Opinion | Op-eds

SJP banner removal implicitly backs pro-Israel view

  • Banned | Students for Justice in Palestine's banner, pictured here, was taken down soon after it was put up.

Every year, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine holds a series of events as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. This year, that included hanging an administration-approved banner from Barnard Hall. It read, “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine,” and included the logo of our group—a silhouette of pre-1948 Palestine.

As soon as this banner was hung, Seffi Kogen GS/JTS ’14, the former President of Columbia/Barnard Hillel called for pro-Israel students and their networks to tell the Barnard administration about their discomfort. By the next morning, Barnard had yielded to those who were upset and removed the banner, without warning or consulting SJP, citing the “controversy” it caused as the reason for removal.

This controversy was generated by the misinterpretation of a map of historic Palestine drawn without “internal borders.” These are borders by which the State of Israel itself does not abide. Currently, Israel’s borders are expanding in several places that are ambiguously defined. This can be seen in the continued building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the ongoing construction of the West Bank barrier (otherwise known as the Apartheid Wall) in a manner that deviates from the Green Line determined by the United Nations, incorporating land from the Occupied Territories.

Kogen and others accuse SJP of attempting to “erase Israel off of the map.” It is important to remember that real “erasure” requires bulldozers, tanks, white phosphorus, reserve armies, and concrete walls that divide communities. We attend a university that is invested in a myriad of companies, from G4S (a private security company), to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Caterpillar, that provide Israel with these tools of erasure. It is extremely troubling to see how a rhetorical twist can make it seem as if a cloth banner created by a student group is somehow threatening, while our institutions profit from violent removals of people from their land. These charges regarding erasure from the map leveled at our banner trivialize the experience of actual violence that we may be complicit in, from the suffering of the people of Palestine to global indigenous dispossession and the oppression of communities of color.

Through this misinterpretation of the map we drew, our banner was labeled as anti-Semitic. As a group that is opposed to all forms of racism, we perceive the equating of any criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism as a mischaracterization of what being Jewish means. Doing so silences Jewish people who define themselves as anti-Zionist. Israel does not represent all Jewish people everywhere, and speaking against the policies of the state is not equal to criticizing Israelis, let alone all Jewish people. Indeed, SJP chapters across the country include anti-Zionist Jews, who are often not welcome in Hillel because it abides by national guidelines to normalize a necessary link between Jewish life and support for Israel.

Regardless of their intent, by removing our banner, Barnard administrators gave the appearance of an agreement with these claims that our message is anti-Semitic. We can only assume that the Barnard administration condones the labeling of a call to stand for justice in Palestine as anti-Semitic, a stance that denies our community the possibility of any actual discussion around what constitutes anti-Semitic and racist language.

What Barnard’s actions signal is that pro-Israel views take precedence—some feelings are valued over others. This fosters an environment that normalizes hateful speech toward our group and other SJPs. Barnard’s response to the discomfort of some at the cost of rendering others vulnerable is inconsistent with its claim that Barnard cannot be seen to endorse a political position. A similar inconsistency lies in the fact that Barnard President Debora Spar—who is responsible for this decision—has been on an all expenses paid trip to Israel as part of Project Interchange, which is run by a vehemently pro-Israel organization, the American Jewish Committee.

With the College’s president going on this kind of trip in order to build “bilateral academic cooperation,” it is difficult for us to have confidence in institutional “neutrality,” even though this was Barnard’s stated goal when curtailing our previously acceptable and free expression. This kind of non-endorsement policy for banners outside Barnard Hall cannot achieve neutrality because it is fundamentally based on a response—a removal that benefits one position.

If our banner is indeed perceived by some as controversial, is Barnard then unfit for controversy? Can the campus community not handle disagreement, however profound? We are heirs to a rich campus history of student mobilization on crucial political issues, including the anti-apartheid movement that pressured Columbia to divest from South Africa. As students, we are taught to be proud of this history. Political work is made through and deeply connected to difference. If we could express only the same opinions or political positions, any kind of change would be impossible. Thus, banning political banners in this space will affect many student groups engaged in vibrant work on sensitive topics.

All students have the right to speak their minds, and to do so in University sanctioned spaces. The fact that Barnard has silenced SJP in this unprecedented way in response to “discomfort” does not bode well for the future of critical thought on this campus. 

Shezza Abboushi Dallal is a Barnard College sophomore majoring in history. Feride Eralp is a Columbia College senior majoring in anthropology. They are both members of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine. This op-ed was written on behalf of SJP.

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

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Just gonna say posted on

I have no respect for SJP as an organization because the group explicitly does not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

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Anonymous posted on

Whether or not you agree with members of SJP's viewpoints, you must respect their right to own and express them.

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Marco posted on

The poster said that he or she has no respect for the "organization". Neither do I.

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seb posted on

Marco, nice straw man argument. Although the crimes and injustices committed in Arab states need addressing too, they are irrelevant to SJP's focus...you clearly want to steer attention away from Israel.

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seb posted on

Whoops, wrong thread :L

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Marco posted on

I do not have a problem with anyone that boycotts a Country in good and informed conscience, as long as they use a balanced scale of justice, and apply the very same standards of human rights and good conscience to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.

Singling out Israel for boycott, and ignoring all of its neighbors who practice in situational apartheid, sectarian apartheid, gender apartheid, religious apartheid, etc, is hypocritical.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas wants to define "Palestine" as an Arab and Muslim State. They have applied to the United Nations for Statehood, and to be a 23rd Arab Country. They want Jerusalem to be an Arab Capital. This is quite hypocritical of a Government who believes that a Jewish State has no right to exist.

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Anonymous posted on

Lol I can't even take this comment seriously

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Marco posted on

To Anonymous, that was not very academic! If you have any contradictory evidence to what I have just posted, then provide it.

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seb posted on

Although the crimes and injustices committed in Arab states need addressing too, they are irrelevant to SJP's focus...you clearly want to steer attention away from Israel

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Marco to Seb posted on

I clearly stated that I have no problem with boycotting Israel for conscientious reasons, but singling out Israel in a sea of Countries that have extreme human rights abuses is pure political and hypocritical BS.

I don't want you to steer away from Israel, I want you to compare the rest of the Middle East Countries, with all their sectarian conflicts, and totalitarian and dictatorial regimes, where unauthorized sex and being an apostate carries sever punishments or even death.

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Anonymous posted on

"unauthorized sex", lol. Not all the Arab countries are Saudi Arabia, in case you did not know.

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Marco to Mr. Anonymous posted on

Keep lol,ing at honor killings/beatings and death/beatings to apostates, while implying that that only goes on in Saudi Arabia. Why did you not reply to apostates?

These are some of the laws on the books that treat apostasy under their criminal laws.
Iran – illegal (death penalty)
Egypt – illegal (3 years' imprisonment)
Pakistan – illegal (death penalty since 2007)
United Arab Emirates – illegal (3 years' imprisonment, flogging)

Somalia – illegal (death penalty)
Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty, although the U.S. and other coalition members have put pressure that has prevented recent executions)
Saudi Arabia – illegal (death penalty, although there have been no recently reported executions)
Sudan – illegal (death penalty, although there have only been recent reports of torture, and not of execution)
Qatar – illegal (death penalty)
Yemen – illegal (death penalty)
Malaysia – illegal in five of 13 states (fine, imprisonment, and flogging)
Mauritania – illegal (death penalty if still apostate after 3 days)
Morocco – illegal to proselytise conversion (15 years' imprisonment)
Jordan – possibly illegal (fine, jail, child custody loss, marriage annulment) although officials claim otherwise, convictions are recorded for apostasy]
Oman – legal in criminal code, but according to the family code, a father can lose custody of his child
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Where are your banners? Where are your boycotts?

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your friendly neighborhood spiderman posted on

i'd just like to say that Arab means speaking Arabic, something anybody in the world can do, and it doesn't exclude anybody. Plus speaking Arabic would never be a requirement. Compare that to the Israeli ideal, Israel being a Jewish state, you cannot convert to Judaism and must be born to a Jewish heritage to be considered Jewish. Now tell me that's not racism

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Marco to friendly spiderman posted on

Being a Jew or a Muslim in a world full of mixed blood, has more to do with consciousness and traditions, than with race. Tell us that a Christian Arab is welcome in Mecca? Remember that Jews and Christians lived in Mecca before the inventions of Islam.
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Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and Jews can all make the pilgrimage to their holiest cities and anyone can attend. The Hajj, the largest religious pilgrimage in the world in Mecca, excludes all people of other religious, and every Muslim is required to take part in this, and we respect their right to do this. Would we respect the Jews if they played this game in Jerusalem (their holiest City) or if Christians played this in Bethlehem, or Catholics in the Vatican City?

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viva lemkin posted on

well, rationally, those borders are not legitimate. they are the result of the machinations of a bunch of white racist brits and war mongering colonial zionists. since when is anyone required to accept lies & colonial impositions as legitimate? israel is evil. it is the spawn of evil minds with no regard for human life....balfour was just the tip of the iceberg and history will not be kind in its remembrance of the murderous genocidal colonial "state" of israel. im sure rafael lemkin would be the first in line to condemn it. i have no respect for state terrorism. you have no respect for people who refuse to go along with a lie.....think about that for a moment.

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Anonymous posted on

Your conflation of Spar taking down the banner and some implicit support for Israel is significantly flawed, as are your commentaries regarding Columbia's investments. Equating Columbia's investments with a political motivation is quite frankly, inane, because the sheer motivation there is the financial benefit received from these rather successful companies. From where these companies receive that financial gain is questionable, yes, but Columbia does not play a role in that. Further, Spar's decision to lower the banner was an instinctual, off-the-cuff, one, made, what it appeared to be, very quickly. She did not make a political statement, and even if the impact of her actions did so, we cannot judge the impact, but rather her intent (especially when using her actions as a means to detail her character and true allegiances). The decision on the SJP banner was, in my opinion, quickly made, and without much regard for an outcome. Spar saw an uproar from a significant portion of students, and acted. It is simply that. Calling her pro-Israel, or attempting to conflate her actions with some allegiances or biases, is faulty and incorrect.

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CC"14 posted on

Great op-ed! Really puts everything in perspective.

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Marco to CC"14 posted on

No, this puts things into perspective:The Middle East should have a homeland for Assyrians, Copts, Kurds, Jews, Arabs, and others. Here are a few examples--------------
Kurd Net Daily Online News: 
"For years the 30 million Kurds spread across those territories have been the world's largest ethnic group without an independent homeland. Only the Kurds in Iraq, who displaced Iraqi forces in the 1990s when a U.S. and British no-fly zone was in place against Saddam Hussein, have managed to carved out an area of real autonomy."------------------------------------------------------
Coptic News: 
"Since Christianity came to Egypt in 57 A.D., we, the Christians of Egypt, have not had conflict with the Jewish people. Copts have been a marginal population held in captivity for sixteen centuries. We constitute the largest non-Arab, non-Moslem minority in the Middle East. The Church of Alexandria, is one of the oldest organizations in the Middle East. Despite this distinguished history, it is a church that has been under siege since the Islamic invasion."-----------------------------
Assyrian News Agency:
"Keep in mind that these Christian minorities, the Assyrians, Armenians, Copts, are actually the original inhabitants of these areas with roots going back thousands of years before Christianity. What we're seeing is a systematic attempt to cleanse the Middle East of its original inhabitants, this is a continuation of the genocide that took place in Ottoman Turkey in 1915."

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Anonymous posted on

You have no idea what you're talking about. May I suggest you read Arendt's 'On Totalitarianism'. Then you should return and take back these comments which only prove that you have a very superficial and misinformed view of political organization.

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Marco to Mr. Anonymous posted on

The banner of Islam flies over 99.9% of the Middle East land mass. You are just pissed off because it is not 100%, which is what it would be if the tiny Jewish State ever let her guard down.

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Arafat posted on

Marco,

It is easy to find videos of Muslims saying exactly what you wrote, i.e., they will not rest until the caliphate spans the entire globe.

I'm not sure why liberals pretend this is not true or that their words do not reflect their real intentions. How is this any different than what Hitler said in the 1930s and then acted on?

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Menckenman posted on

Leaving aside my abhorrence of terrorism and fanaticism, which has to varying degrees been exhibited by both sides since before the 1948 struggle, I must say that the banner is question is particularly non-inflammatory, and only makes an implied political comment. While that comment may not be appreciated by some, I see no burning reason to have it removed.
If, for example, something denying the Holocaust went up, I would tear it down myself. This is different.
Given the consistent incursion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory, I see no moral high ground for Israel to claim territorial morality, and therefore, this banner is a valid political statement, pure and simple.

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Marco posted on

From 1948–67, the West Bank and Gaza were under Arab rule, and no Jewish settlements existed there, but the Arabs never set up a Palestinian state. Instead, Gaza was occupied by Egypt, and the West Bank by Jordan. No demands for a West Bank/Gaza independent state was ever heard of, until Israel took control of these areas in the Six-Day War.
Had the collective Arab armies won any of the wars against Israel, you know what they were prepared to do to the Jews, keeping in mind that there were no Jewish settlements in the disputed territories? The Arabs screwed up, and now they want to go back to the status quo.

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Marco posted on

The question of Statehood was resolved with the 1947 United Nations partition plan (a Jewish State and an "Arab" State living side by side in peace). However, six Arab armies invaded the newly formed Jewish State, in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to destroy it. It is ironic that Palestinian Arabs, seek statehood now via a path they have rejected for Israel all these years, while still not recognizing Israel's right to exist.

With all the Arab wars against the tiny Jewish State, and after subsequent defeats, they created the limited-liability war. Under this theory, an aggressor may reject a compromise settlement and gamble on war to win everything in the comfortable knowledge that, even if they fail, they may insist on reinstating the status quo in the original UN Mandate Partition Plan.

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Anonymous posted on

The whole "oppression of communities of color" argument is ridiculous and always has been. While many Israelis do have a European background, anyone who has been to the middle east knows that Jews, Arabs, and Christians are not necessarily discernible by the color of their skin. Don't make this about something it isn't.

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Seb posted on

Brilliant article! Shame on you Barnard administration.

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the ging posted on

Lol marco so mad.

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can someone who is actually in C-SJP answer my question? posted on

I've heard from many different sources that C-SJP refuses to engage in discussions with LionPac or other student groups that show support for Israel, even as so far as not wanting to put their answers to a series of questions about the conflict on an opposing page as LionPac's answers. I've heard this is because SJP's official policy is that engagement with LionPac on any level, even for a debate, is recognizing the fact that the other side exists as a valid entity. Is this actually the case, and if not, why does C-SJP not initiate or agree to discussions with groups that have opposing views?

In my opinion, the whole banner thing comes down to whether you think the administration should put anything up next to the Barnard flag that's controversial and potentially offensive (which I think it should not, just as I think it should not post only a LionPac sign) and whether or not you think what CSJP advocates is controversial and potentially offensive. If it is truly the case that CSJP does not engage in conversation with LionPac because doing so would recognize their opponent as a valid entity, I think there is a legitimate case for it being an organization with an offensive policy and outlook. It is easy to make the leap from not recognizing LionPac as a valid entity to not recognizing pro-Israel groups as a valid entity to not recognizing Israel as a valid entity.

I would really appreciate someone from CSJP who is familiar with the policies and why SJP makes the decisions it does vis a vis not engaging in campus discussions to answer my post. If I am mistaken in my perception, I would like to know.

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Anonymous posted on

The reason SJP is unwilling to "engage" with Lion-PAC--and I'm speaking here as an individual who is not a member of SJP--is because there is really no discussion to be had. The oppressed have no obligation to dignify their oppressor with "discussion."
It is important to remember here the historical parallels between Israel and other oppressor/oppressed situations: would you have asked a native american why he chose not to "engage in discussion" with a pioneer, perpetrating the genocide of his people? Would you have asked a black man living in apartheid South Africa--the most immediate parallel to Israel's current apartheid laws--to engage in discussion with a white man who believes he should be subjected to racist laws and practices?
It is a very American tendency to conflate Judaism and Zionism. It is important to remember that many Israeli Jews are against the racist policies of the government. A critique of the Israeli government is seen as anti-semitic, even though they are simply government officials exercising their power and are as open to critique by their constituents as our government is to us.
As in Israeli, it is truly baffling to me the fervor with which American Jewish students defend the actions of the Israeli government--a government they did not elect and tend to know little about. To be Jewish and to question Israel's government is OK--they weren't elected by God, after all. And if, in the end, one is aware of the atrocities permitted by the Israeli government and continues to support them blindly, then there is no point in even "engaging" with them. It's the saddest part of the whole occupation.

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Heisenberg posted on

After all that BS, the point is SJP is against dialogue with LionPAC, but also thinks that Barnard should not curtail its own speech. That is hypocritical. If a LionPAC poster went up in the same spot, would SJP be up in arms?

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Marco to Mr. Anonymous posted on

You mention "apartheid" "genocide"
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There 1.5 million Palestinian Arabs living in Israel proper as citizen on land that hypocritical activists say was ethnically cleansed.
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If you believe Israel to be a true apartheid state, please tell us all: Which Israeli hospitals refuse to admit Israeli Arabs? Which Israeli restaurants refuse to serve Israeli Arabs? Which Israeli universities refuse to admit Israeli Arabs? Which Israeli buses refuse to board Israeli Arabs? In what elections are Israeli Arabs not allowed to vote? In what area of public life are Arab women not allowed to serve?
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The implication of many settlement critics is that it would be better for peace if the West Bank were empty of Jews. This idea would be called anti-Semitic if Jews were barred from living in New York, Paris or London, but barring them from living in the West Bank, the cradle of Jewish civilization, the birth place of Solomon, David, and Jesus is called what?? Give it a name!

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Think for a minute posted on

Before having the knee jerk reaction that all anti-Israel supporters are anti-Semites, think for a minute. ..

The creation of Israel is traced back to the Balfour Declaration, which was written by an Englishman in the early 1900’s. Ironically, there wasn’t a large Jewish population in England at the time. The Balfour Declaration was written by Lord Balfour, a member of the war ministry; when he had drawn out plans (which was rumored to included the existence of two states), Balfour sent the document to be approved by Lord Rothschild (who was a prominent Zionist leader at the time). Lord Rothschild advocated strongly for a dominant Jewish state and so, Lord Balfour gave into the request. Why would he do such a thing? Well, Balfour, being a war strategist, believed that a Jewish state would be more amicable with England and would create a mainstay trading grounds for Western countries.

Previous to the document, the English had promised Palestine independence under the condition that they fought against the Ottoman Empire - which was steadily declining due to the rise of revolutions in the region. When Balfour (and the rest of the English government) agreed to the terms of the Balfour Declaration, they hadn’t notified the Palestinians. From this point on, the Palestinians were oppressed.

The English had essentially tricked Palestine into fighting in WWI. The wording of the Balfour Declaration is purposefully vague – it leaves Israel the opportunity to expand and dominate. Palestinians were forced to relocate based on racial and religious differences. There may be dispute over how violent these relocations were (and still are), however, it is common knowledge that Palestinians were not welcome in the newly-formed Israeli state.

I am not a member of SJP but after taking multiple classes on the issue, I agree with the notion that the Palestinians are oppressed. Their land was taken from them (without their consent – yes they agreed to the Balfour Declaration but they had not understood the back-dealing of the western constituents) and they were never given a fair chance of earning it back. The Cold War only exacerbated the issue, as American funneled in weaponry and capital in order to fight in proxy wars.

All I ask, Marco, is that you don’t rush to name-calling when you find a disagreement. This is a complex issue with many opinions. Opposition to Israel and their government policies does not equate to anti-Semitism. Furthermore, support of Israel does not equate to support of violence or oppression.

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Marco to think posted on

You leave out vital history, such as the French championed artificial fabrications called Lebanon and Syria, while the Brits invented Iraq and fabricated Transjordan (presently under the name of Jordan). Jordan consists of nearly 80% of what was identified as historic Palestine and some of it was earmarked by the League of Nations as the national home of the Jewish people. You just cannot accept this history, or you think they would be better off to remain under the Ottoman Turkish Empire and their German allies.

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Marco to think posted on

Israel's international "birth certificate" was validated by all three ancient Biblical texts; Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; UN vote in 1948; Israel's admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states; and, most of all, the society created by Israel's people in decades dynamic national existence.

Now I must ask you: Of the 57 seven declared Muslim Countries at the UN, what happened to the indigenous people who "rejected Islam"? Answer: They were killed, they left, they converted, or they remain marginalized from power. What do you think will eventually happen to Israel? Remember, we have a lot of history to work with here.

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Arafat posted on

Israel was founded by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Israel was founded by repelling the Massacre's of the last century as well in Palestine, not just in Germany and Russia. You will not find any Muslim that says they did not descend from Abraham either. Perhaps you should read sennacherib prism. He was an enemy of Israel in the 8th century BC. He himself bragged about how he shut up King Hezekiah like a dog in Jerusalem. What you probably lack, is just how much suffering Jews have endured. There is centuries of history. Yassar Arafat and his PLO tried to take control first of Syria and also in Jordan in 1971. The "Palestinian" people ( no "P" in Arabic ) have been kicked out of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia because even they were too radical for moderate Muslims. 1492 spain, Stalin's Russia, blamed for the black plague, ect, ect... There is no safe place on earth for the Jewish people from the historical record, where they should not worry about another racist generation appearing. Read the charter of Hamas, Hezbollah. Israel gave up gaza for peace in 2003 and they received over 15,000 rockets and mortars in return. I even saw a 80 year old lady who had witnessed the Hebron Massacres, call for them again. That was long before 1948. Please read history.

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member of SJP posted on

I am a member of C-SJP and would like to answer your question. What SJP and many other anti-Zionist organizations refuse to engage in are "dialogue projects" with explicitly Zionist groups, not any kind of discussion or debate. In 2009-2010 a call was made from Palestinian civil society to international solidarity organizations such as SJPs to not partake in projects that attempt to whitewash or justify the crimes of the State of Israel against Palestinian people. This is not about deciding whether a certain entity is valid or not; this is about perceiving the violence committed by the Zionist State of Israel on Palestinian people. It is about not wishing to be part of an activity that obscures this violence or renders it of secondary importance. This is what we mean by normalization, and this is what we refuse to do. We do not believe that Palestinians and Israelis playing soccer together does anything but whitewash the crimes of the Israeli State and present a more acceptable image of it to the world. Because after the day of playing soccer Palestinians have to go back through numerous checkpoints to their homes under Israeli military rule, and there is no structural change. Using the framework of dialogue assumes that there are two equal positions that, upon speaking to each other, may find common ground, and it obscures the facts of what is actually being done to people by a military occupation. However, the issue regarding the oppression of Palestinian people is not an issue with two equal sides. On one 'side' there is a nation-state with immense monetary/military support from the U.S. on the other 'side' there is a fragmented people suffering under a military regime, a military regime for which they cannot even vote (those living in the Occupied Territories, in B and C areas, are under Israeli military rule through they cannot vote in Israel). In short, there is gross inequality in the situation, and the structure of dialogue obscures that inequality.
Secondly, there is the fact that we do not represent Palestine. We are a solidarity organization comprised of people of all kinds of backgrounds and so we do not see it as our place to take part in some kind of dialogue project as if we represent Palestinians and Lionpac represents Israel. Indeed, we have had Israelis in our group that did not see Lionpac as representing Israel. So it gives a false message to engage in this kind of dialogue. We are a student group standing for justice in Palestine, for all of the people of the land. We would be willing to organize with any group that carries a similar commitment to being against all kinds of racism.
Also it is important to point out: we do not, however, refuse to speak to members of Lionpac. On the contrary, many Lionpac members come to our events and if they ask questions in a respectful manner, we respond. During Israeli Apartheid Week we talk to anybody and everybody who comes to have a conversation with us, regardless of their political position, if they do not harrass our members. We are not against talking, and I think on the op-ed columns of spectator we have engaged in a many a debate with members of Lionpac and the larger Columbia/Barnard Hillel community. What we refuse to do is take part in this overtly political project called "dialogue", a project that makes it seem as if justice in Palestine will be achieved only and only if Lionpac and SJP have events together.
Moreover, we are aware that external pro-Israel organizations finance Zionist campus organizations in these "dialogue" endeavours. They are therefore not spurred on by the spontaneous desires of students who just want to talk. Here is a link that has a lot of information about the Latte Initiative by the David Project: http://www.davidproject.org/students/latte-initiative/
This is the kind of activity we refuse to engage in because we see that these are financed by lobbies and organizations whose goal is to eliminate the political agency of Palestinian peoples, their right to self-determination, and the right of refugees to return.
In short, we do engage in many a campus discussion. All we refuse is for these to take place in the format of dialogue projects, that create a false illusion that there are two equal sides, that are often funded by external Zionist organizations and that cast themselves as the solution to the oppression of Palestinian people without bringing about any structural change.
Hope this begins to be an answer. But SJP will have an event on normalization later this month, it would be great if you came by.

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thank you posted on

I really appreciate this answer, and I am beginning to see the aims of CSJP more clearly as a result.

The thing that still seems unclear to me is whether SJP sees a two-state solution as the end game that will bring about justice for palestinians, or whether it supports a one state solution. Also, what does Zionist mean to SJP? There are many different ways to be a Zionist. Just because some forms of Zionism believe in settlements in the West Bank or do have racist aspects does not mean that all Zionism does. There is Zionism that believes only in having a state for the Jewish people, but doesn't get all wrapped up in biblical rights to the West Bank. It seems to me that SJP has a precision problem, where in putting a blanket attribution to all Zionism (and for example, having a logo that implies a one state solution), it creates a sense of being opposed to the existence of the state of Israel. Is SJP opposed to the existence of the state of Israel, or just opposed to the policies of the Netanyahu government? If the former, what does SJP see as the alternative?

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member of SJP posted on

So, SJP is made up of many different people with perhaps different positions on what solutions look like in the world, and this not only to the situation in Palestine, but also to many other problems and issues that face the system of nation-states in our world today. Officially, SJP does not take a position on the one-state/two-state issue, because we are a solidarity group, we do not see it as our place to declare how people should construct the systems within which they exist from overseas. This is up to the people of Palestine, whether Palestinians or Israelis, Jews, Christians, Muslims, atheists, Druze, whoever, to decide together. We, as a student group in the U.S., aim to draw attention to how we, over in this part of the world, are in some ways complicit in the injustices happening in Palestine, and how this is perhaps connected to broader webs of oppression that also relate back to our local contexts in the States. These are our reasons for not taking a position.
Many of us also believe that the one-state/two-state paradigm or binary is an incredibly limiting one, and that there are many more modes of existence together that do not fit into such statist language. Some of us would like to think/talk about expanding the way we think about governance, self-determination and sovereignty beyond necessarily simplistically statist arguments. This is why we do not see our logo as implying either one of these solutions, we do not see it as an official/national map-making project. It is a marking of attachments to land that are not limitable to states and state boundaries. It disrupts that form of thinking.
Indeed, there are many different ways to be a Zionist. But I am yet to hear a Zionist-however liberal- that fully believes in, for instance, all three of these positions, which are the points of unity of the Palestinian Boycott Divestment Sanctions call: dismantling the wall, ending the occupation, granting refugees the right to return.
Something like enabling the right to return, as stipulated by the U.N, to Palestinian refugees is very difficult to accept within the framework of Zionism because it challenges demographic superiority in what must be a Jewish State. The problem here is that in order to maintain the Jewishness of a Jewish state the State of Israel is forced to use exclusionary and discriminatory policies. Since 2003, for instance, Israel no longer allows those living within the borders of Israel to bring spouses who are not Jewish to live with them in Israel. If a Palestinian living in Israel marries someone from the West Bank they cannot live in Israel together, because the Jewishness of the Jewish state feels threatened. The result is that people end up having to leave their lands if they want to marry people they love. The result is a discriminatory policy and practice.
What some in SJP, and similar activism for justice in Palestine is calling for is the implementation of true democracy. A democracy that can treat all its members justly. It seems, however, that the measures the Israeli state takes in order to ensure ethno-religious superiority are against the ideals of democracy.
SJP is opposed to militarized/securitized borders that divide communities, be that the U.S.-Mexico border or the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. SJP is opposed to the idea that states should discriminate based on one's identity, an identity one is perceived as born with and cannot change. This is not about believing in a state for the Jewish people or not. All people can have a state if that is thought of as the highest form of freedom. But it is about interrogating what constructing and maintaining a Jewish state in an ethnically and religiously diverse area entails. It is about interrogating what it means to think of segregation as the road to democracy, somehow. The idea that justice can be achieved only through separating communities, or that Jews and non-Jews cannot exist together, within the same political entity whatever it is called, equally, with dignity, across the ocean when they are able to do so in, say, New York. I think this is what most of us in SJP find problematic, I think this is also what anti-Zionist Israelis criticize about the self-definition of the Israeli State.
We could make similar criticisms against many states, their practices and their legal frameworks, and we quite often do.
I hope this answers your questions for now.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you. I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions seriously and in depth.

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Anonymous posted on

Is this Hannah you literally said this exact same thing at SGA

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Jessica G. posted on

Thank you for this statement: "Doing so silences Jewish people who define themselves as anti-Zionist. Israel does not represent all Jewish people everywhere, and speaking against the policies of the state is not equal to criticizing Israelis, let alone all Jewish people."

As a student at Barnard, I was extremely disturbed when I heard that that banner was removed and not because I am pro or anti one side or another, but because free speech in the United States is one of the best features of this country and needs to be protected.

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Anonymous posted on

Jewish students complained that the banner made them feel uncomfortable, and this was the reasoning used to take it down. This entirely misses the point:

The peaceful resistance of the oppressed is SUPPOSED to make the oppressor feel uncomfortable. (Important to note here the "opressor" is the Zionist Israeli government and its supports, and NOT Jews as a people, Zionists as a collective, or Israelis in general.)

I urge zionist students to ask themselves WHY the banner made them uncomfortable--was it because you felt your beliefs coming into question?--and why they feel the need to so blindly support a government which is simply another democratically elected body, open to criticism.

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Marco to Mr. Anonymous posted on

I cannot speak for the Jewish students, but I would say it is uncomfortable to have the Jewish State singled out for this kind of criticism.

How about hanging a banner stating: Muslims are at odds with just about everybody today- Muslim Shiites against Sunnis in Pakistan, Muslims against Hindus in India, Muslims against Christians in Nigeria, Muslims against Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims against Copts in Egypt, Muslims against Jews in Israel, Muslims against Christians the Philippines, Aceh (Indonesia), Kosovo (Serbia), Muslims against Maronites in Lebanon, Muslims against Hindus in Bangladesh, Muslims against Russian Orthodox, Muslims against Greek Cypriots, Muslims against non-Arab minorities and Dinkas in the Sudan, Muslims against Zoroastrians and Baha'i in Iran, Muslim Buddhist divide in Myanmar, sectarian conflict Syria ……

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Marco to Mr. Anonymous posted on

How about a banner that reads: "There are 29 conflicts and border wars in the world today involving Muslim regimes and Muslim leaders"
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How about a banner that reads- "Walls and barriers involving Muslim Countries: Malaysia-Thailand border, Melilla border fence in Spain, Indo-Bangladeshi barrier, Indo-Burma barrier, Indian Kashmir barrier, Iran-Pakistan barrier, Kazakh-Uzbekistan barrier, Kuwait-Iraq barrier, Pakistan-Afghanistan barrier, Russia/Chechnya, Saudi-Yemen barrier, Arab Emirates/Oman, Israel/West Bank, Saudi/Yemen, Turkmen/ Uzbekistan, Egypt/Gaza, Syria/Turkey, Sudan/Sudan, etc, etc, and many more walls and fences within Muslim Countries to separate different sects from having at each other"
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Would that make a whole lot of people uncomfortable?

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Arafat posted on

Marco, in line with your thinking...

Why is it Muslims are free to violently conquer lands anywhere and everywhere without a word of protest from American Muslims, or any Muslims or any liberals?

But if Jews have a legally established homeland Muslims and Liberals and their ilk will never stop protesting against it? Why is this do you suppose? What explanation can be
given other than as the Qur’an states repeatedly that Islam’s goal is to establish a worldwide caliphate in which all non-Muslims are subjugated. And, of course liberals simply cannot think rationally.

For instance, Mohammed was born around 571 AD thousands and thousands of years after Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism existed. But within a few centuries of Mohammed’s birth Islam had violently conquered vast sections of Asia, all of North Africa and smaller sections of Southern Europe.

Now Muslims tell us that all this land belongs to them even though, for instance, in Afghanistan they killed every last Buddhist who once lived there. According to Muslim logic per Israel shouldn’t this land belong to the Buddhists?

Or in North Africa all the Berbers have been forcibly converted to Islam or have been killed and now we’re told all this vast landmass belongs to Islam. That’s interesting, if not completely hypocritical.

And what about Southern Thailand. Did anyone know that in the last several years something like 5,000 Buddhists have been killed by Muslims because, or so we’re told, the land the Buddhists are on belongs to Islam.

And Southern Russia? Muslims are relentlessly waging a slow reign of terror in Russia because, you guessed it, Russians are treating Muslims poorly and they should give up the Southern section of that country to Muslims since Islam deserves all lands.

Or, let’s take Sudan as another example. How many millions have been killed in Sudan? How many babies and children have starved in Sudan while Islamists steal the food from aid compounds? How many women have Muslims gang-raped in Sudan
all because that land belongs to Muslims and only Muslims. All other people can go somewhere else to live, I guess.

And Kashmir? The same. Despite Hindus having lived there for 3,000 years – something like 2,000+ years before Mohammed was born – Muslims tell us Kashmir belongs to them. Amazing logic isn’t it? Muslim logic, I guess.

And that brings us to Israel. Israel also belongs to Islam too. Did you know that? It’s true. Just ask a Muslim or a liberal if you prefer. Even though it’s no bigger than a small pimple on the caliphate’s ass it is still their land and they will fight to the death to prove their
point.

Doesn’t the logic here make a lot of sense. Isn’t it as clear as day? Of course it does. The world belongs to Islam and we’re mere players on their stage.

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bucky posted on

So true, the majority or war mongering today is by Muslims...not just Arabs, but Muslims. Islam, the religion of piece...piece of your country, piece of your body, we will get you piece by piece.

Your factual post (and that is its problem, it is true and therefore offensive to liberals since it cannot be refuted by emotion) demonstrates the demonization, double standard and delegitimation that these groups apply to Israel. Hmmm, I wonder what drives this "three D" treatment? Could it be that they just hate Jews, pure and simple?

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Marco to Bucky posted on

Most Muslims are decent law biding citizens, but Islamists and political Islam is producing more than their share of problems. A number of my best neighbors are Muslim, so I would not like to offend them. The fact is that I do not know of any Jews, Christians, or Muslims that would give up a liberal democracy to go and live under religious laws, especially in an Islamic Republic.

And I do not know of an Islamist that would come to a Western Country and take an honest Oath of Allegiance, or to the United States: "I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion....."

I find it hard to believe that an Islamist would be honest if he or she took this Oath to become a citizen of the United States or Europe. Their religious identity would prevent it.

And what honest Westerner would become a citizen of an Islamic Country to voluntarily live under Islamic Sharia.

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BCalum posted on

Great article ladies! You give me so much hope!

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Anonymous posted on

Apparently the authors didn't care to actually read the statement that Barnard released. Barnard merely stated that it realized that the banners placement had "inadvertently created the appearance of official Barnard endorsement." Absolutely nothing to do with some deep-seated conspiracy theory against SJP. So theorize all you want, SJP, but realize that you are far, far from reality.

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Anonymous posted on

This seems to be a case of "the SJP who cried free speech." SJP, are you committed enough to free speech to reconsider your anti-normalization policy, by which you refuse to even speak to any pro-Israel group on campus? Or can YOU "not handle disagreement?"

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get it right posted on

Free speech does not mean that I have to speak to people who are yelling at me that I am invented, that I do not exist, and that if what I said about what was done to my people is true I deserved it anyway. Free speech does not require me to speak to anybody. It means that I cannot prevent anybody from speaking. Nobody is preventing ANY pro-Israel group from speaking anywhere, get it right. But you cannot police who I listen to.
Moreover, I don't think SJP would set up a wall and hang out on Low Plaza, talking to anyone and everyone, including those who call them terrorists, if they weren't able to "handle disagreement". In fact, I think it would be impossible to attend this university or college, or survive in this country, as a Palestinian, or as someone calling for justice in Palestine, if we could not, as you put it, handle disagreement. Facing disagreement is our daily existence.
Furthermore, SJP is not an institution that has the power to even begin to prevent anyone from speaking. Barnard College is. You are making a non-argument comparing a student group to a College administration.

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Marco to get it right posted on

You are correct! You cannot speak to ignorant Jews, Christians, or Muslims, as they are not receptive to anything, even if it is true, if it might interfere with what has already been implanted in their identity.

But just between you and me, I understand what you are saying, and I also understand the great injustice done to may Palestinian Arabs. However, most of the continuous injustice is from Palestinian leadership that has continuously been in a state of war with Israel since their conception.

The original Fatah Charter (or constitution) from the 1960s (before there were any Jewish settlements in the West Bank), embraced denying Jewish "historical" or "religious" ties to the land, and called for the “eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.”

The Hamas Charter calls for the obliteration of the Jewish State and to replace it with an Islamic Republic.

Does this sound like Governments that you can do business with? Is claiming that a tiny Jewish State has no right to exist in the cradle of their own historical and cultural homeland a basis for applying for statehood at the United Nations in 2014?

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Anonymous posted on

I don't think a pro-israel banner would be allowed to hang there? That's pretty much my only standard for thinking it should've been taken down. If it'd been placed somewhere that wasn't as prominent as the front gate which communicates somewhat that it reflects barnards views, I think it'd be a different story…

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Just sayin' posted on

I'm obsessed with you, Shezza Abboushi Dallal.

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