Tufts U Anti-Israel Group Launches Intimidation Vendetta Against Jewish Student Government Officer (UPDATE: Anti-Israel Students Retract Complaints After Widespread Backlash)
Students for Justice In Palestine has waged a relentless campaign against Max Price, who “has been subjected to…a months-long campaign of intimidation, harassment and discrimination on the basis of his ethnic and ancestral Jewish identity.”
Over the years, Legal Insurrection has covered Tufts University and its many controversies time and time again. This time, Tufts’ radical anti-Israel student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, may have outdone them all— with its jaw-dropping, months-long campaign to rid Tufts student government of an elected officer for the simple fact of his Jewish Zionist identity.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Tufts SJP and Deadly Exchange
- 3 Fall 2020 Semester: Behind the Scenes of SJP’s Campaign
- 4 SJP’s Not Finished: The Vendetta Against Max Price Continues
- 5 Tufts University’s Pattern of Indifference
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Update:
It was exactly a decade ago this month that I, a freshly minted graduate of Hampshire College, first began my career as a professional researcher of and activist against campus anti-Semitism. Initially inspired by my own undergraduate experiences with Hampshire’s chapter of the radical campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), I’ve spent the last 10 years digging into SJP branches around the country and exposing their anti-Jewish bigotry. Suffice it to say, I’m well-acquainted with SJP’s habits; having fought them as both a student and a professional, there is very little any SJP chapter could do that would surprise me anymore.
Enter Tufts University SJP, which in recent years, has become one of the most notoriously virulent SJP branches in the country. Accordingly, this week, the group has managed to do the impossible—it has shocked even me (!) by engaging in some of the worst anti-Jewish persecution on an American college campus that I have ever seen.
Tufts SJP and Deadly Exchange
As regular readers might know, I reported on Tufts SJP last month in Tufts U Condemns Student Government Resolution Blaming Israel For U.S. Police Violence:
The Tufts University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has proven itself to be one of the strongest advocates of “Deadly Exchange,” a false campaign started by anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace, claiming that Israel and American Jewish groups are responsible for alleged unlawful police violence in the U.S. against minority communities.
Since at least 2018, when [Tufts SJP] discovered that the now-retired Tufts University Police Department chief Kevin Maguire had attended a nine-day counterterrorism and emergency preparedness seminar in Israel in late 2017, [the group] has (in such a stretch that [it] seems in danger of pulling a muscle) adapted the Deadly Exchange by claiming that TUPD’s tangential association with the Jewish state directly threatens Tufts “students’ sense of safety and security on campus“; Tufts “students of color” are in particular danger. TUPD, SJP concludes, requires “demilitarization” and a prohibition on any relationship with Israeli counterparts.
…Last semester, years after Chief McGuire’s singular trip, Tufts SJP finally engineered a successful student government Deadly Exchange-based resolution via a November 24, 2020 Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate special election ballot.
The resolution condemned the university for “sending” McGuire to the seminar, and catastrophized about the allegedly resultant and lasting threat to students’ physical and emotional “safety.”
…[After a semester-long campaign and social media blitz], the Tufts Daily student newspaper was able to report [in mid-December 2020] that the referendum had passed “with 68% of voters in favor and 26% opposed. There were 1,725 “yes” votes, 665 “no” votes and 161 abstentions.”
The passage of such a deeply erroneous Deadly Exchange resolution is outrageous enough—reports that it was “passed by illegitimate means, with two major violations of the election process” notwithstanding—but documents newly revealed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) on behalf of a Jewish undergraduate student named Max Price show that what went on behind the scenes during SJP’s campaign was far, far worse.
Fall 2020 Semester: Behind the Scenes of SJP’s Campaign
The Tufts student government includes an elected student judiciary committee (frequently referred to as the “J”) whose job it is to review proposed legislation before putting it to a student body vote in order to assure that legislation is factually accurate. The Judiciary also “oversees student organization recognition and re-recognition, ensures that student organizations are adhering to their constitutions, and facilitates the student organization creation process. It is a seven-member body that is elected by the entire undergraduate student population.” The J has a system of established bylaws, and conducts official votes in committee meetings to make decisions.
The Judiciary Versus SJP: Attempting to Moderate Deadly Exchange Language
As The Jewish Insider reported earlier this week (emphasis added), SJP’s 2020 Deadly Exchange resolution began life according to to procedure: SJP submitted its draft to the J—which happens to include Max Price, a Jewish, Zionist student—for approval before it could be sent on to a student body vote.
Max Price, a junior at Tufts, is one of five undergraduates who serve on the student judiciary, which works in part to ensure that legislation voted on by the student body is fact-checked and neutral. During an effort to pass [the Deadly Exchange] referendum during the fall 2020 semester, Price was tasked with removing biased and misleading information from the text of the ballot initiative.
Price did exactly as he was asked; November 2020 communication records published by Max’s lawyers at the Brandeis Center show Max’s and the J’s considerable efforts to provide a neutral review and proof to support corrective edits and suggestions.
SJP: Zionism a “Conflict of Interest”?
But Tufts SJP apparently found almost none of the proposed alterations to be acceptable, and complained to the J about its supposed lack of neutrality in reviewing SJP’s draft. SJP even began to pressure the J committee to force Max—who also happens to be a leader in the campus group Tufts Friends of Israel—to recuse himself from further discussion of the Deadly Exchange resolution.
As the Washington Free Beacon reported,
At the behest of Students for Justice in Palestine, members of the student judiciary committee asked Price to recuse himself from further deliberations after he pointed out a series of factually incorrect assertions in the referendum. Students for Justice in Palestine members called Price “biased” in emails. Other student leaders said Price’s Jewish identity created an “unavoidable conflict of interest.”
But, having offered only unbiased critiques of SJP’s resolution, Price would not comply with the demand.
In his personal statement explaining the dispute, Price wrote,
I was told that I had an unavoidable conflict of interest by members of the Senate Executive board and student leaders in the Committee on Student Life and pressured, without regard to constitutional process, to dismiss myself from the proceedings. I refused. My Jewish identity is not an “conflict of interest.” The only conflict I have is with misinformation, manipulation, bullying, and the scourge of anti-Semitism.
SJP Ramps Up the Peer Pressure
SJP refused to give up, and on November 15, 2020, the Judiciary convened an emergency meeting to determine if Price should indeed recuse himself from further discussion of the Deadly Exchange resolution. An interrogation by his fellow Judiciary members ended with a unanimous decision that Price had no “conflict of interest” and had performed his duty without bias.
But SJP would not relent. The group filed a second complaint about Price’s supposed “conflict of interest” with the Committee on Student Life (CSL) and the wider Tufts student senate; the senate decided it would convene a second interrogation to investigate Price’s “bias”. As Price later explained,
In response, the TCU Senate President set up a meeting for the next day, November 16, to discuss the allegations. I was led to believe that the purpose of the meeting was to decide conclusively whether the SJP allegations had any merit and whether any further action would be initiated against me…The other student government leaders grilled me for over an hour about whether my personal beliefs and Jewish and Zionist identities impact my ability to serve on the TCUJ on this issue. I was explicitly asked if being co-president of Tufts Friends of Israel—the sole Zionist student club on campus—rendered me too biased to participate in this process. The undercurrent of nearly every question was whether my Zionist beliefs, which are a central expression of my Jewish identity, disqualified me from serving on student government. At no point were any of my substantive statements or actions during the TCUJ review process cited or specifically called into question.
Yet, Price evidently held his own, because at the conclusion of this interrogation, the Senate officers decided that the Judiciary had been correct, that he exhibited no bias in fulfilling his duties therein, and that there was no need to recuse himself from further discussions of Deadly Exchange referenda.
This was unacceptable for SJP, whose members continued to pressure the Judiciary chair to silence Price during an upcoming Zoom meeting to establish final language for SJP’s Deadly Exchange resolution before passing it along to the student body vote.
As the Washington Free Beacon reported, “The judiciary committee relented, and Price was unable to speak at the meeting.”
Incremental Victories: SJP Doubles Down on Double Standards
On the other hand, SJP was apparently permitted to bring an “expert” to speak at the meeting in order to explain why SJP’s choices on the resolution should stand, and the Judiciary’s corrections should largely be disregarded; the Judiciary informed Price (with barely 15 minutes before the meeting was due to begin) that, though he was not permitted to speak, he could find an “expert” of his own to explain his perspective. Naturally, though SJP’s “expert” was able to make his case without interruption, Price’s last-minute “expert” “was repeatedly interrupted by the members of SJP, who demanded that he be prohibited from participating…Mr. Washington [of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI)] was barely able to speak for a full minute for the entirety of the meeting.”
TAKE ACTION NOW >>> https://t.co/EBOT6gWIJA
Last month, @SJPtufts attempted to pass an anti-Semitic referendum by circumventing @tufts constitutional process. @TuftsECOM approved the vote anyway. Sign the petition to condemn the anti-Semitic referendum and fraudulent election. pic.twitter.com/S4JlwiwtZV
— IBSI (@IbsiNow) January 13, 2021
Moreover, though Price was forbidden from speaking due to his supposed “conflict of interest”, SJP’s “expert” was none other than Eran Efrati—a long-time anti-Israel activist, formerly with fringe Israeli BDS group Breaking the Silence, and current member of the global Deadly Exchange campaign’s advisory team.
Furthermore, comments on recent Facebook posts by members of Tufts SJP show that Efrati has been enthusiastic about and involved in the group’s Deadly Exchange efforts for weeks.
Efrati’s prior involvement with and support of the campaign does not seem to have constituted a “conflict of interest”, however, and the cowed Judiciary finally voted to pass the resolution along to a student body vote. Price was the only student among the J to stick to the committee’s initial assessment and vote against it, despite his forcible silencing by his colleagues.
And of course, as we reported earlier, the resolution then passed among the wider Tufts student community.
SJP’s Not Finished: The Vendetta Against Max Price Continues
SJP leaders then filed a complaint with the student government, seeking to remove Price from his judiciary seat. Price now faces a February 28 hearing in front of the Tufts Community Union Senate, whose members will determine whether he is permitted to keep his position on the school judiciary.
University administrators will not be attending the hearing, and recording is not allowed. Price said he was given the option of two time slots for the hearing, and when he chose the option that would allow his advisor to join, he was informed it was no longer available. A reporter from the Boston-area university’s newspaper, The Tufts Daily, was expected to attend — in violation of a provision in the school’s Student Conduct Resolution Procedure, which does not allow third party attendees at hearings. Hours after an inquiry from Jewish Insider to the university on Monday, members of the judiciary were informed that the reporter would no longer be present at the hearing.
Price, who told JI he is not optimistic ahead of the trial, could face punishments ranging from a formal warning to expulsion from the student judiciary.
“So far, there’s been no due process and no assumption of innocence. So that’s just the next domino to fall,” he said. “I fully anticipate that if the university doesn’t stop this trial, that I’ll be unjustly removed from my position.”
A barrage of harassment and bullying from anti-Israel students ensued, Price told the Free Beacon. Students called him “a racist, a fascist, a Nazi,” and “an enemy of progress.”
“My job as a Senate judiciary member is to remove bias from any student body referendum. When I tried to do that with the ‘Deadly Exchange’ referendum, SJP launched a months-long campaign of harassment, slander and intimidation against me as the only Zionist Jew on the judiciary,” Price told JNS.
“They wanted me to back down and to silence me, and when I didn’t, SJP expanded their campaign to slander me in the student newspaper, had me interrogated numerous times as to whether I was fit to hold office, attacked me with age-old anti-Semitic tropes about money and power, threatened me with impeachment, and now, I’m being denied a fair trial,” he said.
Price’s lawyers also charge that members of the TCU Senate, which is set to preside over Price’s hearing, have made statements that utilize anti-Semitic tropes about money and power; indicate explicit support for SJP and its referendum; and demonstrate personal bias against Price.
Tufts University’s Pattern of Indifference
Nor does any of it seem to seriously trouble the Tufts administration. Indeed, the Brandeis Center released documents showing multiple complaints filed with the school over the years by Jewish students who experienced anti-Semitism in a variety of forms. Yet,
The school has largely ignored Price’s complaints, he told the Free Beacon. Administrators referred him to Tufts’s Office of Equal Opportunity, which told Price it doesn’t deal with allegations of anti-Semitism. Price said he thinks the office is uninterested “in being honest about the liability” that the university has exposed itself to, as it’s failed to stand up for Jewish students.
Tufts executive director of media relations Patrick Collins told the Free Beacon that the school “takes very seriously any allegation of discrimination,” which would be reviewed by the Office of Equal Opportunity. The Tufts Community Union “is subject to the university’s non-discrimination policies and [Office of Equal Opportunity] investigation process.”…Price plans to graduate at the end of 2021, but is concerned about the campus atmosphere he’ll be leaving behind. One of the complaints he filed with the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) involved incoming Jewish freshmen who were asked in group chats whether they were “Israel or Palestine.”
UPDATE, Added 2-26-2021: You can also read a second letter sent to the Tufts administration by pro-Israel advocacy group StandWithUs on their website.
Here’s an excerpt (emphasis theirs):
While we recognize and appreciate the right to student governance autonomy and shared government, so too do we see the tremendous need for oversight in this instance to prevent abuse of that autonomy. Mr. Price was squarely within his right as a member of the TCUJ to review and raise concerns about language in the “Deadly Exchange” referendum. This attempt to remove him from the TCUJ nearly three months after the referendum passed is nothing more than an antisemitic campaign against a Jewish student leader who holds a viewpoint different from that of the SJP complainants. When student leaders overstep their authority, campus administrators must step in to prevent such abuse and to restore an equitable campus environment.
We thank you for your previous moral leadership in swiftly and unambiguously denouncing SJP for its antisemitic positions after the group received the university’s 2020 Collaboration Award. Likewise, we commend you for your investigation and response to our concerns about a Tufts dental student with a history of bigoted, antisemitic online speech. Your decisiveness in both circumstances suggests your desire for an inclusive environment at Tufts and to protect Jewish and Israeli students from antisemitic bigotry. Once again, we ask that you step in and prevent this unfounded student senate hearing from occurring, as it has no legitimate legal basis and will only serve to perpetuate a climate of antisemitism. If no such protocol for administrative action in the face of flagrant student abuse of power yet exists, we urge you to adopt such a policy immediately to protect your campus from future bigotry and discrimination.
“Max is extraordinary. He is an extremely strong young man,” Alyza Lewin of the Brandeis Center told me this morning. “What’s happening to him is wrong.” But he has not acquiesced.
Still, she says, while Max has shown incredible strength and resolve, this isn’t only about Max and Tufts. “There is a broader problem on campuses which allows this to happen. I worry that if the university doesn’t respond strongly, we’ll have more Max Prices.” I believe she’s right to worry; I’ve been doing this work long enough to know that very few college students have the courage to stand up to the kind of pressure Price has endured with aplomb—and every time a student or a university administration on any campus submits to the local SJP chapter’s demands, every other SJP chapter in the country learns that they can make those demands of their own communities too. For years, SJP branches have tested their campuses, pushing the envelope little by little to see exactly what people will and won’t tolerate.As Lewin said to me, “SJP is not interested in political discussion. This is not a group looking for reform. This is not about constructive conversation. They are determined to cleanse student government of all students who are proudly Jewish and believe in Jewish self-determination in the Jewish ancestral home. There’s a reason Tufts SJP included in its Deadly Exchange information brochure that map [of Israel, with the entire land all labeled ‘Palestine’ and the area within Israel’s 1948 borders labeled ‘Occupied territory’, included as part of Tufts SJP’s Deadly Exchange publicity materials], which has nothing whatsoever to do with police brutality. What SJP is trying to do is create a litmus test, to tell students: If you want to be accepted in social justice and activist circles, you must agree to that map. You must agree that Israel has no right to exist and that the Jewish people have no right to self-determination. That is the contemporary form of anti-Semitism, and we’re seeing it on campus.”
Friday, February 26, 5:55 PM:
The Brandeis Center sent out a press release this evening with a very welcome update:
SJP Withdraws Impeachment Complaint Against Jewish Tufts Student Government Member
Washington, D.C., February 26: After legal advocates from The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) intervened on behalf of a Tufts University student threatened with impeachment for expressing Jewish identity, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), who filed the complaint, today withdrew it.
Max Price, the Jewish Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) member, was informed today that the complaint filed by SJP that sought to have him removed from office for expressing Jewish identity, was withdrawn and the hearing cancelled. The hearing represented a continuation of a months-long campaign of intimidation, harassment and discrimination targeting Price on the basis of his Jewish ethnic identity. After Price attempted to point out baseless lies in SJP’s proposed Deadly Exchange referendum, he was harassed, targeted and marginalized, slandered in the student newspaper, interrogated as to whether he is fit to hold office, muted for an entire student government zoom meeting that he was elected to participate in, and attacked with age-old anti-Semitic tropes about money and power.
Earlier this month, the Brandeis Center demanded Tufts President Monaco halt the disciplinary hearing and end the harassment and discrimination that has infringed on Price’s freedom of speech, denied him due process and deprived him of equal opportunity and equal access to university programs in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Tufts University’s stated institutional policies.
The following are statements from Price and the Brandeis Center on SJP’s withdrawal of the complaint.
“I was notified today that after facing public outcry and criticism of their discriminatory actions, SJP has withdrawn their complaint and cancelled my hearing. They tried to intimidate the Jewish community into silence, to force Jews to renounce their shared heritage, to exclude Jews from leadership. They got caught. While I am relieved that my Judaism is no longer on trial, this change in course does not absolve SJP of their behavior. I am disappointed that university administrators failed to intervene, and have not yet reached out to me to address my concerns. Unless Tufts introduces sweeping reforms to combat anti-Semitism, this will happen to somebody else. Now that my position in student government is secure, I look forward to devoting my energy to beating back the rising tides of bigotry and injustice on campus. I encourage all Jewish students who have faced anti-Semitism to make their voices heard. As Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said, ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant’.”
Alyza D. Lewin, president of the Brandeis Center:
“We’re gratified that Max will no longer be subjected to a discriminatory impeachment hearing on Sunday. SJP got caught, their harassment of Jewish students was exposed, and they backpedaled. But this goes beyond Max. Now is when the real work begins. It is time for the Tufts administration to take concrete steps to end the ongoing marginalization, harassment and discrimination of Jewish students on campus. President Monaco should issue a statement condemning anti-Semitism in all its forms and publicly acknowledge that, for many Tufts students, Zionism is integral to their identity as Jews. The University should (1) officially adopt and utilize the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism and its contemporary examples when investigating and responding to incidents of harassment and discrimination to determine whether such conduct is motivated by anti-Semitic animus or bias; (2) revise its non-discrimination policy to include a prohibition on discrimination based on shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, including anti-Semitism; and (3) conduct training for the entire University community concerning the many manifestations of anti-Semitism. We are eager to work with Tufts President Monaco and his administration to improve the climate at Tufts for Jewish students. The time is now.”
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