Mock eviction notices were recently distributed at the University of Michigan by the pro-Palestinian student group “Students Allied for Freedom and Equality.” More than one thousand students reportedly received the notices on their residence hall room doors on Tuesday, December 10, which warned them that their dormitory would be demolished by December 13.
The notices were made to appear as though they were issued by the university’s Department of Housing and were designed to mimic the eviction notices received by some Palestinians in the West Bank if their homes were built illegally or needed to be demolished because of Israeli security concerns. The notices, however, claim that Israel evicts Palestinians from their homes for the purpose of “mak[ing] life so miserable for Arabs that they leave.”
Students affiliated with SAFE also published a “Viewpoint” piece on the university newspaper’s Web site calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel and claiming that the eviction notices are a “tool of political satire.”
These notices, which have appeared on at least a half a dozen other campuses in the past few years, have previously made some students feel threatened or intimidated.
For example, after students at Rutgers University received the notices in October 2013, Esther Reed, the rabbi of Rutgers’s Hillel was quoted in the campus newspaper saying, “students were made to feel that they were not safe in their residence halls.” Similarly, at Florida Atlantic University, students reported feeling confused or scared after receiving eviction notices in March 2012, according to Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who spoke to a local newspaper shortly after the incident occurred.
Other students have criticized the tactic for failing to create dialogue. At Yale University, students wrote an op-ed in the campus newspaper and called the mock eviction notices “offensive,” claiming that there was not “even the faintest attempt at building a constructive dialogue.”
In the past few years, anti-Israel student groups at the following universities have circulated mock eviction notices on campus:
- Rutgers University, October 2013 – Students from the Rutgers-New Brunswick SJP chapter posted mock eviction notices in residence halls throughout the campus to “educate” students about the experience for some Palestinians whose homes are demolished. Text on the mock eviction notices read, “your suite is scheduled for demolition in the next three days… If you do not vacate the premise within this time frame, we reserve the right to destroy all remaining belongings…This may seem like unrealistically harsh treatment, but this is the actual state of affairs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
- San Diego State University, March 2013 – Mock eviction notices were posted on students’ residence hall room doors by members of the SDSU SJP chapter. The notices, which claimed that “$30 billion US tax dollars have been used to fund Israeli apartheid in the past decade,” were meant to raise awareness over Israel’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
- Harvard University, March 2013 – Members of the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee posted mock eviction notices on students’ doors in freshman and upper class residence halls. The notices, which warned students that their residence hall rooms were “scheduled for demolition in the next three days” were posted in order to publicize “Israel Apartheid Week” on campus and to raise awareness about Israel’s policies.
- Florida Atlantic University, March 2012 – Mock eviction notices were posted on nearly 200 student residence hall rooms. The action, organized by the FAU SJP chapter, warned students that their rooms were being demolished and that "anyone left inside is not our responsibility.” This episode attracted significant ire because the flier contained the official seal of university’s Housing and Residential Life Department.
- University of Chicago, May 2011 – Over 200 mock eviction notices were distributed by the SJP chapter on campus. The notices stated that affected students would have their rooms demolished and that if they did not vacate them, “we reserve the right to destroy your housing unit. We do not maintain responsibility for anyone remaining inside.”
- Yale University, April 2011 – Mock eviction notices were distributed by SJP at Yale University to criticize “the actions of the Israeli state” and to promote the group’s upcoming events.