Pro-Palestine Student Group in Florida Sues University System to Prevent Unconstitutional Deactivation l
The University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (UF SJP) filed a lawsuit today challenging the Chancellor of the State University System of Florida’s order to state universities to deactivate the student group. Contrary to recent media reports, the deactivation order remains in place today.
In response, the lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to block the deactivation order from going into effect, arguing that Chancellor Ray Rodrigues and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to effectively punish the UF chapter of SJP for its association with a national group is a clear violation of the constitutional rights to free speech and association.
“As students on a public college campus, we have every right to engage in human rights advocacy and promote public awareness and activism for a just and reasonable solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict,” said the University of Florida’s Students for Justice in Palestine. “We know we have First Amendment rights in school and we’re bringing this lawsuit to make sure the government doesn’t silence us or others like us.”
For decades, students have participated in and benefited from the marketplace of ideas on college campuses, particularly with respect to pressing and divisive social and political issues. And the Supreme Court has long recognized that right. As the complaint explains, the deactivation order violates UF SJP’s First Amendment freedoms by censoring its speech and association, and also runs afoul of the First Amendment’s protection against viewpoint-based restrictions on speech and association.
“Florida’s deactivation order against a Palestinian rights student group for exercising its free speech and association rights is a clear First Amendment violation,” said Hina Shamsi, director of ACLU’s National Security Project. “We hope our client’s brave decision to challenge state officials’ attempt to restrict student speech sends the strong message that censorship in our schools is unconstitutional. There should be no question that independent political advocacy — no matter its viewpoint — is fully constitutionally protected.”
The looming deactivation order has already cast a significant chill on UF SJP’s organizing and advocacy activities in support of Palestinian rights, at a time when the catastrophe in Israel and Palestine is a matter of vital public discourse. If enacted, the order will also deprive the group and its members of critical university resources and facilities necessary for the survival and operation of the organization on campus.
“If Florida officials think silencing pro-Palestinian students protects the Jewish community — or anyone — they’re wrong. This attack on free speech is dangerous: Today it is pro-Palestinian students, tomorrow it could be any other group the governor dislikes,” said Howard Simon, interim executive director of ACLU of Florida. “We recognize colleges are contending with how to manage increased threats and rising tensions on their campuses while keeping students safe — and we take the weight and complexity of these challenges seriously. But it is precisely in times of heightened crisis and fear that government officials, including Gov. DeSantis and University Chancellor Rodrigues, must remain steadfast in their obligations to respect free speech, open debate, and peaceful dissent on campus.”
This lawsuit comes amid a troubling rise in calls for schools across the country to censor pro-Palestinian students and student groups for “material support for terrorism,” without any evidentiary basis, along with other extreme and discriminatory proposals to cancel visas and deport international students who protest in support of Palestine.
“Throughout history, students have been central actors in ending segregation, war, and apartheid — and Students for Justice in Palestine sits squarely in that tradition. It is precisely because these principled students pose a challenge to the status quo that they are being targeted with McCarthyist censorship, but the First Amendment simply does not allow for it,” said Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal . “As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza unfolds, we can't let elected officials and university leaders stigmatize groups speaking out for Palestinian human rights. The voices of SJP chapters are more important than ever.”
You can find the complaint online here.
"When military goods can contribute to human rights violations or international humanitarian law, that export is strictly prohibited," said one campaigner. "It is incomprehensible that, despite clear warnings, the government has knowingly deviated from this."
A Dutch court on Monday heard opening arguments in a case brought by four human rights organizations that have accused the government of the Netherlands of being complicit in Israeli war crimes due to its export of military supplies as Israel kills thousands of civilians in Gaza.
Supplying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with parts for F-35 fighter jets, which are stored in a warehouse in the Netherlands, puts the Dutch government at risk for "becoming complicit in violations of international humanitarian law," the director of the Dutch branch of Amnesty International , one of the plaintiffs, said when the lawsuit was announced last month.
Amnesty is joined by Oxfam Novib—the Dutch chapter of Oxfam International—The Rights Forum, and PAX in the case, which is expected to result in a judgement around December 15.
The groups filed the lawsuit after government documents showed the Netherlands had allowed at least one shipment of reserve parts for F-35s since October 7, Al Jazeera reported .
The Dutch Defense Ministry wrote in a letter to Parliament that "it cannot be established that the F-35s are involved in grave violations of the humanitarian laws of war," but with nearly 16,000 people killed in Gaza in less than two months—including more than 6,600 children —the human rights groups aim to test that claim in court.
"The state must immediately stop its deliveries of F-35 parts to Israel," lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld said Monday at the Hague District Court. "That is its obligation under... Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions, it is its obligation under the Genocide Treaty to prevent genocide, and it is its obligation under export law."
Martje van Nes, PAX's director of organization, pointed out last month that "the Netherlands has a very concrete assessment framework for arms exports."
"When military goods can contribute to human rights violations or international humanitarian law, that export is strictly prohibited," said van Nes. "It is incomprehensible that, despite clear warnings, the government has knowingly deviated from this. This makes them responsible for the deployment of the equipment."
PAX noted on Monday that the call for the Netherlands to end shipments of any supplies that Israel could use to continue its massacre of Palestinian civilians—in retaliation for an attack by Hamas in October that killed 1,200 Israelis—"is all the more urgent" considering the end of a temporary cease-fire on Friday. More than 800 people have been killed since the pause in fighting ended last week, and Israel was stepping up its ground attacks on Monday.
"As far as we are concerned, the government must take action now to protect citizens," said PAX on social media. The group has demanded a permanent humanitarian cease-fire.
Dagmar Oudshoorn, director of Amnesty International in the Netherlands, said that as the host country "of both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court," the Dutch government "likes to present itself as a champion of international law."
"Our government is losing all credibility right now," she said. "Evident violations such as food, water, and fuel blockade, the forced displacement of the population, and the bombing of schools and hospitals, are not mentioned. And by supplying armies, the Netherlands runs the risk of becoming complicit in violations of international humanitarian law."
The Netherlands has maintained since October 7 that Israel "has the right to defend itself" and has called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to adhere to international law, but the groups said the IDF is clearly not doing so and should lose the support of the country.
"This complicity must stop now," said Gerard Jonkman, director of The Rights Forum.
The former U.S. vice president accused the United Arab Emirates of "abusing the public's trust" by naming the CEO of its national oil company as president of COP28.
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said Sunday that fossil fuel interests have effectively seized the reins of the United Nations climate summit process, preventing the kind of ambitious action that scientists say is necessary to prevent catastrophic warming and all of its cascading impacts.
"This industry is way more effective at capturing politicians than they are at capturing emissions," Gore told Reuters on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai. "And they have captured the COP process itself now and overreached, abusing the public's trust by naming the CEO of one of the largest and least responsible oil companies in the world as head of the COP. It's an abuse of the public's right to have confidence in the processes by which the decisions about humanity's future are made."
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, COP28 president and chief executive of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)—which is planning a massive expansion of oil and gas production in the coming years—has insisted that any deal reached at the critical climate summit must include fossil fuels .
Gore's interview with Reuters came after he delivered a presentation highlighting the UAE's rising greenhouse gas emissions. Citing data from Climate TRACE—an emissions tracking coalition that he co-founded—Gore said the UAE's planet-warming emissions rose 7.5% last year compared to 2021, while the rest of the world's rose 1.5%.
A Human Rights Watch report published Monday notes that the UAE's "dangerously high air pollution levels" are "creating major health risks for its citizens and residents." Pointing to World Health Organization estimates, the group observed that more than 1,800 people die from air pollution every year in the UAE.
"Even as the United Arab Emirates government works to burnish its image as a global climate leader," the report notes, "the country's vast fossil fuel production and use spew toxic pollutants into the air and contribute to climate change."
"This dismisses decades of work by IPCC scientists," said one expert. "Disgraceful."
Scientists and climate advocates responded with outrage Sunday to COP28 president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber's claim that there is "no science" behind the push to rapidly phase out planet-warming fossil fuels, which Al Jaber's company is extracting on a large scale .
Al Jaber's comments, first reported by The Guardian on Sunday, came in response to questioning from Elders chair Mary Robinson during a virtual She Changes Climate discussion. Robinson told Al Jaber that "we're in an absolute crisis that is hurting women and children more than anyone... and it's because we have not yet committed to phasing out fossil fuel."
The COP28 chief and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) CEO responded dismissively, saying he "accepted to come to this meeting to have a sober and mature conversation" and not to take part in "any discussion that is alarmist," according to audio published by
"There is no science out there, or no scenario out there, that says that the phaseout of fossil fuel is what's going to achieve 1.5°C," Al Jaber added. "Please help me, show me the roadmap for a phaseout of fossil fuel that will allow for sustainable socioeconomic development, unless you want to take the world back into caves."
That position runs directly counter to the outspoken stance of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said Friday that "the 1.5°C limit is only possible if we ultimately stop burning all fossil fuels," arguing that "the science is clear."
Joelle Gergis, a climate scientist and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report , called Al Jaber's remarks "disgraceful."
"This dismisses decades of work by IPCC scientists," Gergis wrote on social media.
"'Sending us back to caves' is the oldest of fossil fuel industry tropes: it's verging on climate denial."
The IPCC, which has synthesized the research of hundreds of climate scientists from around the world, has argued that any successful effort to prevent catastrophic planetary warming "will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use."
"More than a century of burning fossil fuels as well as unequal and unsustainable energy and land use has led to global warming of 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels," the IPCC said following the release of its latest report earlier this year. "This has resulted in more frequent and more intense extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world."
Other recent research has warned that rich nations must completely halt oil and gas production by 2034 to give the world a 50% chance of limiting warming to the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement.
Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, told The Guardian that Al Jaber's response to Robinson was "extraordinary, revealing, worrying, and belligerent."
"'Sending us back to caves' is the oldest of fossil fuel industry tropes: it's verging on climate denial," said Hare.
Al Jaber's comments, which he says have been misrepresented , were seen as further confirmation that he is ill-suited to lead a climate summit given his simultaneous role as the top executive at one of the world's largest fossil fuel firms. A Global Witness analysis released over the weekend found that ADNOC is on track to become the second-largest oil producer in the world by 2050, and Al Jaber has been accused of using his position as COP28 president to pursue oil and gas deals.
"ADNOC plans to produce more oil than any of the 'Big 5' supermajors—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, TotalEnergies," Global Witness found. "In fact, its projected output will positively dwarf that of the European majors; ADNOC's 35.9 billion barrels is 49% higher alone than the projected 24.1 billion barrels production of Shell, BP, and Total combined."
On Monday, the COP28 presidency published a summary of the World Climate Action Summit, a gathering of more than 150 heads of state aimed at facilitating coordinated climate action.
The document states that world leaders "highlighted the opportunities to cut emissions in every sector and to accelerate the technology innovation to address scope 3 emissions, as well as the phase-down of fossil fuels in support of a transition consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C."
Romain Ioualalen, global policy lead at Oil Change International , said in a statement that "strong support from the leaders' summit to address fossil fuels in the final COP28 agreement is a promising sign, but it is just good enough."
"Leaders must raise their ambition above a phase-down, and agree to immediately stop new fossil fuel expansion, and build a fast, full, fair, and funded phaseout of all fossil fuels while rapidly phasing in renewables," said Ioualalen. "Contrary to the COP28 president's assertions, the science is abundantly clear that warming will continue as long as we keep producing and burning fossil fuels."