April 26, 2012
Incident at Florida Atlantic University Another Example of Hostility Students Face for
Speaking in Support of Palestinian Rights
On April 25, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other Rights Groups
issued the following statement in support of student groups promoting awareness in college
communities about the Palestinian peoples’ struggle for freedom and human rights. Members of the
student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Florida Atlantic University recently faced
intense pressure from outside groups and were the subject of death threats after organizing a nonviolent action to protest the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli forces. Students participating in the action posted 200 fake eviction notices on dorm room doors to raise awareness of the issue.
Statement in Support of Student Speech on Palestinian Rights
When members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) randomly posted fake eviction notices on
about 200 dorm room doors at Florida Atlantic University on March 30, 2012, they thought they were teaching fellow students about Israel’s practice of evicting Palestinian families and demolishing their homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in violation of international law. But their action was soon the subject of an altogether different lesson. The students learned that the University was willing to bow to pressure from the campus Hillel chapter and outside organizations, such as the
Anti-Defamation League and the Zionist Organization of America, by opening an investigation
into their peaceful action, which had been officially authorized and accompanied by University
housing authorities. And some news media were willing to report falsely that the notices were
posted only on the doors of Jewish students, without independently investigating the matter. Legal
and administrative action was threatened, and death threats were made against some of the
After weeks of turmoil, the University rightly announced that it would not take action against the
students and confirmed that there was no evidence that Jewish students were targeted by the
notices. Other student Palestinian human rights activists across the country have been less
fortunate, including at the University of California (UC) – Irvine, Rutgers University, Columbia
University, the University of Pennsylvania, UC-Berkeley, Brandeis and UC-Davis. Students at these
and other universities have been verbally and physically intimidated, threatened, sanctioned by their
universities, and even criminally charged. What they all share in common is vocal and active
peaceful opposition to violations of Palestinian human rights.
We, the undersigned, condemn efforts, both on and off campus, to silence student speech in
support of Palestinian rights, and affirm the First Amendment rights of students to engage in such
speech. It is not anti-Semitic to criticize the conduct of the State of Israel. It is not “hate speech” to
challenge violations of international law and internationally recognized human rights standards.
Such criticism is no less protected because some individuals may find it upsetting. As the U.S.
Supreme Court recognized in Terminiello v. Chicago, speech “may indeed best serve its high
purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or
even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices
and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an
idea.” Protection of free speech rights “is nowhere more vital” than on campuses. (Keyishian v. Bd.
Of Regents of Univ. of State of N.Y).
We urge all universities to resist outside pressure to punish students for their political speech, and
to respond with the respect for students’ constitutional rights that it is the university’s duty to protect
and to promote. For our part, we will stand by such students to defend their constitutional rights to
free speech when they exercise them, and challenge attempts to silence them solely for their
April 25, 2012
Adalah – NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Muslims for Palestine (AMP)
Asian Law Caucus (ALC)
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – Florida & CAIR – San Francisco Bay Area
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)
National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN)
The FAU incident is the latest example of the hostility and intimidation many students face for
organizing non-violent actions to educate their communities about Palestinian human rights. The
Center for Constitutional Rights condemns these attempts to silence political speech and affirms its
commitment to defending the First Amendment rights of college students to advocate for
Palestinians’ human rights and challenge Israel’s occupation.
See David A. Schwartz, “Jewish Leaders Slam FAU Response,” Sun Sentinel – Florida Jewish
Journal, April 18, 2012, available at http://www.sun-sentinel.com/florida-jewish-journal/news/palmbeach-
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights
guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a
non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive
force for social change.