Militant Journalism

Community members rally to defend Northwestern University faculty member from Zionists

On May 16 in Skokie, Illinois, students, staff, faculty and community members rallied to defend Northwestern University professor, Dr. Noelle Sullivan, at the Board of Education meeting for Skokie School District 68. Zionist organizations are trying to remove Sullivan from the school board of the Chicago suburb. During the public comment section of the meeting, they criticized her, centering on a video recorded at the Northwestern Liberated Zone of Sullivan defending her students from Zionist counterprotesters. The video shows Sullivan calmly standing with her arms raised. The man holding the camera was yelling at her before he shook his phone and hit it into her hand. 

On April 28, the Northwestern University student encampment, in the neighboring suburb of Evanston, was targeted by Zionist counterprotesters. Hundreds of pro-Palestine students and allies linked arms and circled the entire camp. Dozens of Zionists started filming people, shouting “show your face” and shouting Islamophobic hate speech. 

After this incident, the video circulated widely on social media in a campaign against Sullivan. There have been calls for Sullivan to be fired from her job at Northwestern University. Additionally, photographs, her phone number and office address were posted online so that people could harass her. 

More than 50 people attended the Board of Education meeting. People spilled out of the meeting hall and into the adjoining hallways. In her opening statement Sullivan said, “My role in the encampment that day was to protect the right of free expression.

Defending Sullivan, faculty members read statements from some of the students who had been present when the video was shot. One statement read: “Dr. Sullivan was standing directly in front of us, I assume, to shield us from the counterprotesters as those had been putting cameras in our faces and yelling.” 

Another statement was read from a pro-Palestinian Jewish student: “I was swarmed by counterprotesters… some threatened me by saying, ‘I’m going to find you and make sure you never find a job.’”

A student who had been at the encampment testified: ”I unequivocally confirm that at no point did she [Sullivan] voluntarily make contact with any demonstrating individual,” to counter the narrative surrounding the video. 

At the board meeting, Zionist speakers equated anti-Zionism and anything other than full support of Israel as antisemitism. They claimed that Sullivan’s presence on the board made them and their children feel “unsafe” in their community. 

Groups behind the attacks on Sullivan

The Zionist presence at both the Skokie Board of Education meeting and the Northwestern encampment was organized by two organizations: Chicago Jewish Alliance and Jewish Institute for Liberal Values. These organizations have a track record of targeting students at pro-Palestine encampments across Chicago. 

JILV, which is run by David Bernstein, has been especially aggressive. This organization receives funding through the Combat Hate Foundation, which is in part funded by Republican mega-donor Adam Beren. The Combat Hate Foundation has also created the Combat Antisemitism movement which is part of the forces that seek to redefine the meaning of antisemitism to equate it with anti-Zionism.

Joshua Weiner is the chief marketing and development officer of JILV. He is also the co-founder of the Chicago Jewish Alliance. He formerly worked for AIPAC to acquire and obtain more donor funding. Weiner was also at the Skokie board meeting where he read the statement of the man who recorded the video. 

Both organizations have been active in trying to take down the DePaul University encampment in Chicago. One of their main tactics is to antagonize students at the encampment and then take video to demonize students and other supporters of Palestine. The same man who recorded the inciting video at Skokie was also at DePaul taking videos to discredit protesters there. As one student said in Skokie, “This campaign of harassment and doxing is well underway.” These provocation and videotape tactics have been seen at other encampments around the country as well.

When Chicago Police tore down the DePaul encampment, CJA released a statement saying, “Our efforts and the evidence documented as part of, and as a reaction to, our rallies gave the university the necessary leverage and justification to remove the encampment.“ Their social media posts are indeed featured on DePaul’s official statement given for the forcible closure of the encampment.

This attack on Sullivan is part of a wider assault on students, staff and faculty across the nation, facing repression due to their roles in organizing, sustaining and defending Gaza solidarity encampments. At Northwestern University, Michael Schill, the university president, claimed at the House Hearing on Antisemitism that staff members would be fired and disciplined for their support of Palestine. Dr. Steven Thrasher, a faculty member in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, has faced harassment, online attacks and calls for him to be fired from his position. 

Faculty and staff at DePaul University, Columbia University, the City University of New York, Arizona State University, Hobart and William Smith, New York University and more have been fired, suspended from teaching, or relieved of other roles as a result of their involvement in encampments, their writings on Palestine and their refusal to be silent during a genocide.

While Gaza has witnessed a scholasticide, the destruction of all universities and educational facilities, the U.S. ruling class aims to repress and silence any student, staff or faculty member who stands against the U.S. war machine. University administrators aim to appease their wealthy donors and corporate politicians threatening to cut funding and calling for the dismissal of university presidents who negotiate with student organizers.

This unified effort of the ruling class and their imperialist lackeys is an attempt prevent more students from turning against the U.S. system of oppression and exploitation. What the ruling class has failed to see is that they have lost an entire generation of youth. The young people of the United States are unequivocally with the Palestinian people. They have learned that the struggle has more to teach them than the bourgeois academy. They have declared that school is out until Palestine is free! 

Feature photo: Dr. Noelle Sullivan protecting students at Deering Meadow at Northwestern University. Liberation photo

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