BUFFALO, N.Y. — Students for Justice in Palestine is a group that has drawn significant controversy since Oct. 7 when Hamas launched an attack on Israel.

It has chapters in colleges and universities across the country, and state Assemblymember Ari Brown said as a Jewish-American, the organization's messaging is deeply concerning.

"(My) grandmother went into the Holocaust," Brown said. "I've heard these stories my whole life. It started off in the places of higher education and then it always led to something else."

SJP was one of two groups Columbia University suspended last week citing unauthorized events, threatening rhetoric and intimidation. In a letter this week, a group of lawmakers, primarily Republican and from the New York State Assembly and New York City Council, asked Gov. Kathy Hochul to work with institutions, investigate and potentially shut down chapters.

They said the umbrella group directly associates with Hamas and endorses the use of violence and attacks on citizens.

"She's the boss. Put a stop to it and you pull the plug on any type of funding,” Brown said. “Part of that is shutting down these chapters and shutting down all type forms of hate speech.”

Associated chapters from schools like the University at Buffalo, University of Rochester and Cornell have organized or participated in protests.

"If they don't believe what the other chapters are saying, then be bold and say, ‘hey, we disagree.’ But they're not, so they're equally as guilty as whomever is putting out all this propaganda and threats," Brown said. 

The National SJP, in a statement, expressed concern about what it said is the suppression of students First Amendment rights and administrative overreach on campuses.

It continued to commend student organizers for "steadfastly upholding their political line despite these attempts to silence our righteous fight for justice."

Brown, however, believes it's antisemitism, not political speech.

"No other group would be persecuted in this way,” he said. “Imagine if they would do this to an African-American or our Latino brothers and sisters. It wouldn't happen. But a Jew? Easy target. Why? Well, we're 15 [million] or 14 million people. Let's send them back into the seas.”

The assemblyman said there are other groups besides SJP, even lawmakers, espousing the same rhetoric and the governor should take a hard line on all of it. Hochul previously increased state law enforcement presence on campuses and monitoring of hate speech.

Her office did not immediately return a request for comment in response to this week's letter.