Florida orders state universities to disband pro-Palestinian student group chapters on campuses

Florida officials have ordered state universities and colleges to disband pro-Palestinian student chapters on their respective campuses amid the ongoing war between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

In a letter to state university presidents sent Tuesday, State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues directed them to disband chapters of the National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) on their campuses. The order comes after the national group’s response to Hamas’s attack on Israel earlier this month.

“In response, and leading up to a ‘Day of Resistance,’ the National Students for Justice in Palestine (National SJP) released a ‘toolkit’ which refers to Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as ‘the resistance’ and unequivocally states: ‘Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement,’” Rodrigues wrote in his letter.

“It is a felony under Florida law to ‘knowingly provide material support … to a designated foreign terrorist organization,’” Rodrigues added. “Here, National SJP has affirmatively identified it is part of the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood — a terrorist led attack.”

Rodrigues also said in his letter that National SJP chapters only exist under the headship of the main organization.

“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” he added. “These two student chapters may form another organization that complies with Florida state statutes and university policies. The two institutions should grant these two chapters a waiver for the fall deadlines, should reapplication take place.”

The move comes as Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for his administration’s move to disband the student chapters, saying attempting to silence their freedom of speech wouldn’t solve any problems.

DeSantis, who is considered former President Trump’s main rival in the 2024 GOP race, has had a staunch pro-Israel stance since this month’s attacks, which has led to pro- and anti-Israel demonstrations around the world.

“My view is that the answer to bad speech is not less speech, it is more speech. And I think it is wrong for us to silence those we disagree with,” Ramaswamy said on Hill TV’s “Rising.”

“I don’t think that’s the American way. I don’t think that’s productive, and I don’t think we convince any of those people by browbeating them into submission through fear either.”

It’s been almost three weeks since Hamas, the governing authority of Gaza that the U.S. recognizes as a terrorist organization, launched an attack on Israel that left 1,400 people dead.

In response, Israel has launched a series of airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of 6,546 residents and 17,439 suffering injuries, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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