Because the world should know

Sunaina Maira


Sunaina Maira [Sunaina Marr Maira] is an advisor for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) and cofounder of Faculty for Justice in Palestine-Davis.

Maira is an international leader of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and co-founded the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), in January 2009. She also cofounded Pakistanis for Palestine — with her husband, Magid Shihade — to call on Pakistanis to adopt BDS and to "oppose the normalization of Israel in Pakistan at the level of state and also civil society."

The anti-normalization strategy seeks to hinder collaborations between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian sides unless the pro-Israel side first delegitimizises the Israeli narrative.

Maira has referred to Israel as a "rogue state" (p. 83) that does not comply with international law.

Maira is a professor of Asian American Studies at UC Davis.

Vowing to Defy French Anti-Discrimination Laws

In January 2016, Maira signed a USACBI petition “in support of the right to call for a boycott of Israeli goods in France."

Signers of the petition vowed not to comply with France’s highest appeal court’s legal ruling to prohibit the boycott of Israeli goods.

The petition opposed a French court ruling that found BDS promoters guilty of inciting hate or discrimination, in October 2015.

Supporting BDS’ Bigotry

Maira is a member of the American Studies Association (ASA) and co-chair of its Activism and Community Caucus (ASA Caucus). In 2012, the ASA Caucus proposed a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel, which was later adopted at the ASA Conference in 2013. Maira was also involved with BDS campaigns in the Association of Asian American Studies, who on April 20, 2013 passed the first resolution in support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions by a North American academic organization (21:07).

In February 2015, Maira slammed UC Davis Chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, for refusing to enforce a BDS resolution proposed by SJP UC Davis. Maira misleadingly described the SJP UC Davis divestment campaign as “a highly civil and impeccably self-restrained movement," although Jewish students were heckled and subjected to shouts of “Allahhu Akbar" during the divestment vote. Maira’s statement also whitewashed the increasingly hostile environment for Jewish students at UC Davis.

On January 30, 2014, Maira signed a statement expressing her “profound disagreement with the Chancellor’s and Provost’s published opposition" to the ASA academic boycott of Israel.

In October of 2013, Maira was also one of eleven professors to chastise the Journal of Academic Freedom for publishing a series of essays opposing the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

In March 2010, Maira signed a petition to have an Israeli scholar ejected from an academic conference in Los Angeles. In March 2009, Maira signed a petition to shut down the University of California Israel Abroad program.

Promoting Israel Hatred under The Guise of Human Rights Activism

On August 1, 2016, Maira wrote an article called “Academic Boycott and Academic Activism: Progressives for Palestine."

Maira’s article exemplified BDS’ coat-tailing tactic — dubbed “intersectionality" — that conjoins protests against various forms of oppression to demonize Israel. Maira’s article claimed that BDS has “been the site of significant interracial and cross-movement coalition building, linking issues of colonialism, militarization, policing, antiblackness, indigeneity, borders, and labor."

BDS and SJP have both blamed Israel and Zionism for rising tuition costs, police riots in Ferguson, Missouri, race-based violence in the US, negative environmental impacts of the fossil-fuel industry, and campus rape.

In an April 9, 2014 blog post titled "The BDS movement and the front lines of the war on academic freedom," Maira blamed a “confluence of powerful Zionist organizations (such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Israel on Campus Coalition) and university administrations that have eroded faculty governance and academic employment rights."

Maira also wrote that counter-campaigns against the ASA boycott were based on "racism and elitism," although she did not deny that the ASA boycott exclusively targets “the Jewish State."

On October 30, 2014, Maira co-authored an article that called the Anti-Defamation League "baldly racist" for sending an email to Chancellor Katehi to warn her of planned hostile anti-Israel demonstrations on campus.

Endorsing Hate Speech and Propagating Anti-Semitism

At a December 27, 2012 Palestine Solidarity Committee talk in India, Maira conjured anti-Semitic conspiracies of a powerful Israel lobby controlling the U.S. government and silencing legitimate criticism of Israel. Her statement echoed the age-old canard about Jews controlling foreign governments — recently revitalized by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in their book titled “The Israel Lobby."

Maira described the “Israel lobby" as a “well-established structure of defamation, harassment, intimidation and bullying" and lamented that legal action, based on civil rights law, is taken against anti-Israel and anti-Jewish groups (24:24). To back up her claim, Maira ironically cited the case of a group of UC Irvine students, dubbed the “Irvine 11," who were arrested for repeatedly disrupting former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s talk at UC Irvine — using a premeditated strategy of defamation, harassment, intimidation and bullying to disrupt the event (25:05). Maira misleadingly referred to the illegal actions of the Irvine 11 as “a peaceful protest."

In a March 2016 interview, Maira falsely accused Zionists of portraying any criticism of Israel as being inherently anti-Semitic. She also stated that BDS is unfairly depicted as “racist" by the “Zionist lobby" (30:36). By singling out Israel for exclusive condemnation, Maira and the BDS movement openly engage in a display of modern anti-Semitism. Maira went on to blame Zionists for inciting anti-Semitism (31:30).

Lying and Deceiving to Demonize Israel, Israelis and Zionists

Maira published an anti-Israel essay in propagandist Ali Abunimahs 2015 book “Against Apartheid: The Case for Boycotting Israeli Universities." In her essay, titled “The Ghosts That Haunt US: USACBI and the Settler University," Maira lied that Israel practices “apartheid" and cynically implied that apartheid and racial exclusion is the “fundamental character of the Zionist state" (p.84).

Maira also lied that Israel is committing “genocidal violence" and maintains “policies of annihilation" against Palestinians (p.81, 83) — although has been widely reported that the populations of Gaza and the West Bank are among the fastest growing populations in the world in recent decades. Also, the health of Palestinians has steadily increased since 1967, due to Israeli policies.

Maira repeated these lies in a July 2011 convention organized by Al-Awda, The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition — which advocates for BDS and the destruction of Israel. She also stated that Jews “act as if they are" indigenous to Israel, implying — falsely — they have no right to live there. (12:58). Maira gloated that the “legitimacy of Israel is really crumbling" (14:00) and bragged that BDS has become an “existential threat" (15:02). She also referred to Zionists as “our enemies" (15:20) and stated that BDS is “doing a service to the U.S. academy" (16:30).

Maira went on to assert — falsely— that the mostly failed Arab Spring was "deeply humiliating" to Israel, purporting — most prematurely — that the uprisings themselves proved there were other functioning democracies in the Middle East besides Israel (18:05).

In a March 2016 interview, Maira mischaracterized Israel’s security fence, built as a non-violent deterrent to Palestinian terrorist attacks — conducted mostly by suicide bombers — as the “Israeli apartheid wall." The atypical concrete portions of the fence were built in response to Palestinian sniper attacks.

Maira also falsely insinuated that a non-binding advisory opinion on the security fence, issued by the International Court of Justice was binding international law. (2:45)

Depicting Terrorists as Victims and Defense Against Terror as Aggression

In July 2012, Maira co-authored, with fellow academic Magid Shihade, a Social Text journal article — republished on the USACBI website — and titled "Unsettling Exceptionalisms."

The Social Text journal gained notoriety in 1996 for the Sokal affair, when it published a nonsensical article that physicist Alan Sokal had deliberately written as a hoax. The editors of the journal were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize for literature by "eagerly publishing research that they could not understand, that the author said was meaningless, and which claimed that reality does not exist."

Maira’s article whitewashed the actions of Jihadis who attacked Israeli security forces, whom the article misleadingly referred to as "international aid activists" who were supposedly “murder[ed]" on board the Gaza “Freedom Flotilla,"

The Freedom Flotilla of May 2010 was organized to breach a legal naval embargo imposed to stop illegal weapons imports to Gaza.

Activists aboard the “Freedom Flotilla"’s lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, claimed to be carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza but agitated for violent confrontation with Israeli security forces and chanted “Khaibar, khaibar ya yahud" — a slogan glorifying the killing of Jews.

The protesters refused all instructions to change course and attacked Israeli security forces as soon as they boarded the Marmara with iron bars, metal chairs, knives, rocks, bottles, stun grenades and firearms.

The 2011 United Nations’ Palmer Commission report found that the flotilla agitators initiated an organized violent confrontation with Israeli forces. Following the incident, the Mavi Marmara was found to be carrying crude weapons but no humanitarian aid.

Demanding The Employment of Hate Speech Purveyor Steven Salaita

In November of 2015, Maira advocated for the University of Illinois (U of I) to reinstate Steven Salaita, who is now the Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

In 2014, The University of Illinois (U of I) withdrew an offer of employment to Salaita after becoming aware of his anti-Semitic tweets. One tweet, posted shortly after Hamas kidnapped three teenage Israeli high school students, read: "You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f**king West Bank settlers would go missing."

A month later, Salaita tweeted "Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948." On July 8, 2014, he tweeted: "There's something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/#Israel's aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion."

U of I defended its decision to withdraw the job offer to Salaita in a January 29, 2015 press release, saying: “These statements [his tweets] and many more like them demonstrate that Dr. Salaita lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East."

After being denied the position at U of I, Salaita took a teaching position at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in Lebanon, where he was employed from 2015 through 2017. The position at AUB was not tenured and so, following the close of the 2017 academic year, Salaita again sought employment.

Unable to find a teaching position “on four continents," Salaita again took to social media, stating on Facebook I “no longer consider myself among the professoriate." Salaita went on to say that “People ask if I would go back in time and change anything. I would not… I will die unapologetic."


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.


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.

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