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Student Coalition Condemns SSI Event On Indigenous Narratives

Flyer for the event

Flyer for the event

Tonight at 8pm in Mathematics 312, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a newly recognized student group, is hosting an event called “Indigenous People Unite.” This event will involve a panel of five speakers representing indigenous peoples from around the world; their nationalities are Assyrian, Yazidi, Israelite, Native Canadian, and Tibetan. According to the description of the event on Facebook, “the thousand year old sacred connection to a piece of land and the constant attempts of destruction and oppression, brings these people together in a discussion centered around pursuing common interests.” Neither the names of the speakers nor their connections to Columbia are provided.

On Sunday, the Algemeiner (a Jewish newspaper) published a piece about this event, including statements from Rudy Rochman, GS ’19, president of SSI. Rochman said that several activist groups on Columbia’s campus “target the average student on campus by playing up and riding on the shoulders of other minority struggles,” and that tonight’s event aims to challenge that perception by including an Israelite in a conversation about other minority struggles. He said that “you can support Palestinian human rights while also supporting the story of Israel — the story of a people who have a right to exist like any native people.”

However, many groups on campus are not so certain that this is the case. This morning, we received a statement from 25 ethnic, national, and cultural campus groups that “stand in solidarity with indigenous people”, including CU Apartheid Divest, Columbia Queer Alliance, Black Students Organization, Chicanx Caucus, and Columbia Divest for Climate Justice. These groups condemn the event, on the basis that “there can be no common interests and no principled solidarity between indigenous people and those who defend and aid Israel’s active project of ethnic cleansing and colonization of the Palestinians and their land.” The statement goes on to claim that “this event masks the catastrophic impact that the state of Israel, with its theft of Palestinian land and lives, has had and continues to have on the indigenous people of Palestine since 1948.”

The statement concludes with a resolution from its signatories to “reject colonialism in every form,” and “call upon the greater Columbia community to recognize the past and present oppression of Palestinians and all indigenous peoples around the world.”

EDIT, as of 2:04 P.M.: Rudy Rochman sent us a response to the statement. He says that the “event has nothing to do with policies, conflicts, or future state solutions, but simply sharing the 4,000 year old history and culture of native people,” and invites all Columbia students to attend. This response, as well as the coalition’s full statement and a list of signatories, is included after the jump.

EDIT, as of 2:26 P.M.: GendeRevolution has now also signed the coalition’s statement; the list of signatories has been updated.

EDIT, as of 10:26 P.M.: Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel has released a statement in response to CUAD’s statement on the SSI event. You can read it fully after the jump.

Coalition’s Full Statement:

On December 6th, Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a Zionist group on Columbia’s campus, will be hosting an event entitled “Indigenous People Unite.” As a Zionist student organization, SSI aims to bolster support for the state of Israel, a settler-colonial state, and its occupation, elimination, and dispossession of the indigenous Palestinian population. The event claims to bring together five indigenous speakers on the premise of their “thousand year old sacred connection to a piece of land,” and will include a discussion “centered around pursuing common interests.” We believe there can be no common interests and no principled solidarity between indigenous people and those who defend and aid Israel’s active project of ethnic cleansing and colonization of the Palestinians and their land.

We reject this event on indigenous struggles hosted by a Zionist group as a form of colonial erasure and co-optation. SSI supports Israel’s expansion of internationally-condemned settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, and theft of Palestinian resources such as water and agriculture, all in direct contradiction to indigenous rights. For SSI to claim that it uplifts indigenous struggles is not only ironic, but also deeply damaging. This event masks the catastrophic impact that the state of Israel, with its theft of Palestinian land and lives, has had and continues to have on the indigenous people of Palestine since 1948. Ignoring the struggles of Palestinians and advocating for their further dispossession while claiming to uplift indigenous voices is an attempt to appropriate the language of their struggles to excuse colonialism.

As groups that stand in solidarity with indigenous people, we reject all acts to erase their existence in the struggle against colonialism. We repudiate SSI’s co-optation of indigeneity, which obscures Israel’s active silencing of Palestinian voices. From North Dakota to Nablus, we stand with all indigenous communities in their resistance to dispossession and the appropriation of their histories, with recognition for the stolen land of the Lenni Lenape beneath our very own academic institution. We reject colonialism in every form and call upon the greater Columbia community to recognize the past and present oppression of Palestinians and all indigenous peoples around the world.


Columbia University Apartheid Divest
CU Sewa
Proud Colors
Queer & Asian (Q&A)
Undocumented Students Initiative
Columbia Queer Alliance
International Socialist Organization
Muslim Students Association
No Red Tape CU
Student Worker Solidarity
Mobilized African Diaspora (MAD)
African Students Association
Chicanx Caucus
Columbia University Club Bangla
Black Students Organization (BSO)
Divest Barnard
Students Organize for Syria
Native American Council (NAC)
Columbia Divest for Climate Justice (CDCJ)
Mixed Heritage Society
Haitian Students Association
South Asian Feminist Alliance (SAFA)

Rochman’s response:

Here is yet another clear example of SJP using the legitimate struggles of Palestinians and piggybacking off the support of other minority groups, to pursue their goal of destroying Israel. SSI is a cultural group at Columbia University that seeks to share the story and ancient culture of the people and land of Israel.

Our event has nothing to do with policies, conflicts, or future state solutions, but simply sharing the 4,000 year old history and culture of native people.

To condemn a cultural event and to use the pain of others in order to justify hate, just shows their true agenda.

We welcome everyone to come out to our events and hope that we can be proud of our identity and culture without being bullied by those who clearly seek to destroy our very right to exist.

Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel’s statement:

In a statement released earlier today, CUAD condemns the event “Indigenous People Unite,” hosted by Students Supporting Israel. Aryeh neither has any affiliation with SSI nor participated in this event, but we are nonetheless troubled by CUAD’s deceptive and offensive response. CUAD contends that the event orchestrates what it labels an “erasure” of Palestinian identity. Yet, in addition to its willful misrepresentation of the conflict, CUAD’s response itself constitutes an erasure, as it unjustly denies the Jewish claim to the land of Israel.

Aryeh has made our stance on this issue abundantly clear. Both Jews and Palestinians have claims to the same land, a reality that underlies the necessity of a two-state solution. Instead of engaging in dialogue or contributing to tangible coexistence initiatives, CUAD ignores Jewish ties to the land, erasing thousands of years of history.

Millions of Jews and Arabs seek to live side-by-side in peace. As part of our Invest in Peace campaign, Aryeh is raising money for Children Teaching Children, an initiative of the Center for Jewish and Arab Peace at Givat Haviva, in Israel. The program pairs Jewish and Arab classrooms to foster mutual understanding and shared citizenship by tackling complex issues of national and individual identity, community life, and conflicting narratives in a shared land. We should strive for this sort of mutual understanding on our campus and not tolerate divisive and dishonest rhetoric. We encourage SSI and CUAD to join us in this work.

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  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Israel is a settler colonial state. Supporting Israel iS supporting colonialism.

    1. Ryan Bellerose says:

      @Ryan Bellerose the return of indigenous people is never a settler colonialist endeavour, I suggest you study history beginning with “arab conquest 7th century”

  • Marcus says:

    @Marcus I always struggle to understand how fellow liberals can be so blind to the struggles of the Jewish people. They have lived in Israel long before the word “colonialize” even existed, and have attempted to better the lives of their Palestinian neighbors. People forget that if the Palestinian neighbors didn’t invade Israel in 1948, they would have had a state for over sixty years. The reason the Palestinians do not have the right to self-determination is the fault of their leadership and their Arab neighbors, and scapegoating the Jews will only make this problem worse.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Palestinians have been in the area every bit as long if not longer than the Jews.

    1. Ryan Bellerose says:

      @Ryan Bellerose not even remotely true, 4 thousand years or presence by Jews as opposed to less than 1400 by arabs

    2. Jose Cruz says:

      @Jose Cruz That is ridiculous. Arabs were the original invaders of Israel and have been squatting on Jewish land ever since.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous “Native Americans” were barely in the United States a century before Columbus.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous ???????????????????????????????????????????

    2. impressedccstudent says:

      @impressedccstudent ^Giving this post by anon an award for sneaking in probably the most intellectually fascinating idea (the intellectual experiment in which if for the purposes of the experiment we say that the “indingenous” inhabitants of the area in question had only really recently in the historical sense had become “indigenous” to the area. 100 years is interesting because it would roughly represent 5 or 6 generations in the lives of the people in question; therefore considering life expectancty of fthe era we could JUST roughly say with certanty that 100 years after settlement, there would be no one alive among them, who had been a CHILD of THE CHILDREN of THE ORIGINAL SETTELERS – ie we can say – if only – there is no one 100 years later, who would have likely met someone, who had been or just had met one of the orignal settlers. And if this was the case would it have anyeffect ethically on how we look at what happened?)

  • Victor says:

    @Victor The historical connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel is supported by the extensive archeological record. Denying it is like denying the Theory of Evolution. This event is apolitical and should not have been controversial. The only reason for the condemnation is because SJP’s agenda is to delegitimize Jewish people in order to undermine and ultimately destroy the State of Israel. It is unfortunate that the other groups align with SJP whose agenda is to hijack every struggle to make it about themselves.

  • Corey Multer says:

    @Corey Multer You should be ashamed to be promoting the propaganda narrative of the anti-Israel hate patrol. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of the region knows (based on all historic and geological record) that the Jews are the indigenous people of the region. (The name “Jew” comes from Judea.) Anyone with knowledge of history also knows that Arab presence at all dates back only a few centuries and in any significant numbers no more than about 150+ years, with most Arabs in the area being nomadic migrant workers. They also know that no Palestinian Arab identity even existed prior to the 1960s, when the Egyptian Arafat figured out how to use such an identity for propaganda purposes. (Prior to then, the term Palestinian generally referred to Jews from the area, and Arabs generally considered it an insult to be called a Palestinian.) Most importantly, your printing of the statement’s libelous lies about the Jews being settler colonists, about them stealing water and land, disposition of people, and ethnic cleansing without pointing out their inaccuracy does a terrible disservice to your readers.

    If you want to present yourself as a legitimate news source and not a cheap propaganda rag, then you should be more careful about what you print and how you present it.

    1. Corey Multer says:

      @Corey Multer Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that the ONLY reason why any people in the area remain in sorry straights is the intransigence of the Arab leadership and the Palestinian Arabs’ refusal to accept a Jewish state in the region in any form. Their ability to sell their fictional narrative of being an oppressed minority is one of the great public relations case studies of our time.

      1. Anonymous says:

        @Anonymous Isn’t it Israel the one refusing to accept the Palestinian state?

        1. Victor says:

          @Victor Anonymous,

          You are mistaken. Palestinians could have had a state many times over if their corrupt leadership would have agreed. But the leadership refused multiple offers of the state by Barak and Olmert giving them virtually everything they asked for because they want to continue steal from their own people the funds donated by EU and other countries. Abbas is a billionaire. In fact, it is the Palestinians who do not want to accept Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Please educate yourself.

        2. Corey Multer says:

          @Corey Multer No, Anon. Israel is the one who who has made offer after offer after offer trying to achieve peaceful coexistence, even going so far as to release convicted murderers from prison just to get the other side to sit down and talk about peace. It’s the Arabs who have said “No” to every offer ever presented to them and who have never offered EVEN A SINGLE CONCESSION to their many ridiculous demands. And it’s the Arabs who are murdering innocent civilians in stabbing attacks and car rammings and even slitting the throats of innocent children sleeping in their beds. And who reward vicious murderers with salaries and by naming streets after them. And who teach their children that it’s noble to aspire to murder and savagery as their life’s ambition. Now do you understand the difference between the two sides?

    2. steve says:

      @steve “the Jews are the indigenous people of the region.”

      the European jews who moved there?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous SSI is a recognized student group? Um … fact check on that one. Wasn’t up for vote for SGB, from what I can recall, and it wouldn’t fit under other councils.

    1. Victor says:

      @Victor You are incorrect. SSI was recognized officially a few weeks ago.

  • indifferent says:

    @indifferent but if all those groups are mad at you then you must be doing something good

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Glad to see Columbia Dives for Climate Justice and Gender Revolution talking about the issue that really matters to them: Palestine.

    This intersectionality bullshit really needs to stop.

  • Alum says:

    @Alum It’s just sad to see Columbia Queer Alliance and GendeRevolution engage in this kind of ridiculous reaction – especially when they are but too aware of the challenges LGBT and others face in Palestine (or, really, pretty much anywhere in the Middle East except for parts of Israel).

  • Another Alumni says:

    @Another Alumni Well worth reading for those who really care about indigenous people. Ryan Bellerose is a well-known Canadian activist for indigenous rights. Here is the link relevant to this event:


  • J Sacks says:

    @J Sacks I am Jewish and I am indigenous to Poland and Lithuania. That is where my ancestors are from. They are not from Palestine.

    Zionists are trying to erase my own heritage by falsely claiming that all Jews are from Palestine. This is a completely false narrative. There are Jews from Palestine, ie Palestinian Jews. They numbered about 10-20,000 during the 1880s. They are the only Jews who can be considered indigenous to Palestine.

    Claiming otherwise merely legitimises the colonialial domination of the Palestinians. And if you don’t think that Zionism is a form of racist colonialism, take it from the founder of Zionism himself, Theodor Herzl:

    “Society will enter into negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories come under consideration, Palestine and Argentina. In both countries important experiments in colonization have been made, though on the mistaken principle of a gradual infiltration of Jews. An infiltration is bound to end in disaster. It continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened, and forces the Government to stop the further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless based on an assured supremacy.”

    1. taking this one step further... says:

      @taking this one step further... You seem to imply that since a certain amount of time has passed since Jews ruled in Palestine, that they lost their right to be considered indigenous. Would that same logic apply to other indigenous people? In the year 3000, for example, will we declare that the Native Americans no longer have any claim to their lands?

    2. From Russia with Love says:

      @From Russia with Love J Sacks, have you lived in Poland and Lithuania? Have you even visited? I lived in Eastern Europe and let me tell you, Poles and Lithuanians certainly do not think that Jews are indigenous there as has been proven by the long history of pogroms.

  • Reluctant Hawk says:

    @Reluctant Hawk Dear J Sacks,

    I am of a similar ethnic background to you. I think though that you are misinformed about your own origins. For the most part, Jews who lived in eastern Europe before the Holocaust were not considered to be part of the Polish, Lithuanian, Russian communities by the Poles, Lithuanians, and Russians themselves. Neither did they consider themselves to be of those nationalities, but rather saw themselves as Jews. (The idea that your nationality is the same as your citizenship is a relatively new one.)

    The scientific evidence suggests that you have substantial ancestry from the area of ancient Israel, e.g.:

    You, of course, are free to decide for yourself what the implications are for your own identifications, how you feel about the territorial conflict between Jews and Sunni Arabs, etc. But, I suggest you inform yourself before rejecting those who see these issues differently.

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