In a highly controversial move, the NYU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was selected to receive the President’s Service Award, the group announced on Facebook on April 4, according to a report on the NYU news web site.
“We are thrilled to announce that we have been selected to receive a presidential service award at NYU,” SJP wrote in a Facebook post. “Despite the pushback we have received from our institution.”
The President’s Service Award is will be presented on Wednesday, April 17th. This particular award is conferred upon students and student organizations that have positively impacted the NYU community through significant contributions to either community service and civic engagement or student leadership and campus programming.
The annual service award goes to more than 50 extra-curricular clubs and 100 individuals selected by a group of student affairs staffers from across the university and a student representative, according to university spokesperson John Beckman.
The NYU news web site also reported that SJP’s most recent efforts have been in the context of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which seeks for countries, institutions and individuals to isolate Israel economically, politically, academically and culturally. Recently, SJP declared a victory in December, when the Student Government Assembly voted in support of a resolution that referenced the BDS movement.
The Washington Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that Judea Pearl, the father of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl, has raised his voice in staunch opposition to the decision of NYU to give this award to the SJP chapter.
Pearl, a winner of the Turing award, denounced his alma mater New York University and jettisoned his status as distinguished alumnus after the school honored Students for Justice in Palestine for its “extraordinary and positive impact on the University community.”
Pearl graduated from NYU in 1965 and was given a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013. He is a professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He also runs an organization named after his son Daniel Pearl, a journalist who was killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.
Pearl spoke out against NYU’s decision in a letter to college president Andrew Hamilton, as was reported by the Algemeiner.
“In the past five years, SJP has resorted to intimidation tactics that have made me, my colleagues and my students unwelcome and unsafe on our own campus,” Pearl wrote. “The decision to confer an award on SJP, renders other NYU awards empty of content, and suspect of reckless selection process.”
Pearl went on to say that his past concerns voiced to university officials “have been met with platitudes about ‘free speech’ despite the fact that the US State Department now includes, in its definition of discrimination, intimidation based on race, religion and ethnicity.”
“I know the difference between free speech and campus norms,” he wrote. “Entrusted with the mandate of maintaining a climate of learning and mutual respect, your office should distance itself from the SJP selection and explained to the campus why such distancing is necessary. In the absence of a corrective action by your office the academic standing of this university is begging for other voices to call out the Orwellian character of (SJP’s) award.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said that NYU’s decision to honor SJP is “a slap in the face to the Jewish community, including Jewish graduates and significant donors.”
“It is devoid of any ethical basis, rewarding professional propagandists who legitimize terrorism and demonize the Jewish State of Israel,” he said, adding that other NYU affiliates should follow Pearl’s example, according to the Algemeiner.
NYU Realize Israel, a pro-Israel group on campus, publicly denounced the university granting SJP the award and claimed that SJP has contributed to a negative environment for some students. The group sees support of the BDS movement as anti-Semitic.
“By presenting the NYU President’s Award to SJP, not only is our university condoning violence and discrimination against members of the NYU community, but it is declaring that this type of behavior represents the ethos of our university,” the group wrote on Facebook.