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
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
Columbia University Club Bangla
Black Students Organization (BSO)
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)
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.