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Palestinian student group says it was singled out by Northeastern

Members and supporters of a pro-Palestinian student group suspended by Northeastern University said Tuesday that it was singled out because its views are unpopular and that the administration was bowing to pressure from alumni and donors.

Professor M. Shahid Alam, an economics professor and the group’s faculty adviser, said he believed Students for Justice in Palestine had been politically targeted. “The university has done this under pressure from donors; that’s my feeling,” Alam said. “Over the past year, there has been a concentrated campaign pressuring Northeastern to take action.”

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The group was suspended this month after members slipped 600 “mock eviction” notices under dorm room doors to draw attention to the Israeli government’s forced evictions of Palestinians.

A Northeastern spokeswoman said the group was suspended because it flouted university rules, vandalized school property, and failed to deliver a “civility statement” outlining rules for future conduct, required after the group was placed on probation last year for a walkout at a campus presentation by Israeli soldiers.

“They are not being singled out,” said Renata Nyul. “There is no pressure coming from anywhere. This is simply the result of violating a series of policies and procedures that every single student organization needs to adhere to.”

Some students at Northeastern, including members of the campus Jewish group Hillel, have criticized the leaflet campaign as an act of intimidation.

The group has appealed its suspension. Nyul said the appeal is under review. She could not say when the school would decide the fate of two members facing possible discipline for violating rules about allowing guests into a dorm during the flier distribution.

According to an earlier statement from the university, those students do not face suspension or expulsion.

At a campus teach-in Tuesday hosted by the Northeastern School of Law’s student chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a leader of the pro-Palestinian group told about 35 supporters that they would continue their activism.

“Whether or not SJP is administratively an actual organization with funding, that can book rooms, it doesn’t really matter,” said Tori Porell, 22, a senior who was president of the group until its suspension.

“As we see here today, we have so many supportive student organizations who believe in the work that we’re doing and want to hear this message continue that we’re going to have no trouble booking space,” Porell added.

C. Heike Schotten, an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Boston who has served as adviser to that college’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, told the crowd the suspension was part of a larger effort to silence unpopular views in academia.

“As the students have amply demonstrated . . . the violations of student conduct policy with which they have been charged range from flimsy to baseless,” Schotten said.

“Even if they were true, the suspension would still be outrageous,” she said. “To suspend a student organization for posting fliers in unapproved places or staging unremarkable demonstrations with imperfect university preapproval is like giving people probation for littering.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Palestinian settlers.

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