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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Student Palestine advocates cancel rally due to UA president’s comments

Protesters hold up signs in support of Palestine at a downtown rally in Tucson on Monday, Oct. 9. The event was organized as a reaction to the Israel-Hamas war. (Liv Leonard, El Inde Arizona)

The University of Arizona chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine canceled its Oct. 12 demonstration after President Dr. Robert C. Robbins issued a statement separating the university from the values of the group.

“The national organization has made statements endorsing the actions of Hamas in Israel, which are, of course, antithetical to our university’s values,” Robbins said in an email sent out to students and staff the night before the scheduled event.

The national organization – National Students for Justice in Palestine – is affiliated with 250+ chapters of SJP clubs across North America. The club has sparked controversy since the Saturday, Oct. 7 bombing of a music festival in Israel by Hamas, followed by a declaration of war against Hamas by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The National SJP posted on Instagram that same day to call the situation a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance” – a post that has since been taken down.

According to the Associated Press, “Hamas’ assault on Saturday killed more than 1,300 people in Israel, including 247 soldiers — a toll unseen in Israel for decades — and the ensuing Israeli bombardment has killed more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to authorities on both sides.”

“This is what it means to Free Palestine: not just slogans and rallies, but armed confrontation with the oppressors,” the National SJP post said.

It is unclear what specific statement made by SJP that Robbins referred to in his statement, but his wariness is shared by Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg, who led 43 colleagues in writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Education warning against SJP and its Oct. 12 National Day of Resistance.

“Organizations like the Students for Justice in Palestine have called for a National Day of Resistance this Thursday, October 12, with demonstrations occurring on college campuses that could result in the creation of a hostile environment for Jewish students and acts of harassment against them,” Walberg’s letter said.

The UA’s SJP chapter released a statement on Instagram in response to Robbins the morning of the scheduled protest, citing his email as the reason for canceling it.

“Due to President Robbins’ inflammatory letter, we no longer feel safe holding our rally on campus today and have postponed it to a later date,” the statement said.

In his email, Robbins drew attention to the protest and criticized SJP for appearing to be in favor of the actions of Hamas, though he acknowledged they had the right to express their views.

“I want to be clear that SJP is not speaking on behalf of our university. But, they have the constitutional right to hold their views and to express them in a safe environment,” he said in the email.

This comes after a controversial demonstration was held on campus in April two days in a row where anti-abortion supporters displayed graphic pictures on the UA Mall. The demonstration featured gore, swastikas, lynchings and images comparing abortion to the Holocaust and slavery, prompting public outrage from many community members.

At the time, many people were not only upset that the disturbing images were not taken down but also that the university gave no warning of the display beforehand.

It is unclear at this time why Robbins chose to issue a cautionary statement in advance of UA SJP’s demonstration but has refrained from doing something like this in the past.

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