OverviewRosemary Cohen [Rosie Cohen] was a “main organizer" of Haverford College’s (Haverford) “Israel Apartheid Week" in 2017.
Cohen is a student activist with Haverford’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, called Bi-Co SJP. The group also includes Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr) students.
On September 28, 2017, Cohen was listed as the contact person for Bi-Co SJP on Bryn Mawr’s website.
Cohen is an activist within the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. She reportedly sought to launch a BDS campaign at Haverford and expressed support for violent anti-Israel agitators.
Cohen also promoted the #returnthebirthright initiative launched by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) against the Birthright Jewish heritage tour.
In May 2015, Cohen participated on a trip with Interfaith-Peace Builders (IFPB). IFPB is an NGO that organizes delegations to Israel to "bear witness to the everyday violence of war and [Israeli] occupation." IFPB’s itinerary features lectures by representatives of organizations that explicitly call for the end of Israel and promote the BDS movement.
On August 2, 2018, Cohen posted on Facebook that she graduated Haverford in May 2018. Also as of October 2018, Cohen’s Facebook said she worked at High Rocks Educational Corporation, whose mission is to “educate, empower, and inspire young people in West Virginia."
As of October 2018, Cohen used the alias “Rosemary Ryden" on Facebook.
Anti-Israel Campus ActivismIn a March 2017 article for The Haverford Clerk, Cohen was described as “a main organizer" of Haverford’s “Israel Apartheid Week." Cohen was quoted saying that the goal of the week was “recognizing Apartheid in Israel and American financial complicity in that Apartheid."
She also rejected the need for “peaceful dialogue", saying that “In our movement, there isn’t really room for dialogue. A common complaint is that SJP doesn’t want to have a dialogue, doesn’t want to talk about it. To that I say there’s too much at stake... We can’t put ourselves and peaceful dialogue before a struggle."
Cohen then outlined the next step of her SJP chapter’s agenda — targeting Israel for boycott and pushing Haverford to pass a BDS resolution.
Condemning Jewish Heritage TourOn September 5, 2017, Cohen provided a testimonial to JVP’s #returnthebirthrightt campaign page on Facebook under the name “Rosemary C." Cohen also posted a longer version of nearly the same testimonial on her personal Facebook page, on July 21, 2017.
In her testimonial on the JVP Facebook page, Cohen claimed that Birthright participants are “taking advantage of an opportunity provided by an apartheid state committing atrocities against an occupied people."
Cohen also wrote that “as American Jews we must resist the continuing Nakba as it is carried out in the name of all Jews by Israel and the US… We have to hold ourselves accountable. I can't believe we're still doing this."
In the longer version of the testimonial posted to her personal Facebook page, Cohen added “I work on [sic] Students for Justice in Palestine at Haverford and Bryn Mawr, we have people working on [sic] IfNotNow."
Cohen then implored: “Talk to me! Come to SJP events! Consider skipping Birthright!"
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).
Since 2015, JVP has received $280,000 from RBF, which has a history of supporting anti-Jewish causes, including BDS campaigns and various organizations that promote BDS campaigns throughout the United States.
Supporting Anti-Israel AgitatorsOn December 2, 2017, Cohen updated her Facebook cover photo to express support for anti-Israel agitator Ahed Tamimi and her family.
The caption on the photo read: “free Ahed and the rest of the Tamimi family, justice for Nabi Saleh, freedom for Palestine from the river to the sea."
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."
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 Israel critics Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky and Tony Kushner.
JVP, which generally employs civil disobedience tactics to disrupt 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."
JVP denies the notion of “Jewish peoplehood" and has even gone so far as to refer to its own Ashkenazi (Jews who spent the Diaspora in European countries) leadership as “white supremacy inside of JVP."
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 value."
The ADL also claimed that “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."
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement was founded by Omar Barghouti in 2005 as an allegedly “Palestinian-led movement" to challenge “international support for Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism."
In 2015, Barghouti was quoted saying that “BDS aims to turn Israel into a pariah state, as South Africa once was, and to isolate its regime of oppression in order to achieve our UN-stipulated rights."
The dominant organization in the BDS Movement is the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), founded by Barghouti in 2007, during the First Palestinian Conference for the Boycott of Israel.
The movement’s most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for “BDS resolutions." In these cases, student governments, backed by anti-Israel affiliates, have proposed resolutions on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities.
These boycott 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.
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- Return The Birthright, NYU
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