Protesters denounce CSU settlement over Zionism


Aaron Levy-Wolins

San Francisco Police officers stand guard as students protest the CSU settling a lawsuit regarding anti-Zionism by blocking Muni tracks at 19th and Holloway Avenues on Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019. (AARON LEVY-WOLINS/ Special to Golden Gate Xpress.)

A group of students blocked the MUNI M-Line tracks at the terminal just off campus Thursday to protest the settlement between California State University’s Board of Trustees and two Jewish students who claim they were discriminated against based on their religious beliefs.

Wednesday SF State and CSU reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in Volk v. Board of Trustees and among the terms of settlement was that the University would publicly recognize Zionism as an “integral part of Jewish identity.”

Zionism is the support for the establishment of a Jewish state, including the occupation of Palestine territory by Israel. The protesters claimed the school’s settlement promotes Zionist white supremacy and silences voices that are critical of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

“I just passed by, and they’re protesting for Free Palestine, and I’m Palestinian and this movement really means a lot to me,” said Zaid Abuhalimeh, a first-year business administration student who moved to the U.S. four months ago. “It shows that people care and know what’s happening in Palestine. We’re being tortured.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are represented by the Lawfare Project, a legal think tank that works to safeguard the free speech of pro-Israel Jewish people.

According to a statement issued by the Lawfare Project, SF State agreed to issue its own statement acknowledging Zionism as an important part of the identity of many Jews.

The settlement also requires  SF State to appoint a Coordinator of Jewish Student Life, allocate  $200,000 to support educational outreach efforts for Jewish students and provide space and funding for a Zionist mural on campus.

The students who protested the settlement decision Thursday said they were acting as concerned citizens. Protestors arrived around 2:30 p.m. and blocked the MUNI M-Line at 19th and Holloway avenues, which runs inbound from the Embarcadero through the city and passes by SF State before terminating at Balboa Park, for about an hour until police arrived to disperse the crowd.

Students held flags across the tracks and chanted, “From Palestine to Mexico, these border walls have got to go!”

Police arrived on the scene about 20 minutes after the protest began. They stood guard in front of the demonstrators and told them they could be arrested. Around 3:30 p.m. the group of students moved across the street to the grass in front of the SF State Administration Building.

Protesters gave statements condemning the administration’s actions. They said they would not apologize for any inconvenience caused by their protest.  

The crowd then dispersed around 4 p.m., and representatives from the Students for Quality Education organization provided pizza from their nearby meeting to students involved with the protest.

A media spokesperson for the protest Jules Retzlaff, a cinema major, said the statement by Winston & Strawn LLP, the prosecuting law firm, and its think tank the Lawfare Project, is disingenuous.

“I don’t see the San Francisco administration reaching out to Jewish students,” Retzlaff said. “This is one organization and a couple plaintiffs, not the whole entire Jewish community on campus.”