Proving that even middle grounds can be staked forcefully, the Campus Democrats released a statement lambasting the recent Gaza protests on campus, accusing both camps of harmful divisiveness. They urged dialogue instead of separate protests and unveiled their plan to cosponsor, along with CIRCA, the College Republicans, Hillel, Turath, and the Chaplain’s Office, a “community conversation on the recent conflict” on February 10th. The Dems emphasized that “all perspectives are welcome” at the event.
Although underlining the openness of their upcoming conversation, the Democrats showed little restraint in criticizing the protest groups. They compared the quibbling in Morningside Heights to the battling in the Middle East. “If words possessed the force of rockets or the power of bombs,” the press release says, “Columbia’s campus would be as devastated as Gaza City or Sderot.” And that would no doubt suck.
The Dems concluded by declaring it “is time for us to beat our polemics into plowshares.” No word on whether the Dems apply that to their own press releases. Full statement after the jump.
Columbia University College Democrats
STATEMENT ON CONFLICT IN GAZA/SOUTHERN ISRAEL
Five thousand miles away, a thin green line separates two goods from two evils, two oppressors from their oppressed, two rights from two wrongs. Five thousand miles away a night without death is merely a temporary blessing. Five thousand miles away two great religions have abandoned the power of faith that connects them through a common god and instead put their faith in power: the power to annihilate, the power to live without compassion. Five thousand miles away the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace differ by just a few phonemes, but the concept seems totally untranslatable.
And in Morningside Heights, we are no better.
If words possessed the force of rockets or the power of bombs, Columbia’s campus
would be as devastated as Gaza City or Sderot. On Monday two student factions faced off on College Walk. They stood in solidarity with Gaza. They stood in solidarity with Israel. But they did not stand in solidarity with peace. They did not stand in solidarity with dialogue. They did not stand in solidarity with compassion.
How can we expect our world leaders to negotiate for peace when college students can’t even critically engage with each other? We are so often told that we are the best and the brightest, the leaders of tomorrow. It’s time we started acting like it.
The Columbia University College Democrats call for a new era of pragmatic campus activism, activism that seeks to channel the emotional importance that this issue holds for so many of us into a meaningful exchange of ideas. We demand that the two sides of this conflict in academia take a higher moral position than the two sides have taken in the Middle East.
We issue this call not with an idealism blind to centuries of strife, but with the firm
conviction that there are political steps to be taken in the United States in the interest of peace, steps that all sides, if they cannot agree upon, should at least discuss. The wedge-issues over patches of land and notions of history have long been used to break negotiations; we as students need not let these deal-breakers prevent us from uniting, at least in conversation, behind our common desire for peace.
We hope to see the same passion that went into planning separate rallies channeled into good-faith attempts to launch community-wide discussion. We hope that those who have been vocal and those who have not on all sides of this conflict can join together to explore their convictions, achieve a greater understanding, and maybe even find common ground. As an organization, we are committed to fostering those opportunities, and are proudly cosponsoring “Perspectives on Conflict, Perspectives on Peace,” a community dialogue event, with the Columbia International Relations Council and Association, the College Republicans, Hillel, Turath, the Office of the University Chaplain, and others. The event, which will take place in Earl Hall on Tuesday, February 10 at 8:30 pm, will be a facilitated conversation to begin to react to the recent crisis in Gaza and southern Israel and think together about where to go from here. The College Democrats hope it will serve merely as a starting point that will grow into continuing dialogue and collective action.
Let’s replace opposing rallies with joint endeavors that seek not only to display our grief in a time of chaos, but also to unite to bring political pressure to those who have the power to end it. Let’s see renewed calls for a two-state solution, a US government critical of excessive force on both sides, and an effective negotiating process in which leaders are ready to make sacrifices in order to ensure a lasting peace.
Peace will only happen when we accept that it is possible. It is time for us to beat our polemics into plowshares. It is time to move forward.