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Florida wants student chapters of national Palestinian group disbanded from state universities

 Pro-Palestinian protestors rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict between Israel and Hamas at Bayfront Park in Miami on Friday, October 13, 2023.
Al Diaz
/
Miami Herald
Pro-Palestinian protestors rally in support of Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict between Israel and Hamas at Bayfront Park in Miami on Friday, October 13, 2023.

In calling for the chapters to be disbanded, Ray Rodrigues said they could be restarted in ways that comply with state law.

The chancellor of Florida’s university system is calling on schools to disband chapters of the group National Students for Justice in Palestine amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

Chancellor Ray Rodrigues on Tuesday wrote in a letter to the presidents of Florida’s 12 state universities that the group released a “toolkit” that referred to Hamas’ initial attack on Israel this month as “the resistance” and said Palestinian students “in exile” are part of the movement.

In the letter, Rodrigues cited a Florida law that prohibits providing materials in support of a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Rodrigues said at least two universities have National Students for Justice in Palestine chapters. The letter did not identify the universities, but Instagram accounts exist for chapters at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida.

In calling for the chapters to be disbanded, Rodrigues said they could be restarted in ways that comply with state law.

“These two student chapters may form another organization that complies with Florida state statutes and university policies. The two institutions should grant these two chapters a waiver for the fall deadlines, should reapplication take place,” Rodrigues wrote.

Rodrigues’ letter was published on Fox News’ website, and a link to the story containing the letter was shared by an X account, formerly Twitter, associated with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 2024 presidential campaign.

READ MORE: Palestinian supporters speak out in South Florida as Israel-Hamas conflict rages in Middle East

Earlier this month, the Anti-Defamation League published an open letter to U.S. university presidents, claiming that the group’s “National Day of Resistance” on October 12 included an “endorsement of terrorism and violence (cloaked in other words) in Israel.” The letter was published just days after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants.

“The national leadership of SJP and many of the organization’s campus chapters are condoning terrorism by Hamas by repackaging it as justified acts of ‘resistance’ — even though such attacks against civilians … included kidnappings, murders, and reported threats to execute civilian hostages,” according to the letter.

National Students for Justice in Palestine, in a statement, rejected ADL’s claims as “baseless.”

“We unequivocally condemn the baseless allegations by the Anti-Defamation League against our organizations and are gravely concerned that the ADL’s attacks will distract from the real threat of white supremacy faced by all our communities,” the group said.

“The ADL’s latest intimidation campaign is based on a highly problematic definition of antisemitism that attempts to conflate criticism of the Israeli government or Zionism with anti-Jewish racism,” added the group. “Many people of various faiths and backgrounds--including Jewish scholars, rabbis, and activists--have long criticized and opposed Zionism.”

“People must be able to discuss and debate these issues without being falsely smeared as antisemites,” the group said.

WLRN staff contributed to this story.

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