On Saturday, October 7, 2023, an estimated 2,900 heavily armed Hamas terrorists breached Israel’s border fence with Gaza. This incursion resulted in numerous war crimes against Israeli civilians, including mass murder, beheadings of children, rape, kidnappings, and desecration of bodies.
Hamas shared videos of these atrocities on social media. They even shared them with accounts of the victims’ families.
Prior to the Hamas massacre, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had a barely noticeable presence at the University of Mary Washington (UMW SJP). They had only ever posted three times on Instagram. However, on Oct 7th, while Hamas was still engaged in attacks on Israeli men, women and children, the SJP chapter became active.
The harrowing incidents on October 7th, where over 1,200 Israelis fell victim to Hamas’ brutality, galvanized this group into action. Instead of condemning the heinous acts of Hamas, UMW SJP justified them and even shifted the blame onto Israel.
Since October 7th, their activity has surged. From just a few posts, to organizing protests and issuing statements, UMW SJP has chosen a very telling time to become vocal in their support for the ‘resistance.’
On November 15th, 2023, Siham Alfred, a UMW Mathematics professor, and her husband Joe Alfred, a member of the UMW Elderstudy program, conducted a teach-in sponsored by SJP at UMW. The event was advertised as providing a “comprehensive academic understanding of the historical relationship between the US and Palestine-Israel.”
During their presentation, which the university-affiliated couple claims to have delivered multiple times, both Alfreds distorted historical facts, propagated conspiracy theories about 9/11 and allegations of Jewish control in America, espoused the antisemitic notion that spitting on Christians is a “Jewish tradition” justified the Hamas massacre from October 7th and denied the Semitic heritage of Jews.
Siham Alfred – UMW Mathematics Professor
“The Christians walk into Jerusalem on the day we carry the cross and some Jews spit on them. That’s part of the Jewish tradition. They have to spit on Christians.”
Joe Alfred – UMW Elder Study Member
“Maybe you don’t like the way Hamas went about it, but Palestinians certainly have a right to resist.”
“So the causes that are cited sometimes for this [October 7th] Hamas attack is that there was no progress on Palestine-Israel, there’s no progress on the two-state solution because the Zionist leaders never wanted a two-state solution.”
“One of the most fundamental issues to understand…is that the Palestinians did not go to Europe and kill the Jews, whereas the Zionists came to Palestine and killed the Palestinians and took their land.”
“The Jewish Agency was quite involved in the United States…and the people that were involved with them were…Not actually Jewish. The better term is gangsters. Zionist gangsters.”
“The Israelis have been continuing to destroy Palestine every day in almost every way they can.”
“Most of our politicians today are actually paid out of AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], which is a lobby group.”
As the horrific events of October 7th unfolded, UMW SJP reposted a series of text-based posts with the caption: “REPOST | Questions to keep in mind with the oncoming news cycle.”
These posts appeared amidst the ongoing reporting of the mass terror event carried out by Hamas. The posts were as follows:
See this Instagram post by @umwsjp https://t.co/jRGCKId6V4
— Dr. Rich Swier (@drrichswier) December 20, 2023
UMW SJP chose specifically to post this image carousel to its Instagram page while the full extent of the horrific acts committed by Hamas was still being revealed.
Each one of these slides is a crass distraction from the horrors that were still being reported upon and a poorly veiled attempt to redirect the blame towards Israel. SJP chapters across North America have been noted for justifying and attributing blame to Israel for the loss of hundreds of Israeli civilians.
Mary Washington Students Sign Statement Justifying the Massacre
On October 11th, 2023, UMW SJP co-signed a statement titled “Statement on the Current Situation in Palestine,” justifying Hamas’ actions. This statement, endorsed by five other groups, advocated for “a free Palestine” and supported “Palestinian resistance.”
Despite harrowing news of Hamas committing atrocities against Israeli civilians — families burned alive, attendees of a music festival shot en masse, and the rape and murder of women — UMW SJP cited a “consistent dehumanization of Palestinian people resisting genocide” on their campus.
Their stance was unequivocal, as they concluded the statement:
“Now you know where we stand and what we will advocate for… Action is necessary.”
Text of Statement #1:
Statement on the Current Situation in Palestine
October 11, 2023
The University of Mary Washington’s Students for Justice in Palestine, Radical Student Union, American Student Union, Young Democratic Socialists of America, the Fredericksburg Democratic Socialists of America, and Socialist Revolution stand in support of the decolonization of Palestine and the liberation of the Palestinian people. We support the right to resist for Palestinians living under the Israeli zionist occupation. We call for the international community to acknowledge and condemn Israeli war crimes and continued genocide.
Any loss of of life is tragic. However, we acnowledge that over 75 years of colonization, ethnic cleansing, lack of human rights, and blatant oppression will warrant a resistance that requires more than words and peaceful protest to achieve liberation. The endless siege on Gaza and the consistent attacks against Palestinians by the IOF and settlers are unacceptable. The IOF’s bombing of Gaza in response to the events this week is barbaric and has resulted in several massacres. Regardless of where you stand on any of the aspects of Israel-Palestine, the brutality inflicted on Gaza and the Palestinian people is not equal nor equitable. Israel is backed by international support, politically and economically; the Palestinian people have been stripped of adequate resources to resist or defend themselves against the Israeli government’s barrage. This is not a war or a conflict, it is systemic genocide. This is not new, you just haven’t been paying attention.
Decolonization includes the liberation of a colonized people from the grasp of their colonizers. When the colonization has been material, the decolonization must be as well. Systemic violence and genocide creeps into every crevice, and discourses and acknowledgements of Israeli violence has never proved to sway the colonizers.
We as a collective of groups at the University of Mary Washington and Fredericksburg community call for a free Palestine, and support Palestinian resistance and human rights. We call on all those who identify as “allies” to the Palestinian liberation movement to take the opportunity to advocate and educate. The consistent dehumanization of Palestinian people resisting genocide is prevalent on our campus, especially this week. American Universities should stop their investments in arms industry and cease any collaboration with Israel. Now you know where we stand and what we will advocate for. Remember that peace cannot exist without justice and in an apartheid state. Action is necessary.
In hope and until liberation,
UMW SJP, UMW RSU, UMW ASU, UMW YDSA, FXB DSA, SA
Following significant backlash for their apparent endorsement of Hamas’ actions and a scheduled campus demonstration, UMW SJP issued a second statement. This statement presented mixed messages: it attempted to deny the clear support for Hamas from the previous statement, while maintaining that the blame of the tragic event and subsequent war still lay with Israel.
The statement read, “The University of Mary Washington Students for Justice in Palestine, Radical Student Union, American Student Union, and Socialist Revolution stand by our October 11th statement.”
In their response, UMW SJP attempted to clarify their position, stating, “we do not support Hamas as some have claimed.” Nonetheless, they persisted with misleading criticisms of Israel, asserting, “[Israel has] promoted a systematic terror campaign…The present conflict is the inevitable result of this. Hence, our protest demands, previous statement, and continued support of both.”
The statement concluded by noting that the University of Mary Washington Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA UMW) had withdrawn support for the October 11th statement and the planned protest. YDSA UMW issued an apology: “Upon further reflection, and after listening to our community, we no longer feel the demonstration is appropriate. We apologize to the Jewish community and any others who felt threatened by this demonstration.”
On October 12, 2023, UMW SJP held a “Decolonize Palestine Protest” at Market Square in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The event was in support of the Hamas terror group’s October 7, 2023 invasion of Israel that targeted Israeli civilians for murder, torture and kidnapping.
UMW SJP’s event was part of a National SJP (NSJP) “National Day of Resistance” which mobilized anti-Israel student groups in the U.S. and Canada to hold protests condemning Israel’s response to Hamas as “genocidal.” NSJP’s event tool kit called for “dismantling Zionism” and described Hamas’s war crimes as a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance” and “both morally just and politically necessary.”
EDITORS NOTE: This Canary Mission column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.