Opinion | Op-eds

Politicized banners on Barnard Hall hurt community

  • Tova Kamioner for Spectator
    banner saga | A Students for Justice in Palestine banner on the front of Barnard Hall was removed after some student concerns.

For 12 of the past 24 hours, Barnard College became a significantly less friendly place to a vast number of its students. From 10 p.m. Monday until 10 a.m. Tuesday, a banner hanging on the front of Barnard Hall—a space typically reserved for advertising campus experiences inclusive of all—conveyed a surprising message: a statement—“Stand for Justice. Stand for Palestine. C-SJP IAW”—adjacent to a map of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, without any internal borders, colored uniformly green. Taken together, this image and text lead to an alienating and hateful conclusion. By displaying only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and by ignoring internationally recognized borders, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine is arguing that the Jewish State of Israel has no right to exist. This message, which singles out Jews for criticism, does not merit the pride of place afforded Midnight Breakfast and the Athena Film Festival. That the banner flew alongside the official banner of the college, providing Barnard’s implicit endorsement of its message, compounded the issue.

C-SJP’s banner made students feel unsafe on campus. A number of Barnard students voiced their concerns to me, with attitudes that ranged from annoyed to distraught. As understood by many, the banner was an act of aggression against Jews, a majority of whom feel a deep sense of connection to Israel. For that reason alone, it deserves criticism. During the 12 hours that the banner hung outside of Barnard Hall, hundreds of students expressed their feelings of distress through posts on social media, emails to President Spar and other Barnard administrators, and numerous personal conversations. 

Some have asked if Barnard is practicing censorship by removing the banner, likening it to Barnard’s ill-advised and short-lived decision last year to require content approval for all flyers being posted on Barnard bulletin boards. The banner space is inherently dissimilar from a bulletin board, however, because there is a limit of three banners, and its use is controlled by Barnard Student Life. As such, it is not appropriate to allow messages not officially endorsed by Barnard to be expressed in that forum.

[Related: Student groups and administrators give statements in response to the removal of the banner]

That Barnard’s original policy of banner approval allowed for this to happen is disappointing. However, the school should be commended for swiftly removing the banner following students’ reactions, without violating C-SJP’s right to free expression. In her response to students’ concerns, President Spar wrote, “Barnard has been and will remain committed to free speech...but until we have had time as a community to discuss the banner placements on Barnard Hall and better define a policy we will not be hanging student banners on Barnard Hall.” Now it is the Barnard administration’s responsibility to invite students representing a diverse array of perspectives into the conversation to determine the most appropriate and respectful policies going forward for this public space. I would personally recommend that the space remain available for student groups to advertise their events, but that it remain free of alienating political statements. Regardless of the resolution, I look forward to a vibrant conversation about the establishment of guidelines for the use of the banner space.

I am proud of Barnard’s decision, choosing to value its students’ feelings of security and well-being above one group’s attempt to force a political statement into an area where it simply didn’t fit. But most of all, I am proud that through informed activism, students were once again able to set the wheels in motion to affect a University policy. Though this situation upset many students on all sides of the issue, its value lies in the conversation that will necessarily follow.

The author is a senior in the School of General Studies and Jewish Theological Seminary joint program majoring in history and Talmud and Rabbinics. He is the former president of Columbia/Barnard Hillel.

To respond to this op-ed, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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Anonymous posted on

seffi--your argument is utter bullshit. SJP made no such claim. stop making absurd assumptions about a silhouette of a map. congratulations on being part of a discriminatory act of censorship against an SGB/campus approved student group that has just as much right to express itself as those who advertise taglit birthright. Do you know how uncomfortable some people feel when they see free trips to israel being advertised…free trips (in some case for students with literally NO tie to the land) to the very same land that some students on this campus grandparents were expelled from in the name of Zionism.

you think drawing a map on a banner was an act of aggression? lest we forget the countless atrocities and massacres committed against the native inhabitants of Palestine throughout the 20th and 21st centuries in the name of Zionism. If anything was ever wiped off a map, it was PALESTINE. I believe in the right to a Jewish homeland in Israel, but do not ever forget what was done to the people of Palestine.

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lets do this slowly posted on

1. Kogen was not commenting on the intent of the map, but rather how it was received. I commend SJP for their intent of the map, but they should have been aware of how people would understand it, considering it's historical connotations (At first I thought it was an allusion to the PLO logo).
2. Birthright does not advertise on the Barnard Hall banner space. Birthright advertises through the regular bulletin boards, and through Hillel. Had SJP's banner been restricted to the same ordinary advertising spaces, there would not have been an issue. The particular location for this controversial message was problematic. In other locations it would have been fine.
3. At the end you seem to be implying that Seffi is at fault for Palestinian suffering. You structured that paragraph in a way that suggests "You think SJP was aggressive? Look what you did." For all you know Kogen sympathizes with the Palestinians just like you. Your assumptions are childish.

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Anonymous posted on

1. Kogens perceptions cannot violate my free speech. The banner threatened no violence.
2. The Banner was (until censored) a legal spot. The content may be "problematic" to you but cannot and did not violate free speech.
3. By justifying censorship and crying victim, Kogen IS attempting to obfuscate Israeli treatment of Palestinians. A well honed tactic of Israeli supporters.

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free speech posted on

Be careful using the word violate. The proper term here is limit, and there are limits on free speech everywhere. The classic is example is that you're not allowed to yell fire in a crowded movie theater. Here, considering that so many people did fear that this banner's location (and perceived endorsement by Barnard) could arouse violence and abuse, Barnard placed a limitation on free speech. The banner can be still be hung elsewhere on campus, and SJP can continue with their regular protests.

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Dara posted on

Well said, Seffi. Thanks for speaking out.

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Anonymous posted on

Hating Israel is not synonymous with hating Jews.

Source: An Israel-hating Israeli Jew.

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Anonymous posted on

It becomes so when the map depicted erases all lines of Israeli territory, implicitly claiming that the State of Israel has no right to exist in that land. It is impossible to separate the legal right of Israel's existence from the right of a Jewish state's existence on that territory since Israel was originally established as a Jewish state. Thus, a picture that advocates for the complete erasure of Israeli territorial boundaries argues that the Jewish state is meaningless and discriminates against the Jewish people.

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Anonymous posted on

So if a Jewish person were to disagree with the State of Israel, would that be anti-semetic?

You're making the statement that the State of Israel stands for all Jews. That's not fair to say that dislike of Israel means dislike of all Jews. Many Jewish people had nothing to do with the founding of Israel and do not necessarily feel like they are being attacked when Israel is being attacked.

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Anonymous posted on

Dislike of or disagreement with Israel is very different than legitimizing the very existence of Israel. Many who support the right of Israel to exist disagree with its policies, but believe in the right of the state to exist inherently.

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Anonymous posted on

So disagreeing with the concept of a state founded on religion makes one an antisemite?

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Anonymous posted on

First of all, Judaism is not just a religion but also an ethnicity. When the Nazis came and rounded up all the Jews, they didn't ask, "Do you keep kosher? No? Okay, you're off the hook." And I personally know German converts to Judaism that lived in Berlin throughout the whole war and weren't touched because they had the papers to show they are genetically not Jewish. My point is that it's a ridiculous over-simplification to call Israel "a state founded on religion."
"So if a Jewish person were to disagree with the State of Israel, would that be anti-semetic?" No, but if a Jew were to question its right to existence, then yes, he would be one. It's called a self-hating Jew, and he wouldn't be the first.

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Yeesh posted on

So it's a state based on race? that sounds far worse than one found on religion.

Question, if your god has a chosen people, is he racist?

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Anonymous posted on

No. It's a state founded by an ethnic/national group, just like the majority of states in the world. Your ignorance over what the Jewish definition of "chosen people" is ridiculous and uninformed. It means that Jews feel like they were chosen to act in the highest moral manner possible. Mocking the religion like that has nothing to do with Israel, and is simply bigotry.

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Who me? posted on

Founded by an ethnic group in spirit, it took two Imperialist powers to actually establish the state of Israel.

Surely you're not claiming that the idea of "choseness" isn't related to the Israeli state. There are numerous interpretations of this chosenness, but all of them rely on the idea that the Jews have a special relationship with God and a homeland that other ethnic groups do not have. That much is undeniable.

Surely we can get past the silly idea that anyone who criticizes Judaism is anti-semitic. That is a tired old trope that I will have none of, being an atheist that criticizes all religions with equal fervor, not singling out Judaism due to some bias.

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Hmmm... posted on

I'm pretty sure the Catholics have their own country, founded simply for the sake of Catholicism... I'm also pretty sure that's why Pakistan was founded.

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Anonymous posted on

Just no. You are 100% wrong on literally every single thing you have said here.
"Founded by an ethnic group in spirit, it took two Imperialist powers to actually establish the state of Israel." I don't know to which Imperialist powers you are referring. I assume one is Great Britain, and the other one is... the Jews? If that's what you meant that could possibly be the most ignorant and hateful thing I've read in my entire life. It's laughable how absurd that is.
"There are numerous interpretations of this chosenness, but all of them rely on the idea that the Jews have a special relationship with God and a homeland that other ethnic groups do not have. That much is undeniable." This is false and entirely misleading. If you actually knew any 19th and 20th century history you would never have written this. First, religion (including "choseness") has nothing to do with why there needs to exist a Jewish state. In fact, Herzl himself was a completely secular Jew. Most early Zionists were, as are a good portion of modern Zionists and Israelis today. (Just take a single step in Tel Aviv to see my point.) Second, when the early Zionist leaders decided there was a need to create a Jewish state, they did not immediately say Israel. There was a lot of internal debate over which land they should chose. Many wanted a colony in Argentina. The Sudan was checked out but later voted against because of its hostile populace. They eventually settled on Palestine because (a) the land was almost entirely empty save for a few clusters of Jews and Arabs (yeah, yeah, don't believe me -- maybe you'll believe Mark Twain, who wrote a book about his travels to the Holy Land, or any of the dozens of British explorers who went there in the late 19th, early 20th centuries) and (b) because they simply believed it would attract more Jews. There was a very real possibility they were going to choose another plot of land. The Zionist prerogative is not wholly based on the notion of returning from the Diaspora. This has nothing to do with being chosen by God, and everything to do with being chosen by every other single nation and people since the New Testament as the target of massacres, pogroms, blood libels, and all forms of anti-Semitism. Herzl himself was inspired by the heinous Dreyfus Affair in 1894, and of course the Holocaust was a major catalyst (though not the primary cause nor reason) behind Israel's ultimate founding. This was not "hey we're better than everyone let's make our own private club," but the exact opposite: after millenia of being shunned and pushed around by all the other nations who would not accept them, the Jews finally decided to stand up for their own sovereignty, freedom, and dignity. Enough is enough.
"Surely we can get past the silly idea that anyone who criticizes Judaism is anti-semitic. That is a tired old trope that I will have none of, being an atheist that criticizes all religions with equal fervor, not singling out Judaism due to some bias." This is akin to saying, "I'm not racist, I hate all races equally!" In all my years, I have never heard anybody try to debate that hating Judaism isn't anti-Semitic, so you must spend a lot of time on loony online forums for you to consider this "a tired old trope." (And besides, calling something a trope doesn't prove it's false.) The real root of your anti-Semitism is not that you consider the religion ridiculous, it's that you have a very limited and shallow understanding of its concepts and values other than sound bites like "Chosen people," and yet you still find the chutzpah to hate them. You would rather hate an entire religion and people then learn a thing or two because you are so predisposed to hating Jews. If you actually bothered to consult a knowledgeable Jew or a rabbi (try rabbi@columbia.edu, I'm sure he will alleviate any of your concerns), you would realize just how misguided and ignorant your statements are.
End rant.

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Here we go posted on

While you clearly understand who I'm referring to, I wonder why you don't call me an Anglophobe for calling the Brits imperialist?? Could it possibly be the case that I could level criticism at a group without being some tinfoil-hatted, xenophobe citing passages from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

You bring up important historical points! You're correct that many of the Zionists began to search for another tract of land when the British weren't as supportive of a new state in the Middle East. They were firmly rebuked by many of the more extremist zionist groups, some (Lehi) subsequently aligned themselves with the Nazis during the war, given Britain's initial reluctance to create a new state.

I can't believe I have to do this, but I'll humor you: I have been in multiple serious relationships with Jewish girls; I lived in a suite with four Jews. As you stated, many Jews are secular, so my purely religious criticisms don't touch them, so to speak. Further, my parents, siblings, grandparents, and the vast majority of my friends are all Christian and I am highly critical of their religious viewpoint, but we coexist, cooperate etc... For you to declare all criticism of your religion as anti-Semitic is not only laughable, but likely a position not supported by a solid, if not overwhelming, number of Jews.

Of course Jews have suffered unjustly for centuries and have indeed been a targeted people. I fully agree that this is abhorrently reprehensible, and that granting this group a protective state is just/morally right. However, I don't see why it has to be in the Middle East, other than for strictly religious reasons, specifically the belief that the Jews have a special relationship with god and a natural homeland. A birthright, if you will. Something you claim is entirely unrelated to the argument, for unknown reasons.

In short, I am a critic of all religions' philosophical underpinnings, and the immoral actions justified by these beliefs, without feeling ill-will towards a specific believer (much less a hatred of their ethnicity). I have spent plenty of time researching/reading about this issue, and about many religions more generally. I'm open to ideas, and support a two-state solution. With your ranting, you are driving people away from your side of the debate, as you appear as inflexible as many of the (actually) anti-semitic extremist Palestinians (again, not all palestinians, just the extremist/anti-semitic ones).

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Anonymous posted on

"While you clearly understand who I'm referring to, I wonder why you don't call me an Anglophobe for calling the Brits imperialist??" Wow, ignorance galore. Two points:
1. It's blatantly anti-Semitic to call Jews imperialists. First, that implies there is some kind of Jewish "empire" to speak of. Obviously that did not exist. Second, that denotes some kind of superiority, which was obviously not the case considering they were in the middle of being exterminated for being subhuman vermin. Third, that implies negative motivations, such as exploitation of the native people (if anything, this was the opposite) or westernizing the native people. That's wrong. Fourth, that implies that there weren't Jews there to begin with, which is historically inaccurate. Which characteristics of imperialism are you claiming pertain to Jews?
2. "Anglophobia" and "anti-Semitism" are obviously not analogous. To even equate the two just shows how little importance you give anti-Semitism. Even if you were to call the English a "race" or "ethnicity," the English have never been through the level of oppression and subjugation even close to the Jews. Anglophobia is not a societal phenomenon which has been afflicting the English for millenia; anti-Semitism is. Do you really not understand why I would take anti-Semitism more seriously than Anglophobia? Second, you are basing this on a straw man because I never said anything about English people, as that is not the focus of this discussion and only tangentially related, though that's just a side point. Third, and most importantly, as I said above Jews were not imperialists, while probably every historian would consider the British Empire historically imperialist, not just based on its conquests in the Middle East but all over the world.

Regarding your second paragraphs: This isn't really pertinent to the discussion, but you vastly oversimplify the inner politics regarding Zionism and Britain. Zionism was not against the initial wishes of many British, including Lloyd George, Balfour, etc. -- both for Zionistic reasons and selfish ones. One of these reasons was Chaim Weizmann's contribution to chemical explosives beneficial to the British war effort. In the words of FDR, "I was at Versailles, and I know that the British made no secret of the fact they promised Palestine to the Jews. Why are they now reneging on their promise?" Regarding Lehi's involvement in WWII, this is also an oversimplification. Obviously this was a small minority of Jews, while the majority of Jews in combat fought for the British, creating the Jewish Brigade. On the other hand, the Arab's were in overwhelming support of Germany. "No more Monsieur, no more Mister; In heaven Allah, on earth Hitler." David Niles on Jewish immigration to Palestine: "I am also inclined to think that 100,000 more Jews would be of great assistance to us in that area, as the Jews of Palestine were during the second World War, which is generally admitted by everybody who is familiar with the situation. The Allies got no help from the Arabs at all, but considerable help from the Jews in Palestine." Bartley Crum: "It should never be forgotten how the entire Jewish community of Palestine set aside its differences with Britain and gave its complete support to the defeat of the Nazis."
But honestly, this history lesson has nothing to do with our discussion. My entire point was just how wrong you are in saying that "choseness" is the basis for the state of Israel.

Onto your third paragraph: Now *this* is a classic thing bigots say. "I can't be racist/homophobic/misogynist/anti-Semitic, I have a black/gay/female/Jewish friend/relative/girlfriend!" Yes, you can still be anti-Semitic. In fact, many Jews exhibit anti-Semitic beliefs -- there's even a word for that (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-hating_Jew). I think we can both ignore this part of your argument, as it is a fallacy proven ridiculous again and again.
"For you to declare all criticism of your religion as anti-Semitic" -- You're putting word in my mouth. First, in fact I am no longer religiously Jewish (it's funny you assume that) and have much criticism myself. Second, you clearly did not read my comment well. Allow me to reiterate: "The real root of your anti-Semitism is not that you consider the religion ridiculous, it's that you have a very limited and shallow understanding of its concepts and values other than sound bites like 'Chosen people,' and yet you still find the chutzpah to hate them." You can criticize Judaism all you want, but only if you have a real understanding of it. Calling Judaism inherently racist is not a tenable position, as it is based on inaccuracies. Yes, this is not necessarily anti-Semitic, but it is most definitely anti-Semitic to presume that Judaism is racist without a general understanding of the concepts which you critique.
"However, I don't see why it has to be in the Middle East, other than for strictly religious reasons, specifically the belief that the Jews have a special relationship with god and a natural homeland. A birthright, if you will. Something you claim is entirely unrelated to the argument, for unknown reasons." Perhaps I was not clear in my original comment. You're right that many Jews do feel that the religious aspect is a basis for their Zionism. But I think (and hope) that these Jews would still be as supportive of Israel regardless of a change of beliefs, as I have. I am not arguing that no Zionists are Religious Zionists (as some very well are), I am arguing that Zionism is not fundamentally based on the validity of the Jewish religion. You seem to have said the opposite in your original post. Also, you seem to be confusing the concept of the "Chosen People" with the birthright of the Land. "Chosen" refers to the acceptance of the Covenant and the Torah (which is a two-way street -- they accepted unlike the other nations, and thus they chose themselves -- see Exodus 24:7 and Breishit Rabbah), while the birthright refers to God's gift of the Land (see Rashi on Genesis 1:1). Granted, both exist, but they aren't the same thing or necessarily interdependent. In fact, in the Bible the Israelites were not the only ones chosen by God to have their own Land. Again, perhaps you should consult a rabbi.
Last, I did not actually mention my political beliefs, which are not the basis of this discussion, but I will anyway because you seem to think I am more right-wing than I am. I am entirely in favor of a two-state solution, and very much hope that a deal is made in the near future that creates a Palestinian state. I think you assumed I am in favor of Israel annexing the West Bank or the like because of my focus on history, but I do not think that history is the route to a pragmatic solution. I believe peace is achievable with the cooperation of both sides. I'm glad we can agree on that.

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Anonymous posted on

Jesus Christ, I said ethnicity not race. Learn to read. Why do you have the reading comprehension of a 3rd grader? Do you even go to this school?

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Anonymous posted on

First, what does this have anything to do with the article?
Second, please post your name and year. Otherwise I'm just going to assume that you are some random SJP troll.

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Wut posted on

Says Anonymous

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Anonymous posted on

It's very difficult to sympathize with those who felt threatened by this banner. Our university is in a country that sends billions of dollars to Israel every year. You also attend a university that has a huge jewish community in a very jewish friendly city. You are not the victims here and you should stop acting as such. If this banner is so offensive then you all should stop waving huge Israeli flags on college walk and promoting free trips to Israel that essentially indoctrinate people who have more ties to eastern Europe than they do to that land.

I am not against the existence of Israel, truly. But what I am against is zionists who fail to both acknowledge the victims of this whole process and criticize Israel's inhumane policies. It's incredibly hypocritical.

Israel has been an ongoing debate for many years for a reason and Hillel needs to decide whether they want to continue to act as if Israel's policies and even its current state of existence are totally justified or join the debate as critical contributors rather than self-interested, narrow-minded ideologues.

http://www.tuftsdaily.com/op-ed/op-ed-those-without-a-birthright-1.2859231#.UyBw3txbTwI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPxv4Aff3IA

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Anonymous posted on

Waving an Israeli flag on college walk does not exclude the possibility for acknowledging that Palestinians are being treated inhumanely. One can (and I believe, should) support both the existence of a State of Israel and also support complete freedom for Palestinians. Seffi's argument does not prohibit a nuanced conversation; rather, it makes space for one. "Though this situation upset many students on all sides of the issue, its value lies in the conversation that will necessarily follow."

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Anonymous posted on

I can't tell if you have limited mental capacity or if you are a troll.

Are you also claiming that racism can't exist because billions are given in foreign aid to Africa, and millions of African Americans live in the city and on campus? What about sexism? That can't exist because we live in a very pro-feminist campus? I honestly have no clue why it matters that the university "has a huge Jewish community in a very Jewish friendly city." I felt personally attacked when I saw that banner, like Barnard was dismissing any of my political beliefs. Don't tell what I can or cannot feel.

And even if the banner wasn't mildly offensive, it has no place next to Barnard's banner. It completely looks like Barnard endorses Apartheid Week. How on earth can you justify that under "free speech"? Seriously, what does one have to do with the other? No one is saying they can't have their protests on Low Steps or hang up their signs or whatever. Why is it so hard to wrap your head around that not allowing one banner in one very particular place is not censorship? Especially when there is literally no precedent for any similar banner in the past? And don't give me any of the crap "well Barnard approved it." So they made a mistake, what's your point?

What does that banner have anything at all to do with Birthright?

"I am not against the existence of Israel, truly." Followed by: "Israel has been an ongoing debate for many years" -- what?! Israel is NOT a debate! Israel is as much a debate as America is a debate. And then you question if "its current state of existence [is] totally justified." What the heck are you talking about? You very explicitly are questioning Israel's right to exist. You are a complete hypocrite.

Stop trying to give one-sided accounts and engage in a discussion. Yesterday I was walking on College Walk and the pro-Palestinian students passing by booed at me and tried to intimidate me. Seriously, get your act together and start acting like mensches.

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Anonymous posted on

The decision to take down this banner due to its content obviously violates principles of free speech.

Conflating its prominent presentation as Barnard's endorsement of its message is a simplistic logic jump. I would argue that it would constitute an endorsement of free speech itself to defend another's right to display opinion with which one does not necessarily agree.

This piece's argument that the banner constituted a form of "hate speech" against Jews in general is against the principles of a community formed on a rigorous debate of issues--which arguably describes what the University itself ought to be. Attending Columbia is not about encountering ideas that we are comfortable with--it's about meeting ideas that challenge us. To take down symbols that offend certain Jews (who perceive it as an attack on their Judaism) while not taking down symbols that offend SJP members (in the name of Palestinians) is tantamount to privileging one group over another. It values one group's emotional distress over another's.

The proposal for the ban of "alienating political statements" in favor of events presumes a dichotomy where there is none. If SJP had been advertising for an event, would that not also have been political?

The argument for a distinction between the banner space on the front of Barnard Hall and a bulletin board is stronger, given its more limited space and control by Barnard Student Life, but still, conflating the display of a message with its endorsement is simplistic, even if it is a useful rhetorical tool.

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Anonymous posted on

Spot on.

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Anonymous posted on

What are you talking about? Did we even read the same article?
"To take down symbols that offend certain Jews (who perceive it as an attack on their Judaism) while not taking down symbols that offend SJP members (in the name of Palestinians) is tantamount to privileging one group over another."
What does this even mean? LionPAC has never tried to hang up a poster in that spot.
You are entirely right that people need to face contradicting opinions. But that is not at all at stake. With the poster in that position, it 100% looked like Barnard was endorsing the message. How can you justify that under free speech, especially when they have the liberty to do whatever the heck else they want including erect a random wall in the cafeteria?

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Anonymous posted on

Can SJP object to any and every pro-Israeli event on the premise that "it 100% looked like Barnard was endorsing the message". Typical pro-Israeli censorship. Ya from the same crowd that bleats on a regular basis as to how unfree those Arab countries are !!!

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ZIONISM posted on

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR DEFENDING OUR RIGHT TO DISPOSSESS, OPPRESS, AND KILL PALESTINIANS. WOOHOO SETTLER COLONIALISM IS THE BEST!

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Goyim posted on

I'll leave the debate on free speech, etc. to the rest of you, although if the banner placement exceeded the location that opponents have previously occupied, then perhaps it was equitable to have it removed.
I focus on the actual message; Israel certainly has not only a moral but a fait accompli/real politik right to exist, from many perspectives. However, who can deny the arrogance and fascist actions it has displayed over the years in allowing the most fanatic of its citizens to co-opt national policy re building of settlements, etc. They pour gasoline on a fire. As one who is travelling to Tel Aviv this fall, I denounce terrorism from a selfish standpoint as well as a philosophical one, but at the same time I can understand the frustration and desperation of a population which has been marginalized for 65 years. Their voice is legitimate, and as much as I support Israel, it has taken a very bad turn to the right in the past years.

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Jew with a Different View posted on

We are really living in a decadent modern age if a banner alone causes "alienation". Since when did a right from being offended become the obligation of the rest of society? Should we really stifle our own political action to spare some random individual a few moments of intellectual discomfort?

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Anonymous posted on

I would argue that our college does in fact have the obligation to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable on their own campus. It is not about stifling political action, but instead about making everyone feel comfortable. And it was hardly "some random individual" who was affected by the banner. Hundreds of students felt uncomfortable and uneasy with the placement of this banner.
And most importantly, the point of this is not the banner itself but where the banner was placed. It legitimately looked like Barnard was endorsing this student group. It was the wrong place for a controversial political message.

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Plz posted on

I agree, but "feeling welcomed" never entails being completely protected from offense at any and every moment. As an atheist, I am offended daily by many of the narratives that exist on campus, but I certainly feel welcomed by the community and I'm free to express my opinions.

Not to mention the fact that at Barnard, which is 33% Jewish, the "not feeling welcomed" argument is especially weak in this case.

I also have severe ideological disagreements with Glenn Hubbard, and he is Dean of the Business School. This certainly smells like official endorsement by the University. Yet, I still feel welcomed at Columbia, nor do I advocate for Columbia to officially silence him.

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If I was in LionPAC's shoes. posted on

I liked what an anonymous commenter above said about the banner-placement argument being somewhat simplistic yet a useful rhetorical tool.

I do somewhat see why it may be problematic to put up a "politicized" banner in a space that, as Kogen says, is usually reserved for Athena Film Festival or Midnight Breakfast (I do not my any means remember all past banners, but I know Take Back the Night has been up there, as well as banners from certain cultural groups, I think. Not making any comparisons - just saying that from my recollection there have been a whole variety of banners, and sometimes, from what I recall, they can be more relevant to one cultural group over another).

So, it might be true that this banner is in a different category than the rest. But even so, I get the feeling that the LionPAC reaction was unduly swift and harsh. Almost as though (dare I say it?) they were looking for *something* to complain about. Everyone knows that every year LionPAC gears up for a response against Israel Apartheid Week, and they are always at a loss for what exactly to do. The answer is usually just stand on college walk and provide some sort of counter-response. Well, in this case, with SJP taking this new action by doing something they don't usually do (ie, the banner at Barnard Hall), I can't shake the feeling that LionPAC was ready and waiting to pounce. D-spar receiving hundreds of emails, even from parents? (Again, parents?!) Clearly this response had some organization behind it.

You might ask, why *can't* LionPAC retaliate? Why *can't* they respond to something that they saw as over-the-top and inappropriate? Well... they can and they did, but it does come off as harsh. The banner was up. The banner did not say anything explicitly hateful. There was a picture that would be seen as alienating for anyone well-informed about the precise borders of Israel, but actually this banner, by SJP standards, was relatively respectful and benign (think dramatic presentations with IDF soldiers holding checkpoint-passers hostage circa 2 years ago, or maybe it was 3). Even for those who were genuinely outraged at the drawing on the banner, I think LionPAC could have come off a lot better in this scenario if they had taken a deep breath, strategized a little better, then taken advantage of media outlets on campus to express concerns about the placement of the banner. But they instead took a backhanded route with a method (with parents!! can't get over that) that makes them come off as more offensive and alienating than the original problem of SJP's choice of advertising location.

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Gennaro Pasquale posted on

The State of Israel exists as a state. No state has recognized Israel as a Jewish state and certainly not the 25% of its citizens who are not Jewish. Nor has the United States or the UN recognized Israel as a Jewish State. And if a right to exist as a Jewish State were recognized it would have the right to cleanse itself of non-Jews which would be an international crime. As to American Jews feeling unsafe or upset, that is the same argument used against freeing American slaves and by whites in Apartheid South Africa. Finally, why should criticism of the actions of a repressive foreign government be considered an act of aggression against Jewish students in New York, unless they feel they ARE Israelis, in which case they should consider moving to Israel.

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Arafat posted on

At the core of SJP’s argument is the notion that Israel is an apartheid state. This is absolutely false: In South Africa, the black population was segregated, banned from voting, and deprived of their citizenship; in Israel, Palestinian citizens of Israel (or Israeli-Arabs) share the same exact facilities as non-Arab citizens, have the right to vote, and hold Israeli citizenship. Though Israel is unfortunately not free of discrimination, there is not a single democracy in the world that is. Whatever forms of discrimination that exist in Israel are essentially no different than those in any other Western democracy.
A living example of Israel’s freedoms is a Bedouin named Khaldi who was born in a Bedouin tent, voluntarily served in the Israel Defense Forces, and eventually rose to become Israel’s Deputy Consul General in San Francisco. He is the first Muslim diplomat, let alone Bedouin, in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Khaldi considers himself living proof that Israel is not an apartheid state and said, “Israel may be the only country in the Middle East, if not the world, where a Bedouin shepherd can become a high-tech engineer, a scientist, or a diplomat. The sky’s the limit.”
Arabs hold many other prominent positions in Israel. A few years ago an Israeli Arab Supreme Court Justice, Salim Joubran, sentenced Israel’s former president to prison. In 1999, Rana Raslan became the first Arab Miss Israel. This past year it was an Ethiopian-Israeli. There are many Arabs who hold high ranks in the Israeli military, and the recently appointed director of emergency medicine at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem is also an Israeli-Arab. Furthermore, Arabic is taught in Israeli schools, is on Israeli signs and, as an official language, is provided via subtitles on the state television channel.
Another major facet of SJP’s argument is that BDS is the solution to fighting Israeli apartheid. Well, we’ve already established that Israel is not an apartheid state—but let’s look at what BDS ultimately does. It would force individuals to boycott Israeli products, musicians, sports teams, companies, and even academics. The BDS movement is nothing but a hypocritical movement aimed at the destruction of the State of Israel. The hypocrisy of BDS begins with its founder Omar Barghouti, who is a graduate student from Tel Aviv University. Since he argues for a full boycott against Israel, including academics, BDS supporters should boycott him as well.
Boycotting Israeli products is also a challenge when one considers that Israel has made major contributions to many areas of technology, including the cell phone, text messaging, and the Intel chip in the laptop I am using to type this. Even Stephen Hawking’s refusal to fill the role of honored speaker at an event hosted by the Israeli president is hypocritical, as his boycott does not extend to the computer system that gives him the ability to talk. The computer, which is built around an Intel Core i7 Processor, was designed by Israel’s Intel team.
BDS ultimately hurts Palestinians from an economic standpoint as well. Many of the Palestinians in the region controlled by the Palestinian National Authority commute to Israel for work. The BDS movement attacks Israel’s economy, which could ultimately force Israeli companies to lay off employees—many of whom would be Palestinian. Thus, many Palestinians could suffer severe economic consequences from a boycott aimed at advocating for their well-being.
Those that support BDS are not “pro-Palestinian.” The movement does not help Palestinians in any significant way; it only hurts them. In all, the BDS movement is nothing but a hypocritical movement that aims to destroy the State of Israel via economic warfare. BDS will not solve the conflict—it will only prevent peace.

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Anonymous posted on

Kudos Seffi, for expressing how so many of us were feeling.

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