly trying to build women’s leadership, fight against machismo, and seek to equalize labor between people of various genders within our group.
By not being public, there’s no way to know whether perpetrators are expelled from the organization, producing the misconception that perpetrators are still active members, a potential access point for continued abuse, which can prevent potential members from having a real, consensual understanding of the organization. It also relinquishes accountability. Why shouldn’t we know that there was an abuser attending group? We are all complicit in this transgression, given the history of SJP activism that has been either secretive or unaccountable. But also, the integrity of these spaces is that these things be known and condemned publicly.
“Harassed and bullied” – business as usual under the oppressive SJP regime
Going to the administration is a whole topic by itself. In my case, at first, I only went to the faculty, advisor. This was even before I got expelled, and for months afterward I would get harassed and bullied, and there was at one point that I was harassed at a Palestine event, and I didn’t feel supported by anyone, and at that point, you don’t really think rationally. You don’t really think about the repercussions of such a decision on whether to go to the administration is good or not. All you care about is feeling protected.
So, there was at one point, after a long time of harassment, right after this Palestine event, I had to go to the administration to feel protected. And then I got a lot of backlash for that, being accused of trying to bring down the movement, and so on.