TEL AVIV – Holding signs saying “Zionism is racism,” anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University staged a walkout at an event Tuesday evening when a Jewish student spoke of his connection to the land of Israel, The Algemeiner reported.
The event, called “Indigenous People Unite” and sponsored by the university’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), featured addresses by Assyrian, Yazidi, Israelite, Native Canadian and Tibetan speakers.
President of Columbia’s SSI chapter, Rudy Rochman, told The Algemeiner that part of the goal was to “reclaim the narrative” regarding the three-millennia connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
In response, an anti-Israel coalition comprised of 26 different groups, including Columbia University Apartheid Divest, the Black Students Organization, the Muslim Students Association and the Columbia Queer Alliance, accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and being a “settler-colonial state.”
A post on the Facebook page of “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” read:
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.
Rochman cautioned that protesters would be removed. “It’s not a political event, so please don’t act like it is,” he said.
50 protesters nevertheless stormed the event holding signs reading: “Settlers are not indigenous,” “Zionism is racism” and posters accusing Israel of “theft, displacement and ethnic cleansing.”
Attendees of the event rallied to “Get them out!” and campus security eventually escorted the protesters off the premises.
— Lea Speyer (@LeaRSpeyer) December 7, 2016
“The protesters sat through two speakers, a Yazidi and an Assyrian, but when the Jew with Yemenite origin began to present, they got up and left. Once again, anti-Israel students have shown they are not willing to hear someone who might challenge their narrative,” SSI founder Ilan Sinelnikov said, adding that he hopes to repeat the event on every American college campus.
He noted that while the activists “behaved more respectfully than some on other campuses, they still showed a lack of respect for basic freedom of opinion.”
“What happened at Columbia is an event for the books,” he said. “Today we started winning back our story and can move forward in challenging anti-Israel groups and take back our truth on campuses.”
Last month, The Jewish Voice reported on another anti-Israel event, jointly organized by Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University (CPS) and Columbia’s Law School.
The event, titled “Human Rights, International Law, and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine,” featured Michael Lynk, the newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on the “situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.”
To coincide with Israel Apartheid Week in March, 40 Columbia University faculty members signed a petition urging the college to divest from companies that “supply, perpetuate and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.”