The government of Ron DeSantis has linked a pro-Palestinian student organization to terrorism and has ordered state colleges to remove the group from campus, claiming that it unlawfully supports Hamas terrorists who assaulted Israel earlier this month.
As Israel’s attacks on Gaza increased, several college students declared support for Palestinians, prompting condemnation from Jewish professors and even some future employers. However, Florida has gone much further, declaring that Students for Justice in Palestine is a “terrorist organization.”
System of state universities At the request of Gov. Ron DeSantis, Chancellor Ray Rodrigues wrote to university presidents on Tuesday, instructing them to dismantle branches of SJP after the national group stated that “Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”
“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization,'” the letter added.
In 1997, the US State Department recognized Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian marches were conducted on Wednesday at the University of Miami, FIU, and other schools of higher learning around the United States.
Since the Oct. 7 Hamas assaults in southern Israel, which spurred pro- and anti-Israel protests throughout the world and forced Israel to react with airstrikes, Gov. DeSantis has stepped up his pro-Israel stance. The governor has dispatched planes to Israel to deliver supplies and retrieve Floridians who choose to return.
He also wants a special legislative session to put further penalties on Iran, which backs Hamas, as well as to declare solidarity with Israel. To date, no country has offered proof indicating that Iran was directly engaged in the assaults.
Students for Justice in Palestine has been active on college campuses in the United States for decades, with numerous rallies advocating for Palestinian liberation and boycotts of Israel. According to the network’s website, it has more than 200 chapters across the United States.
According to Palestine Legal, a group that offers legal assistance to pro-Palestinian organizations, the ban on SJP is part of DeSantis’s larger push to stifle free speech on college campuses.
“Florida, particularly under Governor Ron DeSantis’ leadership, has actively undermined education, free speech, and social justice movements, including by banning anti-racist courses and attempting to criminalize protests.” “It is not surprising that DeSantis is pursuing this egregious move to silence the student movement for Palestinian rights,” the group stated in a statement on Wednesday.
SJP has been at the forefront of the BDS movement, which advocates for the boycott, divestment, and censure of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. The national organization did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
A free speech organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, termed Florida’s decision unlawful and dangerous, claiming that the government has the legal right to force institutions to remove SJP chapters.
“If it goes unchallenged, no one’s political beliefs will be safe from government suppression,” the organization stated in a statement.
The prohibition comes after the lone Jewish Republican in the state Legislature switched his presidential support from DeSantis to former President Donald Trump, claiming DeSantis’ pro-Israel rhetoric is not backed up by action.
Rep. Randy Fine, who has advised DeSantis on Israel and Jewish affairs, said he had asked the administration to take action against the student organization but had received no response until he published a strongly written op-ed explaining his decision to change his endorsement.
“It shouldn’t have taken my endorsement of Trump to get it done.” “I was begging them for two weeks and just getting the Heisman at every turn,” Fine said, referring to the college football trophy picturing a player stretching out his arm to ward off opponents.
However, the governor’s office stated that the prohibition had been in the works for more than a week.
“The administration’s action had nothing to do with Representative Fine.” Any inference to the contrary is nothing more than political bluster. “Randy Fine is not the center of our universe,” stated DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern in an email.
Students for Justice in Palestine and other organizations called for a countrywide student walkout on college campuses on Wednesday to demand a stop to Israeli attacks on Gaza and an end to US financial support for Israel. Campuses ranging from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to the University of California, Los Angeles, scheduled walkouts.