Florida Governor and Presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has spearheaded an initiative that’s linked a pro-Palestinian student organisation to terrorism. The group, named Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), has been barred from campus and accused of illegally backing the Hamas militants who attacked Israel on 7 October 2023.
Over the course of the past few weeks, protests have erupted across the world. In London, there was a 150,000-strong pro-Palestine protest, with multinational citizens calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Universities and colleges have also seen an uptake in protests and demonstrations. Subsequently, some students have faced censorship from lecturers and dismissal from future employers.
In this particular case, it was the Chancellor of the State University System of Florida who wrote a letter to DeSantis’ administration, urging and directing them to disband chapters of SJP after the national group took the position that “Palestinian students in exile are part of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”
“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” the letter continued.
In response to the decision, the SJP released a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, expressing their views: “Governor DeSantis continues to disrespect American values such as freedom of speech to extend his political power. To bend the law in this manner shows the utmost disrespect not only to any pro-Palestinian organisation but also to anyone who truly cares for political freedom and freedom of speech.”
It would make sense for Rodrigues to contact DeSantis, particularly given the politician’s overt public support of Israel on previous occasions. According to the Associated Press, the governor has sent planes to Israel to provide supplies and return Floridians who want to come back. DeSantis also is supporting a special legislative session to impose new sanctions on Iran, which supports Hamas, and to express support for Israel.
Across the aisle, President Joe Biden has been meeting regularly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—promising to provide extensive aid packages and publicly backing Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas. This, of course, has resulted in Netanyahu pursuing a full-scale attack on Palestine which has in turn resulted in the deaths of almost 6,500 civilians.
However, Biden’s most recent discussions with Netanyahu have seen the president urging the Israeli leader to send aid to Gaza, insisting a continuous flow of support must be provided. According to The White House, Biden also “noted the importance of focusing on what comes after this crisis to include a pathway for a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians, emphasising that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations.”