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New York court rules university must allow students to form pro-Palestine group

New York (QNN)- A New York judge has ordered Fordham university to recognise a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club on its campus, a decision that was welcomed by students and rights groups as a boost for Palestine advocacy in the United States.

In a decision released on Tuesday, Justice Nancy Bannon said Fordham University’s decision to reject an application from students to start an SJP branch at the New York City school was “arbitrary and capricious” and said that “it must be concluded that his disapproval of SJP was made in large part because the subject of SJP’s criticism is the State of Israel, rather than some other nation, in spite of the fact that SJP advocates only legal, nonviolent tactics aimed at changing Israel’s policies.”

The ruling came after over two years of litigation stemming from a decision by Fordham in December 2016 to deny SJP club status at the school. Fordham administrators claimed that concerns over controversies and unspecified bad behavior led to the denial. In response, four students sued the school over their right to establish the chapter.

In a statement, petitioner Ahmad Awad, a 2017 Fordham graduate, said the victory was for the struggle as a whole, both on and off Fordham campus.

“I continued to advocate for justice in Palestine, and now because of Justice Bannon’s order, no Fordham student will be restricted or prohibited from advocating for justice in Palestine.”

Bannon’s decision comes amid a country-wide push against Palestinian activism, with dozens of US states passing anti-BDS laws in recent years.

Rights groups have raised concerns that such measures infringe on civil liberties and violate the First Amendment of the US constitution, which protects free speech.

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