Opinions of Peter Belmont
Speaking Truth to Power

Open letter to Northeastern University concerning its ill-considered suppression of pro-Palestine student activities

by Peter A. Belmont / 2014-03-14
© 2014 Peter Belmont


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Dear Profs. Joseph E. Aoun and Michael Armini,

I lived in “Greater Boston” from 1956 - 1991 and in that time heard wonderful things about Northeastern, particularly its work-study program.

I very much want to think well of it.

However, the SJP controversy has received national attention, see: report in Mondoweiss.net. It appears that Northeastern has done no other than cave-in to Zionist (or other big-money) pressure by suppressing free speech about Palestine on its campus—not unlike many other schools in attitude but to a far greater degree in its heavy-handed actions (taken and proposed), again if reports are to be believed, in behavior toward students.

Of course, Northeastern’s actions against the SJP and its members may have been unrelated to the content of their message and been motivated solely from a sense of university rules-enforcement and decorum. However, when, as at present, so very many American universities have been suppressing pro-Palestine messages and demonstrations on their campuses in what seems transparently an effort to retain Zionist contributors, one naturally thinks that the same may be true in the present case at Northeastern.

At all events, Israel’s vastly illegal and vastly immoral behavior against Palestinians (and Africans) in its own territory and in the occupied Palestinian territories are an entirely proper subject for protest and outrage—and outraged presentation—by students on all campuses of the USA.

Students have always needed to protest things. In 1960s, many students protested SMALL things like campus dining hall food.

Today, many students have become involved—have become “seized” as lawyers sometimes say—with LARGE matters of great international importance. This is greatly to their credit. It is important that schools and universities allow the free interchange of information and opinion and moral outrage on their campuses. Recall that the American war in VietNam came to an end in part after and because of the educative effects of teach-ins and other expressions of moral outrage (and exchanges of information) on university campuses.

SJP is quite properly involved in agitation, protest, etc., regarding what it (and I, and many others, including an increasingly large number of American Jews—if that matters—and churches) regard(s) as atrocious and often illegal (at international law) behavior by Israel.

It is not antisemitic to protest illegal or immoral actions by a person just because that person is a Jew. And it is not antisemitic to protest the illegal or immoral actions of a nation even if that nation claims a special relationship with Jews, as Israel does.

In fact, Israel is in deep crisis of criminality today, because its government and people daily engage in atrocities against those (few) African refugees present inside Israel and many Palestinians: those living inside Israel as citizens; those living in Occupied Territories including East Jerusalem as non-citizens under military rule; and those living outside Mandatory Palestine, in particular the exiles from 1948 who are still, after 66 years, not allowed to return to their home country, contrary to paragraph 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UNGA in 1948, which provides “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

This is a crisis of lawlessness and a crisis of human rights violations on a huge scale. Even the EU, former locus of most of the horrible colonialism in the world, not to mention the holocaust, has recoiled—in small ways so far—against Israel’s depredations and lawlessness.

And this crisis is properly being confronted by people around the world, including by students at many universities. Including Northeastern! All power to these students! A real source of pride!

You, yourselves, should be proud supporters of this protest at Northeastern, not opposers of it.

As to legalities, I have no idea what rules, regulations, decisions, letters, admonishments, etc., etc., Northeastern has delivered to individual SJP-related students or to SJP itself (or, for that matter, considering “fairness”, that Northeastern has delivered to other students or to other student groups), because—as I hear— Northeastern has declined to publish these materials.

All these materials should be made public, immediately, and thereafter as issued, as a matter of course.

In conclusion, I urge you to allow SJP and its members to protest Israeli behavior in peaceable ways on your campus—particularly if you have in the past allowed any groups to conduct protests or otherwise to exercise what Americans have come to regard as their rights of “free speech” and “free academic interchange of ideas”.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you should so desire.


Peter A. Belmont
Attorney at Law


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