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Demand GWU apologize for selectively disciplining Palestinian-American student

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DEMAND GW APOLOGIZE FOR SELECTIVELY DISCIPLINING PALESTINIAN-AMERICAN STUDENT

Many George Washington University students decorate windows with flags of home states or nations. Palestinian-American student Ramie Abounaja received disciplinary action for what his peers have and continue to do without consequence. SJP at GWU condemns this double standard as a clear violation of free speech principles the University strives to uphold.

Actions in response to a Palestinian flag hanging outside a dormitory window demonstrate intention to silence certain political expression, rather than an aim to merely follow the rules. In a press release, the University said it is “committed to fostering a welcoming and safe environment for every member of the GW community.” Selectively enforcing school policies to target support of Palestine directly contradicts this.

A letter to GWU from Palestine Legal, the organization representing Abounaja, explained that on October 26, a University Police Department officer came to his room and said “the department had received several complaints regarding the flag and that the officer would leave only after the flag was removed.” Evidently, he was forced to remove the flag as a result of someone disagreeing with what the flag represented-not, as the University claims, as a result of breaking Residential Community Conduct Guidelines.

The officer returned after the flag was taken down, “stating that his supervisor required that he make a report, and that in his forty years as a police officer he had never had to do anything like this.” The officer questioned him in front of his roommates and onlookers in the hall, an experience which “left Mr. Abounaja feeling criminalized and humiliated, especially because he could not discern what rule or law, if any, he had broken.”

These actions point to anti-Palestinian sentiment. Flags of other countries hang out of dorm windows with no disciplinary consequence, and selective reinforcement of these rules is discrimination. In this moment of rising Islamophobia in the United States, it is contradictory that a university that advertises inclusivity and diversity would act like this.

DEMANDS:

To ameliorate the harm done, we request that GW take the following immediate steps:

  1. Withdraw the ‘Warning Letter’ 
  2. Apologize, in writing, to Mr. Abounaja 
  3. Issue a written clarification of GW’s policy of hanging flags and banners and  ensure the policy is applied equally, regardless of the viewpoint or the message or a student’s national origin. 

We request a prompt response to this petition by December 14, 2015, as does Palestine Legal.

Students for Justice in Palestine at GWU is an advocacy group dedicated to bringing awareness to the humanitarian and civilian catastrophes in Palestine. SJP at GWU represents a diverse group of students from our campus who advocate respect for international human rights and educate the campus and community about the Israeli occupation. We maintain a nonviolent stance in both our actions and our speech. We reject any and all hateful speech, and will not be held accountable for such speech made on our behalf by non-members.



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