On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) held a demonstration outside the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) that PCP members told The Daily Princetonian aimed to protest University-affiliated summer programs and internships taking place in the State of Israel. The CJL hosted an event providing information about such programs the same night.
The demonstration was organized by Harshini Abbaraju ’22 and PCP President Eric Periman ’23.
Approximately 20 participants gathered outside the CJL at 7 p.m. for the protest, holding signs and chanting.
At around 8 p.m., a similarly-sized crowd of counter-protestors affiliated with the CJL and other campus organizations gathered and began chanting back.
“We are not protesting the Center for Jewish Life,” Abbaraju told The Daily Princetonian.
Periman stated that the protest was motivated by the fact that “the University would fund, facilitate, support programs going to historic Palestine when Palestinians can never return,” which he argued is “highly problematic.”
Periman further explained in a follow-up email to the ‘Prince’ that the University’s sponsorship of programs in Israel has the potential to exclude Palestinian Princeton students who might be subject to higher scrutiny in hiring processes and visa approvals, which he also described as “highly problematic.”
CJL Student President Amichai Feit ’23 wrote to the ‘Prince’ that part of the CJL’s mission is to provide “opportunities for students to engage with Israeli politics, culture, and industry. Highlighting opportunities for students to spend their summer living and working in Israel contributes to this mission.”
“More broadly, global experiences are particularly valuable to college students and we are always excited to help both Jewish and non-Jewish students pursue their interest in spending time abroad,” Feit added.
At the protest, PCP Vice President Thomas Coulouras ’25 told the ‘Prince’ that he believes these “internship opportunities are not worth turning a blind eye to Palestinian deaths.”
“We Oppose Summer Programs in Israel” and “Don’t Make Occupation Your Occupation,” referencing the Israeli occupation, were among the signs held by participants at the protest. Chants led by Abbaraju emphasized reports of Palestinian oppression by the government of Israel.
Throughout the protest, PCP demonstrators regularly engaged in conversations with passersby. These conversations remained largely calm.
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Hannah Faughnan ’23, one of the students at the PCP protest, emphasized the need to approach conversations about Israel-Palestine without permitting antisemitism, and also while addressing human rights goals.
“Coming into these spaces with all perspectives in mind [can be done] while still acknowledging human rights abuses are not okay,” Faughnan said to an onlooker.
In lieu of signs with slogans, counter-demonstrators waved Israeli flags. Abbaraju said to the ‘Prince’ that the PCP was told by the University to expect a counter-demonstration. Three free speech facilitators and two public safety officers were present.
Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss declined to comment on the protests.
The president of Tigers for Israel, Jared Stone ’24, was present at the counter-demonstration and later wrote to the ‘Prince,’ “We commend the Center for Jewish Life and all participating organizations for tonight’s incredibly successful event [Israel Summer Program Fair]. We will never waver in our support for the one and only Jewish state — the State of Israel.”
Rabbi Eitan Webb, University chaplain and director of the Chabad House — another Jewish organization on campus — helped lead the counter-demonstration. He led many of the songs sung by counter-demonstration participants, which included “Hatikvah,” the national anthem of Israel.
Webb said in an interview with the ‘Prince’ that PCP “protestors reject the fundamental idea of the State of Israel, as evidenced in the depiction of the state fully painted over in the Palestinian flag,” referencing one poster held at the event. Webb also described chants of “Yaffa, Not Tel Aviv” by the protestors as evidence of “blatant antisemitism.”
PCP leaders denied these accusations. Abbaraju told the ‘Prince,’ “[we] are not here for any reason other than to express our principled opposition to University-facilitated summer programs in the apartheid State of Israel. We stand against the occupation of Palestine.”
Both demonstrations were held without University intervention and dispersed at around 9 p.m.
Editor’s Note: The headline of this article has been updated to more accurately reflect the University’s relationship to the internships in question.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Eric Periman ’23 and Thomas Coulouras ’25 were Co-Presidents of the PCP. Periman is the President and Coulouras is the Vice President.
Jasmyn Dobson is a staff writer who often covers School of Public and International Affairs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.