OverviewHannah Friedstein was the founder and vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at University of Massachusetts-Amherst (UMass) in 2013. She has advocated for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement on campus and is affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
In 2014, Friedstein demonized the Birthright Jewish heritage tour (Birthright).
As of October 2018, Friedstein’s LinkedIn page said she graduated from UMass in 2014 with a degree in Communications and Societal Marketing and was working as a Client Success Manager at NinthDecimal.
Anti-Israel ActivismFriedstein indicated that she “went" to an October 7, 2014 event hosted by JVP- New York City called: “Protest Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at Tel Aviv Macabi [sic] game."
The Facebook event page alleged that the Friends of the IDF organization “fundraises for a foreign military complicit in ... a war of destruction against the Palestinian people" and accused the IDF of “war crimes." It also claimed that “Macabi [sic] Tel Aviv and other Israeli sports teams are consistently deployed around the world in support of the occupation of Palestine."
Friedstein indicated on Facebook that she “went" to an August 20, 2014 event hosted by NYC Solidarity with Palestine, titled “March for Palestine!" The Facebook event description stated: “We’ve marched, we’ve rallied, we are boycotting and continuing to carry out direct actions and acts of civil disobedience."
The description continued: “Its [sic] time to bring the war home. It’s time to connect the war waged by Israel in Palestine to the war being waged by the NYPD against people of color...The struggles of the Palestinian people against the murderous state of Israel are inextricably connected to our struggles here at home."
On May 3, 2014 Friedstein posted to the UMass SJP Facebook page: “Everyone who has the time should definitely check out the mock wall made by Smith Students for Justice in Palestine!! Awesome job guys ."
SJP chapters across the U.S. have assembled “mock apartheid walls" to demonize Israel on college campuses.
On April 30, 2014 Friedstein posted a message in the Facebook group that said: “As an official RSO we now have an official UMass SJP page! Anything SJP related will now take place on this page! Please like and share :)"
On April 17, 2014, Friedstein co-hosted an event called “Professors Speak: Demystifying Palestinian Struggle and International Resistance Movements."
According to the Facebook event description, one speaker discussed the “racial element" of Palestinian representation in American media, while another discussed “the fundamental importance of their right of return to Palestinian justice." The third speaker promoted “the American Studies Association's endorsement of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions."
The “right of return" is a Palestinian demand discredited as a means to eliminate Israel.
On April 9, 2014, Friedstein posted invitations to the April 17th event on the Facebook pages of the UMass classes of 2014 and 2015.
Friedstein promoted and attended an April 3, 2014 UMass SJP event with Ali Abunimah, founder of the anti-Israel publication Electronic Intifada.
On April 7, 2014 Friedstein updated her Facebook cover photo to a picture of her and fellow SJP members with Abunimah standing behind an SJP sign.
Promoting BDSOn August 22, 2014 Friedstein updated her Facebook cover photo to a picture of a large Palestinian flag hanging on the Manhattan Bridge, with the words “Boycott Divestment Sanctions" printed on the flag. Friedstein captioned the photo: “#NYC2GAZA “#BDS
On April 24, 2014 Friedstein shared a link on the UMass SJP Facebook page to a website called Burstthebubble.org, which is dedicated to boycotting the Israeli ompany Sodastream. Friedstein commented, “Saving money on plastic bottles really is a "STEAL"!
In February 2016, 500 Palestinians whom Sodastream employed lost their jobs when the company moved its factory from the West Bank to southern Israel. The BDS movement took credit for the factory’s relocation.
On March 10, 2014 Friedstein posted an Electronic Intifada article on the UMass SJP Facebook page, titled “This Divestment Bill Hurts My Feelings." Friedstein commented: “Another example of demystifying what BDS is and WHY we need to support it."
The article featured a video of anti-Israel poet Remi Kanazi reading his piece “This Divestment Bill Hurts My Feelings," which mocked the distress caused to students by BDS campaigns.
Friedstein promoted and indicated on Facebook that she “went" to a March 7, 2014 Smith College SJP and Smith College JStreet U event, titled: “A Forum on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement." The event featured anti-Israel professor Sa’ed Atshan and provided “information about the Academic and Cultural Boycott" of Israel.
Condemning Jewish Heritage TourFriedstein was reportedly a participant on a December 2013 Birthright trip to Israel.
On October 22, 2014 Friedstein wrote an open letter for her former university’s student publication, The Daily Collegian, titled “What’s behind the curtains on Birthright trips?" In her letter, Friedstein undermined the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, described Israel as “a nation that has disobeyed international law" and declared:“I am not a Zionist. I have no connection to Israel as a Jew."
Friedstein claimed Zionism’s goal was “ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people" and wrote that Birthright is “a false construction created by those who wish to perpetuate racial exclusivity and ethnic cleansing of an indigenous people."
Friedstein admitted her “main objective" of applying for Birthright’s free trip to Israel was “to extend my stay and travel to West Bank, Palestinian land currently under Israeli control and authority."
Return the Birthright CampaignIn September of 2017, JVP issued its #ReturntheBirthright campaign manifesto, calling on American Jews to boycott the Birthright Israel (Birthright) program. Birthright was founded by Jewish philanthropists “in 1999 to address the growing divide between young Diaspora Jewish adults and the land and people of Israel."
After decades of demographic decline in the American Jewish community, Birthright set out “to strengthen Jewish identity, build a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel, and reinforce the solidarity of Jewish people worldwide." The program offers “the gift of a life-changing, 10-day trip to Israel to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26."
JVP’s anti-Birthright campaign was launched precisely to coincide with “the very moment that college students across America are returning to campus and registration for Birthright winter visits are underway."
The #returnthebirthright manifesto accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing" and alleged “the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of Palestinians."
The text claimed: “We reject the offer of a free trip to a state that does not represent us, a trip that is only ‘free’ because it has been paid for by the dispossession of Palestinians."
The manifesto concluded: “And as we reject this, we commit to promoting the right to return of Palestinian refugees… Israel is not our Birthright… Return the Birthright."
On June 22, 2017, just prior to the launch of JVP’s #returnthebirthright campaign, JVP received a $140,00 two-year grant for general support for its operations from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).
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."
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."
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.
JVP was founded in Berkeley, California in 1996, as an activist group with an emphasis on the "Jewish tradition" of peace, social justice and human rights. The organization is currently led by Rebecca Vilkomerson and its board members include controversial Israel critics Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky and Tony Kushner.
JVP, which generally employs civil disobedience tactics like disrupting pro-Israel speakers and events, consists of American Jews and non-Jewish "allies" highly critical of Israeli policies. A staunch supporter of the BDS movement, JVP claims to aim its campaigns at companies that either support the Israeli military (Hewlett-Packard) or are active in the West Bank (SodaStream).
Although several Jewish groups critical of Israeli policies, like J Street and Partners for a Progressive Israel, make efforts to operate within the mainstream American Jewish community, JVP functions outside. The group is often criticized for serving as a tokenized Jewish voice for the pro-Palestinian camp and is widely regarded as the BDS movement's "Jewish wing."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accused JVP of being "the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States," and said the group "exploits Jewish culture and rituals to reassure its own supporters that opposition to Israel not only does not contradict, but is actually consistent with, Jewish values... JVP consistently co-sponsors rallies to oppose Israeli military policy that are marked by signs and slogans comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, demonizing Jews and voicing support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."
According to the ADL website, JVP "uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and provide it with a greater degree of legitimacy and credibility."
Social Media and Web LinksFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/1548458444
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannahfriedstein [Private]