Florida Walks Back SJP Ban on State Campuses

(TheConservativeTimes.org) – Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stirred the controversy pot once again after he and his administration ordered state universities to ban a pro-Palestinian student organization from their respective campuses.

The DeSantis’ administration’s rationale was that the group Students for Justice in Palestine was “illegally” backing and supporting a “terrorist organization.”

Many student bodies around many major colleges and universities in the U.S. – which are often politically progressive – have been vocal in their support for Palestine in the wake of Israel’s aggressive retaliation in Gaza over Hamas’ devastating October 7 attacks on the Jewish state.

In response to the order, state university system chancellor Ray Rodrigues said that the Students for Justice in Palestine chapters in the University of Florida and the University of South Florida would be “deactivated”. He cited a pamphlet distributed by the group that depicted a cartoon of the Hamas paragliders that participated in the October 7 attacks, with a caption that described the action as a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance.”

However, the DeSantis administration is backtracking on the order, following criticism that it violated First Amendment rights. Groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) said that they would be willing to bring the matter to court to argue that a ban curtailed the Students for Justice in Palestine’s First Amendment rights.

Rodrigues said that seeking “legal opinions” raised “concerns about potential personal liability” that university officials could face in the event they deactivated the student organizations. Furthermore, Rodrigues also said that the local chapters of the group submitted documents and proof showing that they are “not subservient or under the National Students for Justice in Palestine.”

The National Students for Justice in Palestine was founded by Hatem Bazian, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001. The professor is an ardent supporter of Palestine and a long-time critic of Israel. He was previously a fundraiser for a pro-Palestine group that had its assets frozen by U.S. officials due to suspicion that the monies were being used to support Hamas. Bazian has also called for an “intifada”, or a rebellion or uprising, in the U.S.

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