Dear President Wong,
We are concerned to hear that the students of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) at San Francisco State University are currently being incriminated by Tammi Benjamin and AMCHA.
The statement that started the controversy—“My heroes have always killed colonizers”— was offered as a stencil by the Student Council of Intertribal Nations (SKINS). In your public statement, you condemn this “glorification of violence” that “promot[es] bigotry and anti-Semitism.” This statement must be contextualized as a celebration of Indigenous resistance to colonial violence and therefore does not “glorify the murder of Jews” as AMCHA would claim otherwise. In addition, pro-Palestine organizations like GUPS work towards justice and peace in non-violent ways, and accusations that state otherwise based on deliberate distortions are unmerited.
Furthermore, a video of Ms. Benjamin has surfaced where she accuses Palestinian activist groups and Muslim student groups like Muslim Students Association (MSA) of being 1) inherently anti-Semitic and 2) connected to terrorist organizations. Operating under this blatantly Islamophobic framework, she and AMCHA have lead multiple attacks against these student organizations across UC universities, all of which have been dismissed; this most recent attack is no different. Because Israel is losing momentum on the grassroots level, it has become favorable for Zionist groups like AMCHA to conflate criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism in an attempt to delegitimize grassroots movements.
Charging this last chapter of GUPS, allowing the attacks to continue on AMED and Indigenous student organizations like SKINS, will set a precedent for using baseless accusations of anti-Semitism to shut down justified criticism of Israel, further marginalizing Palestinian voices worldwide. This will certainly mean a win for racism and Zionism, which is in direct contrast to your university’s very rich history of social justice advocacy.
We trust that the University will dismiss the appeal of Ms. Benjamin and that the University will uphold their students’ right to free speech. Thank you for your consideration.