Student charged with bias incident, ‘no contact’ order after making ‘Zionist’ comments at pro-Israel event

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Student charged with bias incident, ‘no contact’ order after making ‘Zionist’ comments at pro-Israel event

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A SLU student has been disciplined by the University for referring to two members of the Jewish Student Association as “Zionist fascists,” following a verbal altercation with presenters at a pro-Israel event last semester.

On April 4, Christopher Winston, a sophomore at the time, attended an ATLAS Week event entitled, “Israel: First Responders to World Crisis.” The event was hosted by the Jewish Student Association and was intended to “discuss how Israel often sends aid to nations hit by natural disasters, health epidemics, and conflict,” according to its Facebook page. Scott Lasky and David Weinstein gave an hour-long presentation on the topic, which was followed by a brief question-and-answer period.

Winston later described the event as “propaganda.” A self-recorded video posted to YouTube depicts Winston speaking up towards the end of the Q&A. He objected to claims made by the presenters about Israeli ambulances sending aid to people in need, and referenced reports that Israeli forces had attacked ambulances owned by the Palestinian Red Crescent (the Islamic version of the Red Cross).

Winston went back and forth with both Lasky and Weinstein for about two minutes, their interaction remaining relatively cordial. The video clip ends with the presenters moving on to another student’s question.

According to Winston, he later brought up the Palestinian conflict again, this time off camera. After further debate, Lasky and Weinstein threatened to call Public Safety to have Winston removed from the event. Winston states that he stayed quiet for the remainder of the event; however, as he was leaving, he addressed both Weinstein and Lasky as “Zionist fascists.” Neither Lasky nor Weinstein were available for comment.

On April 13, the Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards sent Winston an email informing him that Weinstein and Lasky had filed a complaint against him. The pair had also requested a “no contact order” — essentially SLU’s version of a restraining order — claiming that they felt Winston was a “threat to their health, safety and wellbeing.” The school also charged Winston with involvement in a “bias-related incident.”

After the no contact order was officially put into place by SLU, Winston continued to suffer administrative repercussions . After several weeks, Winston received another email from the university, claiming he violated section 15-16 2.7.20 of the SLU Community Standards, which relates to inappropriate conduct.

At his hearing, however, the charge was switched to disruptive behavior, in addition to the bias incident. According to the Bias Incident Response Team, the bias incident they were charging him with was related to his comment about “Zionist fascists.”

Winston appealed his case through the Student Appeal Board, but was denied.

Winston believes his case received special treatment. “It was weird though, the appeal board is supposed to be a panel of your peers that decides on your case, but my appeal board was made up completely of staff,” said Winston.

Once an appeal has been denied, the case is closed, meaning that Winston’s charges will remain on his record and that he’ll be on disciplinary warning until December of 2017.

Despite the ordeal, Winston refused to give up his cause. “There’s no way I can get the charges dropped, so for now I am done fighting with SLU. I refuse to transfer though. If I transfer, SLU wins because I gave up. I definitely am not quitting activism either. How could I ever possibly face the Palestinian people if I let two Zionists with a piece of paper intimidate me? I couldn’t.”