Mock eviction letters stir controversy

    Hundreds of mock eviction notices came knocking on students’ doors Friday morning as a group of anonymous undergraduate students distributed fliers declaring the immediate demolition of dormitories around campus the night before.

    Underneath the eviction notice was a summary detailing the Palestinian viewpoint of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    "As US-backed peace talks continue on without consequence as they have for twenty years, Palestinians are being squeezed out of their homes and their land," read the flier.

    Members of Wildcats for Israel and the Students for Justice in Palestine speculate that the action was taken as a response to the university’s opposition to the American Studies Association resolution, boycotting Israeli higher education institutions.

    According to Moira Geary, president of Students for Justice in Palestine, mock evictions have been administered at several other schools such as Florida Atlantic University, University of Chicago, Rutgers University, and most recently at the University of Michigan.

    Geary stated that at certain universities, identifiable organizations such as pro-Palestine groups were responsible for the dissemination of mock eviction notices, yet it is not clear if any organization was affiliated with the action taken on Northwestern’s campus.

    "We want to be clear about the fact that SJP doesn’t have anything to do with the mock evictions and is not taking a stance on it," Geary said.

    Jonathan Kamel, president of Wildcats for Israel, commented on the incident.

    "The facts show that at other schools, Students for Justice in Palestine have been the cause of these mock eviction letters,” Kamel said.  “And the first group that would come to my mind if this happened at Northwestern would be SJP."

    Despite the accusations being thrown around, Geary said "the content of the mock evictions seem to be pretty similar across institutions." Geary described how the evictions generally try to replicate the fear and uncertainty that might come with unexpectedly getting an eviction notice.

    According to Geary, the goal of the notices is to convert those feelings to solidarity with Palestinians so that the student body can understand what is going on with home demolitions, specifically in Palestine.

    "Personally, I think that it’s a really good thing that can happen on campuses even though technically at Northwestern and other universities, there are discrepancies with the solicitation policies," Geary said. "That aside, I think that the discourse that it ensues is really great."

    Kamel disagrees with Geary, saying that he does not want to attract any more attention to the issue.

    "Most students don’t even know that this actually happened, which is a good thing because it would really inflame the campus and cause a lot of stress to a lot of people," Kamel said.

    When the mock eviction letters were found on campus, Kamel was active in making sure the university was aware of the incident.

    "I went to a meeting with the Director of Student Code of Conduct to make sure the university was responding appropriately and to make sure that no other letters were distributed under students’ doors the following day," Kamel said.

    Kamel said for some Wildcats for Israel members, it was a "personal attack on their identity." However, Geary believes the reaction against Arab students over online mediums such as Twitter or email were worse and could be an issue of racial targeting.

    "While some students claim that this is anti-Semitic, individual members of SJP have received anonymous emails that seem to be threatening in nature," Geary said. "Some have also sent personal messages to figure out if SJP has done this."

    Despite the back-and-forth tensions the episode has created, Wildcats for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine will continue with their activist efforts on campus with Wildcats for Israel publishing a leadership statement on the ASA boycott soon and SJP hosting a panel on the ASA decision on Feb. 3 in Harris Hall.


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