Jewish SUNY New Paltz students accuse sex abuse survivor group of anti-Israel discrimination

Cassandra Blotner and Ofek Preis say New Paltz Accountability (NPA), a group Blotner founded to combat sexual assault, has discriminated against them due to their pro-Israel views.

The Academic Spine at SUNY New Paltz. (photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/crz4mets2)
The Academic Spine at SUNY New Paltz.
(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/crz4mets2)

Two Jewish students at State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz have accused the school of antisemitism after they were excluded from a sex abuse survivors group on campus due to what they say is their pro-Israel views. 

The civil rights complaint, filed by Jewish on Campus and the Brandeis Center for Human Rights – which previously sued ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s for supporting the boycott movement against Israel – claimed that “SUNY [New Paltz]…is permitting a hostile environment that marginalizes and excludes these Jewish… and Israeli sexual assault survivor students.”

Cassandra Blotner and Ofek Preis say New Paltz Accountability (NPA), a group Blotner and another student founded to combat sexual assault, demanded Blotner defend her views after posting on her personal Instagram account that “Jews are an ethnic group who come from Israel. This is proven by genealogical, historical and archeological evidence. Israel is not a ‘colonial’ state and Israelis aren’t ‘settlers.’ You cannot colonize the land your ancestors are from.”

Blotner said she subsequently faced harassment on social media, as students called her a “dumb b—h” who supports “mass genocide,” according to the complaint. 

Preis, a Jewish Israeli student and NPA member, shared Blotner’s social media post on her own account, which she says led the NPA to block her access to shared organizational documents and stop contacting Preis about group activities.

 Hundreds of students surround SUNY New Paltz Student Union Building. (credit: JUSTIN HOLMES via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS) Hundreds of students surround SUNY New Paltz Student Union Building. (credit: JUSTIN HOLMES via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Preis eventually issued a public resignation from the NPA, to which the NPA issued a document stating that they don’t support Zionism or the Israeli government because they don’t “support imperialism, settler-colonialism, nor white supremacy” and “supporting a settler-colonial state goes against what we stand for and thus we cannot organize with members who do so.” 

“Those members have left the organization due to our political differences,” the NPA statement concluded. 

Blotner and Preis speak out

“Expressing support for the Jewish homeland is core to my Jewish identity, the two are inseparable, and I shouldn’t have to shed that piece of my Judaism in order to advocate for survivors of sexual assault,” Blotner said in the Brandeis Center’s press release. “To then get canceled, stalked and harassed, well I can’t even put into words what a horrific and frightening experience this all turned into for me.”

Preis added that “excommunicating and excluding Jewish and Israeli survivors from NPA denies us of our right to fight against sexual assault on college campuses and hold our universities accountable… I should not have been asked to choose between being Israeli or being a survivor.” 

Jewish students are being targeted by “anti-Zionist hatred that invokes classic antisemitic tropes about Jewish power and control,” said Denise Katz-Prober, Brandeis Center’s director of legal initiatives. 

“The NPA then made clear to Preis, and through numerous posts on its Instagram, [that] the group was only open to those who reject Zionism,” the Brandeis Center’s press release said.