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Avi Chokshi

Overview

Avi Chokshi [Avinash Chokshi] was active in pushing an anti-Israel divestment resolution that marginalized many pro-Israel students at George Washington University (GWU).

The divestment resolution smeared Israel and condemned companies for providing technologies for Israel’s defense. The bill was the capstone to a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)-led anti-Israel campaign, titled “Divest This Time," that forwarded the agenda of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Chokshi featured in a video promoting the Divest This Time campaign.

As of June 2017, Chokshi’s Facebook page said that he was a student at GWU, majoring in Pre-Med/Biology.

Pushing BDS at GWU

On March 27, 2017, SJP at GWU launched the Divest This Time campaign. The campaign’s name alluded to GWU’s declining to “divest from apartheid in South Africa" and called “for GWU not to make the same mistake with Palestine."

On March 28, 2017, SJP at GWU held an event titled “Why Divest?" in order to recruit support for divestment.On March 29, 2017, Divest This Time released a video that cameoed SJP at GWU student activists and their supporters promoting the campaign. Students featured in the video invoked “the Occupation of Palestine" to demonize Israel and companies that provided Israel with security technology. In the video, SJP at GWU student activists also equated Israel with Apartheid South Africa and accused Israel of “using the identities" of Transgender people to prove that Israel respects human rights.

The campaign video incorporated footage from a March 26, 2017 protest against the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) organized by Al-Awda — The Palestine Right to Return Coalition — and joined by SJP at GWU.

The text of the divestment resolution was introduced to the student senate on April 24, 2017. It was then “leaked to the general public," just ahead of Israeli and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Successive “whereas" clauses of the resolution blamed Israel for crimes against humanity, “deliberately" causing “suffering to Palestinian populations," discriminating against women, “deliberately" killing “Palestinian civilians" and causing an “epidemic of homelessness" among the Palestinians. The resolution also condemned Israel’s detention of Palestinian children for violating Israeli Military Order 1651 which criminalized rock throwing with up to 20 years of prison time.

On April 25, 2017, the bill’s co-sponsor — Jack Jomarron — and others claimed the resolution did not target Israel for boycott, divestment and sanctions. However, the resolution’s third “whereas" clause stated: “The act of divesting creates political pressure on corporations to withdraw their involvement in the occupation…" The bill’s fourth “whereas" clause specifically invoked the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court, calling for criminal responsibility and punishment for "crimes against peace, humanity, and of war."

The resolution’s primary sponsor — Keiko Tsuboi — also attempted to distance the bill from BDS and claimed it was not meant to “paint some skewed vision of Israel," but to “describe the situation on the ground, that palestinian students are talking about." Tsuboi appealed to the infamous Goldstone Report to buttress paragraphs 7 through 18 of the resolution’s allegations. Although Judge Goldstone himself publicly retracted the central thesis of his report, in April of 2011, Tsuboi, insisted “these are the facts on the ground and they are not up for a debate for the purposes of this resolution."

Some GWU students noted that the resolution was “one sided." The bill exclusively singled out for divestment companies that supplied Israel with security technology — and demonized the use of that technology. One student suggested the resolution looked to “alienate pro Israel students from the GW community" and reflected a “hidden agenda."

Co-sponsor Jomarron admitted that he understood the “fear of a hidden agenda" and went on to observe: “the national BDS movements and the national SJP groups are frankly super troublesome to me." However, Jomarron continued to insist that the resolution was not connected with the agenda of the BDS movement.

On Saturday, April 27, 2017 — Holocaust Remembrance Day — BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti delivered a talk on behalf of the Jerusalem Fund/Palestine Center about the “Successes and Challenges of BDS." During the Q & A session that followed, Barghouti said: “... if you join a campaign for justice and freedom, it doesn't have to carry the BDS logo. It doesn’t have to say ‘boycott,’ it doesn't have to say ‘BDS.’ There are many creative ways how to do things without labeling it as ‘BDS.’"

On May 1, 2017, GWU’s Student Association voted down the resolution 15-14, in a sharply divided session.

Following the resolution’s defeat, SJP at GWU organizer — Henry Roshsaid: “we will not stop calling for BDS on this campus."

Another SJP at GWU student activist — Maryam Alhassaniposted on Facebook to label those who opposed the resolution as “PEP (Progressive Except Palestine)" and “just outright racist."

SJP at GWU also released a statement on Facebook that read: “At GWU, this action has only just begun — SJP will continue the fight for Palestinian human rights and for those who are oppressed around the world. The Divest This Time coalition is passionate about the GW community and thus looks to further justice on campus."

The campaign’s Facebook page also released a statement that said, among other things, “The Divest This Time coalition and SJP at GWU will continue to uplift these voices as we move forward in our campaign to end GW complicity in one-sided violence."

On May 4, 2017, Abby Brook — Divest This Time founder and SJP at GWU student activist — told The GW Hatchet student newspaper that SJP at GWU would push for a referendum vote, in which the entire student body would vote on divestment.

On May 15, 2017, the Editorial Board of the GW Hatchet published an article titled: “Divestment referendum would marginalize part of the student body." The article recalled the sharply divided Student Association Senate vote and criticized SJP at GWU’s announcement to push for a vote rather than increase dialogue and understanding concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.

SJP at GWU student activist Maryam Alhassani shared the editorial board’s article on Facebook and commented: “This is a huge f**k you to all the Palestinians on campus and in Palestine. The GW Hatchet thank you for showing us how sh**ty you are and how Palestinians don't matter…"

SJP at GWU - Palestine Awareness Week

On March 27, 2017, SJP at GWU launched Palestine Awareness Week (PAW). The kick-off of PAW was a speaking event that featured Angela Davis. The Facebook event page noted that Davis’ 2015 book, titled" Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement," purported to reveal “the deep connections between the incarceration of Black Americans and the continued occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel."

SJP at GWU - Promoting Anti-Semites and Holocaust Deniers

As part of SJP at GWU’s 2017 PAW, SJP at GWU participated in and promoted a demonstration scheduled for March 26, 2017, organized by Al-Awda — The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

The rally demonized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and featured a lineup of speakers who have spread anti-Semitism. Among them was the rally’s lead organizer, Al-Awda co-founder Abbas Hamideh, who has been called out for promoting anti-Semitism on his Twitter account, by a prominent pro-Israel blog. Hamideh personally thanked SJP at GWU for promoting the event on Facebook.

The rally’s Facebook page accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing" and demanded: “End the illegal occupation of Palestine from the River to the Sea!." The chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free" — which Hamideh confirmed as a call to eliminate Israel — was a constant refrain at the rally.

Another speaker at the rally was Ryan Dawson — a denier of Nazi gas chambers. Dawson mocked ancient Jewish Scriptures and attacked Jewish historical claims to the Land of Israel. Dawson’s comments were greeted with cheers. Dawson also said: “If I can give something across to the scumbags inside … AIPAC is a virus … AIPAC is a parasite." Those comments were also greeted with shouts of approval.

Anti-Israel activist and author Miko Peled also spoke at the rally, claiming: “We know very well that the Palestinian resistance is not terrorism. Palestinian resistance is legitimate resistance. And all of us today are part of that resistance." Peled’s comments were met with applause and shouts of approval from the crowd.

On March 27, 2017, SJP at GWU shared a video on Facebook produced by Al Jazeera with footage from the rally including David Feldman, a member of the Neturei Karta — a marginal, anti-Zionist, fringe Jewish group. He has helped to tokenize the radically anti-Zionist Neturei Karta members — and has falsely portrayed their anti-Zionism as emblematic of mainstream Judaism. The group is notorious for its delegation to an Iranian Holocaust denial conference in 2014.

SJP at GWU - Promoting “Anti-Normalization"

On March 30, 2016, SJP at GWU hosted an event titled: “Why You Should Take Sides: Israel/Palestine and Normalization."

The Facebook event page description referred to the definition of “Anti-Normalization" according to the Palestine Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which opposes the normalization of relations between Israelis and Palestinians (and/or Arabs). PACBI defines “normalization" as “the participation in any project, initiative or activity" aiming “to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation."

The event comprised a panel discussion with the then events coordinator for the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University (Georgetown) Tareq Radi. Radi is also the founder of GMU Students Against Israeli Apartheid — an affiliate of SJP. The panel also included DC Metro Chapter Coordinator of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Shelley Cohen Fudge and journalist Jamal Najjab.

On August 2, 2014, Radi spoke on behalf of SAIA at a rally in Washington DC during Operation Protective Edge, in which he denounced the affirmation that Israel has a right to defend itself as “ludicrous rhetoric."

Radi claimed that Zionists “are trying to soil the words we hold sacred — Shahid, Martyr, Revolutionary’ which are sacred because they "belong to the oppressed. They empower us and strike fear into the hearts of cowards. We are people of resistance and we need to rebuild our culture of resistance."(1.00)

He also stated: "We must resist the Zionist entity at every turn. They must know that their presence is not welcome anywhere that values justice. I don’t care what the setting may be, there is no room for a diversity of opinions on issues of human rights!" (3.30)

Radi went on to say that “by surrendering to the language of peace, we have handcuffed the means in which our people back home can resist." (1:04)

SJP at GWU - Saltwater Challenge

On May 12, 2017, Maryam Alhassaniled SJP at GWU student activists in a “Saltwater Challenge," in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners then hunger striking in Israeli prisons.

The prisoners’ hunger strike was initiated by Marwan Barghouti, then serving five consecutive life sentences for his role in shooting attacks that killed five Israelis during the second Intifada.

Barghouti completed his doctorate in Political Science while in Israeli prison.

As head of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s terrorist Tanzim force and founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Barghouti was behind attacks that killed scores of Israelis and wounded hundreds of others. Barghouti personally financed the guitar-case bomb used in the Sbarro Cafe bombing.

According to CNN, the Salt Water Challenge appears to have been invented by Marwan Barghouti’s son, Aarab Marwan Barghouti.

SJP at GWU - Hosting Right to Education Tour 2016

On April 5, 2016, SJP at GWU hosted “two Palestinian students from Birzeit University in the West Bank who are travelling the US on the Right to Education Tour."

The Facebook event page linked to a video “to learn more about R2E," by Birzeit University students, published in 2013. The video celebrated the creation of the Palestinian curriculum and attacked what it called “a Jewish-American organization," The Center for Monitoring The Impact of Peace, for exposing that curriculum’s indoctrination of children to terror.

The campaign brings students to U.S. campuses, who claim that Israel is obstructing the rights of Palestinians to higher education. These claims mischaracterize sweeps Israeli security forces have taken to shut down terror cells operating from Birzeit’s campus.

Birzeit’s student body elected Hamas to power in 2003, 2015 and 2016.

In January of 2016, Birzeit characterized an IDF raid to arrest wanted militants as a “belligerent ... attack on the university and our right to education …"

In September of 2014, pro-Palestinian Haaretz reporter Amira Hass was thrown off of Birzeit’s campus — because Hass is Jewish.

SJP at GWU - Hosting Radicals

On April 9, 2015, SJP at GWU hosted a speaking event featuring Iyad Burnat — the coordinator of the so-called Bil’in Popular Non Violent Resistance Committee, has repeatedly equated Israel with Hitler and ISIS has been accused of personally attacking Israeli soldiers. The weekly demonstrations he has organized against the Israeli security barrier since 2005 have frequently turned violent.

On March 2, 2015, SJP at GWU hosted an event that featured anti-Israel author Miko Peled, titled: “Palestine Beyond Zionism - Hope for Peace and Co-Existence."

The Facebook event page description claimed: “… In South Africa removing Apartheid was the key to ending the plight of black South Africans, in Palestine removing Zionism is the key to resolving the plight of the Palestinians."

SJP at GWU – Celebrating Violence

On March 8, 2016, SJP at GWU shared, with supportive comments, photos of numerous women — masked by Keffiyehs — brandishing guns, firing slingshots and collecting large rocks.

SJP

SJP was co-founded in 2001 at the University of California at Berkeley (UC Berkeley) by Professors Hatem Bazian and Snehal Shingavi. Bazian served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and headed the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while earning his M.A. at UC Berkeley. In 2004, while the second intifada was already winding down in Israel, he called for an intifada in the United States.

Shingavi, an activist tied to the International Socialist Organization (ISO), has been criticized for using his literature course as a vehicle for promoting anti-Israel propaganda. SJP has grown to become the primary student movement advancing the Palestinian national agenda on North American campuses and is the primary force behind BDS campaigns at most schools.

SJP activists frequently intimidate and harass Jewish and pro-Israel students. SJP members have physically assaulted Jewish students, aggressively disrupted pro-Israel events and possibly vandalized communal property. SJP rallies regularly include hate-speech and chants such as "Long Live The Intifada" and "From the River to the Sea Palestine will be Free" — calls for violence and for the destruction of the Jewish state.

SJP chapters frequently run inflammatory campaigns against Israel, including BDS resolutions, rallies, Israel-Apartheid initiatives, propaganda comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, mock checkpoints and "die-ins."

SJP chapters regularly host speakers who use language considered anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department and individuals linked to terrorist activity.

BDS

The BDS movement was founded in 2005 by Omar Barghouti and asserts that it "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law."

BDS initiatives include compelling institutions and individuals to divest from Israeli-affiliated companies, academic boycotts, anti-Israel rallies and protests.

The movement's most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for "BDS resolutions." In these cases, backed by university anti-Israel affiliates, student governments have brought to vote on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities. These resolutions, although non-binding, have been passed by student governments on numerous North American campuses.

BDS activity is often aggressive and disruptive. It has been noted that universities that pass BDS resolutions see a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In 2013, when the student government of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) debated a BDS resolution, reports emerged of violent threats and the spitting on a student wearing a Star of David necklace. As a result, the student government chose to vote via a "secret ballot" in order to ensure its members' safety.

Social Media and Web Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/100000307723144 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/avi_chokshi


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