‘Peace and Equality! Justice! Anti-Racism! Indigenous Rights!’
Draped in a Palestinian flag and brandishing a bullhorn, a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) leader can sound like they care about these causes. The same is especially true when a reporter’s voice recorder is switched on in front of them.
But what do they say when the spotlight isn’t on them? Scratch the surface and chances are you’ll find they don’t demand these rights for Jews.
Let’s take the example of Mohammad Sajjad Soltanmohammadi from the University of Maryland at College Park (UMD).
On April 19, 2016, Soltanmohammadi led an SJP UMD “die-in” that disrupted a campus pro-Israel event where SJP blocked student walkways, which was against university rules.
He declared on behalf of SJP that “we have nothing against the Jewish religion or the Jewish people.”
On the same day, Soltanmohammadi was quoted in a UMD student publication saying he wanted people to “live in peace and equality.” He was further quoted: “We want to show that we are not against the Jewish people, but we are pro-equality and humanitarian acts for everyone.”
But make no mistake. Soltanmohammadi is a liar.
Two months after the rally, on his Facebook page Soltanmohammadi shared a video that featured virulent anti-Semite David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, full of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Duke is notorious for comparing Israel to Nazi Germany — a modern form of anti-Semitism — and Soltanmohammadi has made the same accusations on his Twitter account.
On August 5, 2014, Soltanmohammadi tweeted: “All of Palestine is Hamas. All of the support is Hamas. We are Hamas. We are the resistance. We are the Intifada, and were [sic.] going Global.”
Soltanmohammadi’s Youtube page is full of Hezbollah propaganda videos, including one that calls for a recreation of the early seventh century Battle of Khaybar where Jews were slaughtered, en masse. Those who use the term “Khaybar” as a chant — as Hezbollah does — generally use it as an explicit call for war on Jews. Soltanmohammadi even posts pictures on social media of himself posing in front of a Hezbollah flag.
In October 2015, during a month of religiously incited violence against Israeli civilians — known variously as the “Knife Intifada” or the “Stabbing Intifada” when scores of Israelis were stabbed and attacked — Soltanmohammadi shared an image of a Palestinian man draped in a bloody keffiyeh and called for “Intifada” violence.
One day after the “die-in”, Soltanmohammadi spread lies denying Jewish history and the connection of the Jews to their most important sacred site in Jerusalem — the Temple Mount, mentioned countless times in ancient Jewish texts. He spread similar lies in the weeks after the rally.
Would Soltanmohammadi explicitly declare support for David Duke, Hamas or Hezbollah at a public rally? We did not see him do that. Although earlier in the rally he whitewashed the war crimes of Hamas rocket fire at Israeli cities, he did not express the same outright support for Hamas that he did on his Twitter account.
Would Soltanmohammadi publicly declare support for the stabbing of innocent Jews? Likely not. But he will readily declare his desire for Intifada violence on Facebook.
The pattern of deceptive tactics is clear. It is in this way that Soltanmohammadi began his speech at the April 19th “die-in.” Couching his language in peaceful overtones, he employed a tactic that SJP and other anti-Israel movements use to subtly deny Jewish nationalism as an authentic part of Jewish identity.
He declared: “I want to start out by saying Shalom and Salaam, extending peace to everyone here and to say that not every Zionist is Jewish and not every Jew is a Zionist. I really believe this. We have nothing against the Jewish religion or the Jewish people but we have something against the Zionist apartheid and Israeli apartheid.”
On the one hand, he publicly reassured anyone sensitive to anti-Semitism that he and SJP have “nothing against the Jewish religion or the Jewish People” and in the same breath he divorced Jews from one of the central tenets of their heritage — their connection to their ancient homeland. In the forum of the protest, his hateful double-talk went unchallenged.
So next time you hear an SJP or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leader get up and support causes you care about, be critical of what they are actually saying and consider what might be going on behind the scenes when the spotlight isn’t shining.