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Palestine advocacy groups denounce resolution in support of Israel at state capitol

Students for Justice in Palestine and other organizations called for a ceasefire in Gaza and criticized a concurrent resolution declaring the state's support for Israel

A coalition of Palestine advocacy organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU, denounced a concurrent resolution on Monday that condemns Hamas and supports Israel outside of the Arizona State Capitol. 

Despite the demonstration, the resolution was adopted unanimously and transmitted to the state Senate.

Representatives from Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Jewish Voice for Peace, Arizona Muslim Alliance, Council for American Islamic Relations, Common Defense and Arizona Palestine Network held signs and wore clothing items depicting the Palestinian flag, as well as a banner that read "Ceasefire." 

Finn Howe, the president of SJP at ASU, said that ASU has threatened the organization's freedom of expression on campus.

"Students for Justice in Palestine has attempted to bring awareness to these facts and call on ASU and the United States to stop supporting Israel," Howe said. "We are concerned that there has been an increasing pressure from public officials and university leaders to take away our right to freedom of expression."

Rep. Selina Bliss, R-Prescott, praised the adoption of the Israel-supporting resolution, saying it was a bipartisan effort.

"I'm pleased by the unity in the (Republican) party as well as on the Democrat side to support this resolution," Bliss said.

Finn Howe, president for Students for Justice in Palestine at ASU, speaks to pro-Palestine group gathered outside of the House of Representatives building on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024 in Phoenix.

On Dec. 12, the bipartisan House Ad Hoc Committee on Antisemitism in Education had heard from members of the Jewish community to discuss what was happening on campuses following continued conflict in the Israel-Palestine region. 

During the meeting, SJP was specifically called out by Jonathan Schanzer, the senior vice president for research of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who claimed the SJP has ties to Hamas.

David Chami, an ASU alumnus and civil rights attorney associated with the Arizona chapter of Council for American Islamic Relations, criticized the committee's treatment of SJP at the hearing. 

"This ad hoc committee hearing focused, in large part, its condemnation of Students for Justice in Palestine," Chami said. "You wonder, a country that says we defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States, how our legislature, our elected officials, are seeking ways not only to suppress, but to eliminate a student group simply because that group advocates for justice in Palestine."

On Dec. 22, Rep. Bliss and Rep. Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, wrote a letter to University President Michael Crow demanding that he "remove official recognition" of SJP at ASU.

"Students for Justice in Palestine stand strong against the threats to our freedom of expression and will not be intimidated," Howe said at the press conference. "We urge state representatives to vote against today's resolution and any future legislation that could infringe on our right to freedom of expression."

Ahmed Ewaisha, the chairman of the Arizona Muslim Alliance and an associate professor at ASU, said that the the war has devastated the Arizona Muslim community, whom he said often have family members in Gaza.

"The Arizona Muslim community is fed up with our own elected officials not calling for a ceasefire, not just a ceasefire, but an immediate and a permanent ceasefire," Ewaisha said. "This pro-Zionist resolution means that our elected officials do not care for the voices of their constituents."

ASU professor and chairman of the Arizona Muslim Alliance Ahmed Ewaisha speaks at a gathering condemning a proposed resolution which would express support for Israel outside the Arizona State Capital on Monday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.

The resolution states that the members of the legislature will "reaffirm their support and unwavering commitment to the welfare, security and survival of the Jewish State of Israel" as well as "Israel's right to pursue without interference or condemnation the elimination of Hamas."  

The Senate is expected to vote on the resolution within the coming days. 

Edited by Alysa Horton, Shane Brennan and Angelina Steel.

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