Mar

4

LectureHop: Columbia Palestine Forum

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 Graphic used by Adalah New York speakers

Bwog’s Liz Naiden squeezed into Hamilton 517 early for the Columbia Palestine Forum.

Eager throngs crowded closer to the door and looked longingly into a small Hamilton classroom where the Columbia Palestine Forum was about to commence (Columbia Palestine Forum being both the name of the event and the group that sponsored it). Quick background: the group demands (among other items) that Columbia issue a declaration of support for academic freedom in Palestine, “condemn the destructive actions of the Israeli state,” and hold “an open forum detailing its investments in companies and corporations actively involved in or profiting from the Israeli occupation, to begin a conversation University-wide conversation about divestment.” 

The four-professor panel (Gil Andijar, Bruce Robbins, Brinkley Messick, and Mahmood Mamdani) mainly addressed issues of academic freedom, how universities are involved in governmental and military policy, and the application of the term “apartheid” to the situation in Israel and Palestine. Anidjar opened with a discussion about the relationship between boycotting and freedom, ultimately agreeing with the US government�s view that boycotting is a legitimate way to promote and exercise freedom.

Robbins followed by defining academic freedom as not being able to be fired for what one writes and says. Robbins argued that, using this definition, Israel restricts many Palestinians’ academic freedom. He went on to add that the Israeli government�s actions are violations not of academic freedom but of human rights. Messick focused on protecting academic freedom, which he argues can be done by �protecting the space of the academy where free discourse can happen,” and gave examples of the damage military connections can have on universities.

Finally, Mamdani focused mostly on the use of the term apartheid, acknowledging that it does not fit perfectly with the situation in Israel. He provided instead the example of the oppression by freed African slaves returning to Liberia of the population they found there. The returning Liberians created a society of institutionalized discrimination that violated the human rights of the second class, who had never been �civilized� by living in America. Though he clarified that apartheid is specific to racial discrimination, Mamdani argued the distinction was immaterial, and that Israel is linked to South Africa by a similar systematization.

After the professors spoke, two Columbia grads representing the Palestinian advocacy group Adalah New York gave a brief presentation about the history of Israel. Included in the presentation was a series of maps which compared the Jewish holdings in the early 20th century and those of today, a list of human rights violations of the Israeli government, and figures outlining the list of companies to boycott, including hummus producer Sabra, L’Oreal, Motorola, and Max Brenner Chocolate. During the presentation, one of the activists spoke passionately about her experience as a Palestinian. She said that her movement is restricted while at home, and showed us her required ID card.

After Olivia Rosane, BC ’09 and one of the founders of the Columbia Palestine Forum, outlined the demands of the group, the floor was opened for questions and comments. Some of the comments and questions were critical of the presenters, particularly questions that touched upon Hamas and questions concerning a two state solution. Mamdani clarified that he was not in favor of the dissolution of Israel, and that, for all he cared, �there can be ten states! It doesn�t matter how many states there are. I really don�t care how many states there are. I care about the quality of citizenship.� This opinion was echoed by the rest of the presenters, as were Mamdani�s feelings towards Hamas, which he characterized as seemingly shifting seamlessly between a terrorist organization and a liberation movement like the IRA. He also noted that Britain eventually had to negotiate with the IRA after spending years searching for a �good Irish organization.”

When the Q&A was cut short due to time considerations, the moderator encouraged the audience to sign a petition and attend the speak-out tomorrow at noon on Low Plaza, where the Columbia Palestine Forum will face off with the administration on Columbia�s divestment and academic freedom policies. Get your popcorn ready.

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30 Comments

  1. Anon  

    Hmph. They couldn't even get 100 people to sign their petition.

    • well,  

      being as the petition has been public for about a week, i would say that's a pretty good amount of people.

      to #2: are you suggesting that gains made in wartime--no matter how the war was started--are legitimately won? i thought israel was just in the business of protecting itself? i guess if it has to emasculate every country around it then maybe it should have picked a different spot. zionists looked at a lot of different places before being given palestine by the worst imperialists the world has ever seen, the british!

      • What in the hell?

        This is a case of 'live by the sword...' If you launch an unprovoked attack you must be prepared for retaliation including loss of territory.
        Did you expect Israel to chuckle and say "hahaha, good one guys! you almost had us!" I hope you realize how silly your opinion is.

  2. Bwog  

    Could you please use another graphic? If you do some reasearch it is _really_ controversial. For example, the second to the third transformation was the result of a war that Israel won after nearly every single Arab country in the area launched an otherwise unprovoked attack on Israel.

    • James  

      As detailed in the caption, the graphic is a visualization used by one of the forum's speakers. It is included as another piece of information for those who did not attend the forum.

  3. awww  

    i love gil. he's soooo dreamy.

  4. Armin Rosen

    Very interesting that Mamdani only cares about the "quality of citizenship," a stance which puts him in the same camp as Israeli liberals like David Grossman and even Gideon Levy. This is an argument that's constantly made from a Zionist perspective (although it isn't made that often in Israel, unfortunately...)--that Zionism isn't about the mere fact of political sovereignty, but the responsibility that comes with it, including the responsibility of crafting a just society.

    Of course Mamdani's idea of "just and equal" is probably a lot different than Grossman and Halevi's. But maybe not. His stance here is shockingly moderate...

  5. Armin Rosen

    Very interesting that Mamdani only cares about the "quality of citizenship," a stance which puts him in the same camp as Israeli liberals like David Grossman and even Gideon Levy. This is an argument that's constantly made from a Zionist perspective (although it isn't made that often in Israel, unfortunately...)--that Zionism isn't about the mere fact of political sovereignty, but the responsibility that comes with it, including the responsibility of crafting a just society.

    Of course Mamdani's idea of "just and equal" is probably a lot different than Grossman and Levy's. But maybe not. His stance here is shockingly moderate...

  6. Peace, not Divestment

    Regardless of how you feel about Israel, this divestment scheme is ultimately a pointless and counterproductive enterprise. The goal of the effort is to end Israel's "Apartheid" which the activists define as the existence of the Jewish State itself.
    Any one with even a modicum of knowledge regarding the facts on the ground knows that this will never happen, and will only spur terrorists like Hamas (who have the same goals as the divestment activists) to continue the cycle of violence.
    These people are not interested in peace- if they were they would be advocating a 2 state solution. All they care about is propagating their ideology, no matter how many Israelis and Palestinians have to die for that to occur.

    • meh  

      "These people are not interested in peace- if they were they would be advocating a 2 state solution. All they care about is propagating their ideology, no matter how many Israelis and Palestinians have to die for that to occur."

      Who are you talking about when you say "these people"? Hamas? The Israeli government? Zionist activists? Palestinian activists? Cause this statement could pretty much apply to most of them.

      • 2 state solution

        Has been endorsed by the Israeli government (sure, some politicians don't, but it's a democracy - that's what happens) and you'll be hard-pressed to find a mainstream zionist activist that rejects it. Whereas the Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel lest the Jews use it to take over the world (http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm), and many Palestinian activists I've spoken to reject it as well.

        • meh  

          many Palestinian activists I've spoken to accept it. And Benjamin Netanyahu has not accepted it in discussions with Tzipi Livni. I would consider him to be "mainstream".

          • That is insane

            I've kind of bit my tongue in this argument as I've been one of those people who thinks both sides are just about equally batshiat insane. You should know, just by reading any reputable news source, that Netanyahu is representative of the ultra-right in Israel. Livni is center-right won the majority of the vote in the most recent campaign but failed to make a coalition government; that's why Netanyahu is in power now. Could you explain to me in what way he is mainstream?

          • Ha!

            You obviously don't know what you're talking about. What reputable news source? Did you follow the Israeli election campaign? Because it wasn't covered on any American news channel, just so you know, and I follow them all. So which news source have you been following? Netanyahu spent the first few weeks of his campaign battling a settler leader who pressed for a complete rejection of the two-state, land-for-peace paradigm, and who only commanded, mind you, 20% of the vote in a Likud leadership race. And even though this individual secured the 20th place in the Likud party list by an open democratic vote, Netanyahu lobbied the organizing committees of the party to demote him to an utterly unattainable 40th place-- a decision which the individual in question chose not to contest before the judicial courts. That's how much Netanyahu feared the notion of having an uncompromising right wing politician in his midst. If you have ever followed his career closely-- and it is obvious you haven't-- you would know that he has, on many an occasion, committed both formally and informally to negotiations, and has often used cleverly deceptive slogans to avoid categorical opposition to them. This time, he used intentional ambiguity-- never once rejecting the diplomatic framework, and even shirking from an opportunity to debate his adversaries, despite his proven proficiency in debate. Now don't get me wrong. I don't think there's anything wrong in being categorically opposed to the peace process, or in being categorically opposed to the manner in which it has been pursued. I don't think it is at all a position to be ashamed of, and I certainly don't think it warrants being described as extreme. In fact, I think it is a sound position supported by both principle and strategic reality. But, in any event, your categorization of Netanyahu is ignorant.

  7. Ben

    To #9: where are you getting the information that these activists oppose a 2 state solution? I was at the event and I didn't hear them calling for the end of Israel. Please cite your sources, or be an adult and retract your statement.

    • Peace not divestment  

      I was at the event too and they clearly interpreted apartheid to be the existence of a Jewish state in any part of "historic Palestine". The first demand of the campaign is "an end tooccupation of all Arab lands." sounds like calling for the destruction of Israel to me.

  8. Anonymous

    The should include a graphic that shows how Native American territory has been reduced over the years, and then they should urge us to divest from the United States.

  9. meh  

    I am aware of the election results. He is not a representative of the ultra-right, he is center-right. You are probably thinking of Lieberman. Maybe your 'reputable news source' is old. Also, Likud only got one less MP seat than Kadima, so it isn't like Livni was overwhelmingly more popular than he. Either way, as leader of one of the top 2 parties, I would classify that as mainstream.

  10. So wait  

    Do you also think that Israeli settlers' unprovoked attacks on Palestinian civilians justifies suicide bombings? There are plenty of Palestinians who would like to live by the ploughshare, but can not, because the IDF/settlers attack them whenever they go out to harvest:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHhECvN2kQI

    In its last war, Israel carpet-bombed CIVILIANS. The architect of that war, Ehud Barak, suffered a stinging defeat because he was too left-wing. "

    • a few things

      1) is it responsible to set up your rocket-launching gear in dense Gaza City?
      2) Barak may have been defense minister, but it was IDF leadership that was planning the war, so your basic argument (Barak plans tactics that kill civillians, Barak is too liberal, therefore everyone in Israel is to the right of Barak and loves to kill civillians) is deeply flawed and sad. Israelis don't want their children having to hide in bomb shelters during recess because of rocket attacks on land that is unquestionably theirs (i.e. negev towns that were desert 75 years ago). Israelis do want peace. A minority of idiot right-wing religious Israelis totalling, as this recent election proved, somewhere south of 15% of the populace is batshit crazy and racist to boot So think the other 85%, and hopefully any Netaynahu-led government will either fail quickly as a right-wing coalition or include Kadima and work along with Mitchell and Sec. Clinton toward a new round of talks.

    • Ahem...

      Barak is not perceived as too left wing because he, as Defense Minister, led a long-overdue and long-avoided response to the anarchy in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, in which a good number of terrorists were killed, and an unfortunate number of civilians killed with them. He is perceived-- and properly so-- as too left wing because he offered Yasser Arafat 95% of the West Bank, and sovereignty over East Jerusalem-- a bargaining position so befitting his perceived strategic brilliance that it invited the Palestinians to demand full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, a right of return to pre-1948 Israel, and other things even more intolerable to any believer in a strong Israeli state. He crossed every "red-line," reneged upon every promise, and abandoned every principle that had guided scores of governments before him. And the result was an unparalleled increase in violence, and a separation fence that few Israelis would dare dismantle out of fear of renewed attack. Peace!

  11. oh noes  

    please don't tell me max brenner is evil. It can't be true. He's like willy wonka but real.

  12. Hypocrisy

    Just making this point again, any of you divestment people better check the computer you are using to make these posts, because if it uses a Pentium Processor, it's off limits.

  13. Anonymous

    what in the world do "Sabra, L'Oreal, Motorola, and Max Brenner Chocolate" have to do with anything? is the problem just that they're israeli companies? what feeble logic. if you don't want to buy these brands, then don't, but what's it got to do with pushing columbia toward some divestment campaign? this just goes to show how supposedly 'smart' sometimes aren't all that smart. i suppose these seem people might protest paying taxes to the u.s. govt since, well, some of their tax dollars do in fact go to israel in the form of support [not to mention gaza as well, thereby indirectly supporting a govt. that refuses to restrain indiscriminate rocket fire on civilians]. these proposals are laughable and will go nowhere.

  14. Billy

    Wow, Robbins is still whoring his ass out pretending he's some kind of public intellectual in lieu of demonstrating some competence as an English professor?...some things never change.

  15. Few more things  

    1) Yes. I don't want Columbia investing in Hamas either. But given that the U.S. government would ban us from doing that even if we wanted to, I want to be sure we avoid supporting either set of brutal war criminals.

    2) Sadly--yes, it is quite sad, but we must face facts--you are incorrect. This war had overwhelming support in Israel, even as the scale of destruction became clear. Barak's poll numbers rose dramatically as the war was in progress, then fell when it ended. Israelis like war, no matter how many children they kill. At one point, Israelis wanted peace. After Sabra and Shatila, there were massive antiwar protests. But 25 years of that have desensitized Israelis, so now those protests have maybe 1000 people.

  16. rapidshare

    Regardless of how you feel about Israel, this divestment scheme is ultimately a pointless and counterproductive enterprise. The goal of the effort is to end Israel's "Apartheid" which the activists define as the existence of the Jewish State itself.

    dsl speed

  17. rapidshare fan

    In fact, I think it is a sound position supported by both principle and strategic reality. But, in any event, your categorization of Netanyahu is ignorant.

    http://loadingvault.com/rapidshare_dsl_speed.html

  18. Mark Bernadiner

    Starting in 1948 from very first day of recreation of the State of Israel on the part of Israel territory, Arab countries waged several wars to eliminate Israel from her historic land. Israel won all wars and now Arab countries propose a peace agreement with Israel under conditions, which they intended to dictate. However, only Israel, who won all the wars and defeated Arab countries, has legal rights to formulate and dictate peace agreement terms and conditions, which, in general, shell include the following provisions:

    1. Palestinian muslims must compensate Jews for damages caused by Jews massacres (actually, it was Holocaust) conducted in Palestine in 1920s-1930s under British administration supervision, for providing Hitler with idea of Final Solution and for taking active part in implementing the idea in Europe.
    2. Arab countries must compensate Israel for damages inflicted on Israel during wars launched by Arab countries.
    3. Arab countries must compensate several million Jews expelled from Arab countries between 1948 and 1953, where they lived for centuries, for violation of international law and stilling Jewish properties.
    4. Arab countries must recognize “Article 24 of the 1964 PLO charter addressed to UN, which stipulates: Palestinian muslims do not claim Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza their territories” which gives Israel full legal rights to remove muslims from occupied Israel land of Palestine.
    5. Arab countries must comply with Geneva Convention, which recognizes Israel rights on Gaza, Judea and Samaria, historic Jewish land liberated by Israel in 1967 war from Jordan and Egypt occupation.
    6. Arab countries must recognize Jerusalem as historic Israel capital.
    7. Egypt and Jordan are obligated to relocate Palestinian muslims (their former citizens) from Gaza (Egypt), Judea and Samaria (Jordan) inside their territories within 1 (negotiable) year term.
    8. Arab countries have no right to develop or acquire WMD or weapon that can be used against Israel.

    If any Arab country denies this peace terms and conditions, Israel has full legal rights for preemptive strike against this country using all available military power. All islamofascism organizations operating on Israel territory occupied by Palestinian muslims, such as PLO&Fatah (created after WWII on the principles of Hitler’s ideology and with close ties to Nazi party), Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al Agsa Brigade, must be totally, unconditionally and immediately exterminated. All other Palestinian muslims must be expelled from Israel back to the countries of their origin.

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