Home » Palestine Legal to Dep’t of Ed.: Investigate Anti-Palestinian Rac

Palestine Legal to Dep’t of Ed.: Investigate Anti-Palestinian Rac

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CONTACT: Palestine Legal Media | media@palestinelegal.org 

Chicago, IL, April 17, 2024 – Palestine Legal today announced the filing of a federal civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) demanding an immediate investigation into the months-long, hostile anti-Palestinian environment at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The complaint filed in early April alleges how, for months, Northwestern Law has permitted an environment of anti-Palestinian racism that has denied Palestinian students and students perceived to be Palestinian equal access to campus life. 

Palestine Legal is representing four Northwestern Law students who have each been the target of anti-Palestinian discrimination and harassment by fellow students, professors, and Northwestern Law administrators. Given the severe doxing, harassment, violence, employment consequences, and more that Palestinians and their supporters are facing on campus and nationwide, the students wish to be anonymous due to fear of retaliation for filing the complaint.

One of the complainants has tragically endured the loss of 130 family members in Gaza since October 7, with an additional six taken as hostages by the Israeli military.

Rather than support Palestinian students facing such unfathomable trauma, Northwestern Law has allowed an anti-Palestinian environment to balloon on campus and has taken actions to reinforce this hostile climate in violation of Title VI. 

“Northwestern Law has failed its Palestinian students at a time where they are in most need of institutional support as they advocate for Palestinian lives in the face of a genocide. If the law school refuses to care about its Palestinian students, we call on federal civil rights officials to ensure their rights are protected,” said Palestine Legal’s Michael Ratner Justice Fellow, Rifqa Falaneh. 

“As law students, our commitment to advocacy is paramount to the careers we are pursuing. Yet those of us advocating for Palestine find ourselves navigating a hostile and unsupportive environment that challenges our fundamental right to education and to speak freely,” said one of the anonymous complainants. “We are calling on our administration to not only address these blatant inequities and the suppression of Palestinian advocacy but to also uphold an environment where true inclusivity is the standard. In the halls where justice is taught, let it not be silenced by the very voices that should champion its cause.” 

BACKGROUNDER:

The complaint describes numerous incidents of students facing anti-Palestinian harassment and discrimination. Several law students followed and recorded Palestinian students and their allies, threatened to dox them, and posted pictures and videos of them online. One student made statements that were widely shared on social media expressing support for genocide against Palestinians and Arabs, including posts that stated “Our enemies don’t deserve a quick death. Gracing them with our bombs is an act of mercy,” and calling for “wiping out the disgrace” in reference to Palestinians. 

Professors at the law school have also made openly anti-Palestinian remarks, including one professor who compared the forcible displacement of Palestinian civilians in Gaza to a “two-week vacation”. Another professor openly celebrated the doxing of Palestinian students at Harvard, as well as NYU law student Ryna Workman’s high-profile job revocation from corporate law firm Winston & Strawn for expressing solidarity with Palestinians. 

The complaint also describes how Northwestern Law has selectively enforced policies against Palestinians and their supporters in a discriminatory manner, and released statements falsely equating phrases in support of Palestinian rights, including “from the river to the sea”, with “promoting murder and genocide,” while failing to name or acknowledge Israel’s actual unfolding genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and throughout Palestine.

Palestinian students and their supporters at Northwestern Law have repeatedly informed, emailed, and met with university administration regarding their safety concerns. To date, Northwestern has failed to adequately address and act appropriately on most of these reports of anti-Palestinian harassment and discrimination. Instead, Northwestern Law has signaled an environment of impunity for such acts, thereby encouraging them to continue.  

As a result of the anti-Palestinian environment they faced, the students have missed classes and limited their time on campus out of fear for their physical safety.

Palestine Legal’s complaint asks OCR to bring Northwestern Law in compliance with Title VI by taking several remedial measures, including ensuring that Palestinian students can access services on an equal basis as other students and creating mechanisms that seriously address Palestinian and associated students’ reports and concerns.

The discrimination, harassment, stereotyping, disparate treatment, and racial profiling described in the complaint are not isolated instances but are the product of both deep-rooted, dehumanizing bigotry against Palestinians and decades-long systematic efforts by anti-Palestinian groups and their allies to suppress advocacy for Palestinian rights on college campuses.  

Palestine Legal has documented trends in repression based on the over 2200 incidents of suppression of Palestinian rights advocacy the organization responded to between 2014 and 2022, many involving harassment and censorship attempts by university administrations and right-wing organizations aimed at intimidating Palestinians and their supporters into silence and inaction. Since October 7th alone, the organization has received reports of over 1,800 incidents, over five times the number we received in all of 2022, reflecting an exponential rise in anti-Palestinian repression across the US.

Contact us if you are interested in reporting about this incident.

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