Some 1,000 students at Rutgers New Brunswick campus woke up to an alarming eviction notice, informing the students to vacate within 3 days time or have their belongings destroyed.
The Rutgers New Brunswick chapter of "Students for Justice in Palestine" (SJP) posted the eviction notices on Sunday evening on the residence hall doors on all five campuses as part of a campaign called "The Palestinian-style eviction movement."
The movement originated at New York University and has trickled across the nation, said Rutgers SJP President Aman Sharifi, and that this same campaign was demonstrated at schools including Harvard University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of California, Berkeley.
The eviction letter, which was shoved underneath 850 dorm residencies doors, stated: "We regret to inform you that your suite is scheduled for demolition in the next three days. If you do not vacate the premise within this time, we reserve the right to destroy all remaining belongings under Code 211.3B."
The letter continued to state that "this may seem like unrealistically harsh treatment, but this is the actual state of affairs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip."
Rutgers' official student newspaper, The Daily Targum, reported Monday that the mock eviction notice was sent "purely for demonstrative purposes, but notices like this are the norm in Palestine and have been since 1967."
"The Students for Justice in Palestine hope to inform the public about more than 160,000 Palestinians who have been evicted from their homes since 1967," the Targum said.
Aman Sharifi, the current president of Rutgers SJP, said "it was just a simple way to demonstrate the realities in the conflict there." However, the incident ignited controversy about how appropriate the actions of Palestinian student groups were.
'Group Manipulates Students'
Rabbi Akiva Dovid Weiss, the Orthodox Union-Jewish Learning Initiative rabbi at Rutgers Hillel, was outraged by the incident and said the group violated student privacy and their emotions.
"This is a group that receives university funding and routinely engages in controversial and divisive programming and tactics, often employing the use of propaganda, to play on the emotions of students in order to spread their views or message to others," Rabbi Weiss said.
"No student felt safe this morning when they awoke and read the 'eviction' notice placed under their doors," he said, "and no student in this university ever will feel safe until they know that university groups that engage in this kind of behavior will be unconditionally disbanded, since actions that compromise the emotional safety of our students within the privacy of their own residences cannot be tolerated and have no place on our campus."
When questioning what the consequences would be for breaking university rules, Rabbi Weiss stated that SJP should be suspended from campus.
"I do hope that the university acts to not just reprimand but suspend this group immediately. No warnings, no 'second-chances.' Let this group be the example for all others that an open and inclusive community cannot tolerate groups that engage in making others feel scared and unsafe," he said.
Rutgers Hillel released an official statement to the university concerning the alarming campaign.
"We decry this manipulation and intimidation of students through stunts employed to promote a political agenda," the statement read.
Rabbi Esther Reed of Rutgers Hillel also condemned the campaign. "These were not approved fliers, and the information was factually inaccurate and vilified Israel,” she said.
Reed also suggested that there are "more positive ways to engage in a factual discussion” about Israel.
"Making students feel unsafe in their homes is apparently part of the SJP strategy which also includes propagating half-truths, misstatements and historical inaccuracies," she said.
In addition, Reed said, "The fact that students were made to feel that they were not safe in their residence halls is one of the most disturbing aspects here."
Students who felt their privacy was violated by the incident were told to fill out a bias incident report on the university's website.