Jewish groups are denouncing UC San Diego’s (UCSD) Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) upcoming event featuring American for Muslims in Palestine (AMP) Director of Outreach Taher Herzallah.
The event is scheduled to take place on May 4. The watchdog organization Stop Antisemitism wrote in an April 30th post on their website that Herzallah has defended Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel as “an oppressed people’s audible cry for help” and described a picture of a bloody Israeli soldier as “the most beautiful site.” He has also disrupted David Friedman’s confirmation hearing in 2017 as the United States Ambassador to Israel as well as disrupted former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech in 2010 at UC Irvine; Herzallah was arrested both times. Stop Antisemitism has dubbed Herzallah as “The Hateful Heckler.”
Additionally, Herzallah’s speaking event at Northeastern University on April 28th was either canceled or moved off campus, according to a tweet by Stop Antisemitism. The university did not reply to the Journal’s request for comment as to what exactly happened with the event.
“We applaud Northeastern University and President [Joseph] Aoun for not allowing a dangerous antisemite like Taher Herzallah to appear on their campus,” StopAntisemitism Executive Director Liora Rez said in a statement to the Journal. “We request UCSD and Chancellor [Pradeep] Khosla affirm their commitment to keeping UCSD’s Jewish students safe on campus and follow in the footsteps of Northeastern.”
Additionally, UCSD campus Jewish groups sent a letter to Khosla echoing the same criticisms of Herzallah as Stop Antisemitism, and noted that Herzallah will be speaking again on May 9th at an event sponsored by UCSD’s Division of Arts and Humanities. “Our Associated Students voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. The values supported by this speaker would be in clear violation of this resolution,” the letter, which was obtained by the Journal, states. “This university has an obligation to make students feel safe on campus, and as of now, the Jewish community does not feel safe.”
Karen Parry, Executive Director of Hillel San Diego, also said in a statement to the Journal, “Hillel of San Diego is extremely concerned about Taher Herzallah coming to speak twice this month at UCSD, first through Students for Justice in Palestine on May 4th and again, sponsored by the UCSD Division of Arts and Humanities, on May 9th. Herzallah has repeatedly called for violence and has said ‘Israelis have to be bombed.’ His provocations are blatantly discriminatory and antisemitic. The fact that a speaker who espouses antisemitic rhetoric is coming to campus as a UCSD endorsed speaker is heartbreaking and truly damaging to Jewish students.” She added that the Hillel “is engaging with the UCSD administration to address the quasi-endorsement and support of Herzallah’s messaging and to ensure the safety of Jewish students on campus.”
StandWithUs CEO and Co-Founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “Providing a platform for convicted criminals like Taher Herzallah, who advocate violence against Israelis and delegitimize the existence of the State of Israel, gives the impression of legitimizing such views. Even if freedom of speech principles mean that such hateful expression is protected, the UCSD administration should use its own voice and urgently issue a statement unequivocally condemning Herzallah’s statements of support for violent antisemitism and assuring Jewish, Israeli and non-Jewish students who care about Israel (or —-who feel connected to Israel) that his invitation by SJP is in no way reflective of the university’s position and his bigoted, antisemitic expression is contrary to the values of UCSD.”
SJP UCSD defended their decision to host Herzallah, telling the Journal that the claims of antisemitism against Herzallah are “totally baseless.” “It has been pretty typical of Stop Antisemitism to label any and all critique of the Occupation [as] anti-semitic,” the group said. “This is despite the fact that some of the most outspoken voices and groups on the issue are in fact Jewish and in many cases identified at one point with the Occupation.” They pointed to Miko Peled, B’Tselem, IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace as examples, calling them “great resources that we stand by.”
AMP and Khosla’s office did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment by publication time.