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Israel’s 60th Birthday Inspires Protests at Columbia

So, protests sometimes happen at Columbia University. In the past month alone there has been a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1968 riots, a week-long CU Democrats war protest (including a massive red balloon display that, despite its … Read More

By / April 30, 2008

So, protests sometimes happen at Columbia University. In the past month alone there has been a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1968 riots, a week-long CU Democrats war protest (including a massive red balloon display that, despite its seriousness, only succeeded in getting that song stuck in my head), a protest about Tibet, protests about Columbia’s impending expansion into Manhattanville, and a Take Back the Night rally. Not to mention the blood drive, arts fair, sex fair, free Mumia posters, a relay for life, and that random jumping castle and pink balloon-display that showed up last Friday. Seriously, Columbia students have recently done everything short of throwing a pie in Thomas Friedman’s face.

So what are those crazy kids going to do next? How about an al-Nakba rally – Say, day before Yom Hashoah-ish? Sure, why not – it can at least provide topical fodder for name-calling.

Many Jewcy readers will know that this May is the 60th anniversary of Israeli independence. They might be less familiar with the fact that many Palestinians and Palestinian support groups are marking this time as the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba, a time in which Palestinians were forced out of their homes to make room for the new state of Israel. That's why, starting this week, a new flier campaign began over at the Columbia campus about the mistreatment of Palestinians as a casualty of Zionism. According to the fliers, it’s officially Nakba Week.

Also, a Pro-Nakba Week student published this article in the campus newspaper, accusing the campus Hillel (and its president, Emily Steinberger) of disrespecting the week’s commemoration by refusing to co-sponsor the event simply because it used the word “Nakba.”

Then came the backlash. LionPAC, the pro-Israel group under the broader Hillel umbrella, put up a bunch of retaliation fliers equipped with their own pro-Israel statistics. And in retaliation to the original Spectator article, Steinberger submitted this report, which, among other things brings up (drumroll, please)…the Holocaust! So the whole debate becomes not the “new chapter in Columbia’s Israel-Arab discourse” that LionPAC says it wants, but instead a great big print-based shouting match.

It is of course the prerogative of every ethnic group to raise sympathy for and awareness of their respective oppression by waiving their grievances in people’s faces. But will shoving opposing tragedies at the opposition really solve anything? As Spectator columnist Armin Rosen puts it, this methodology is “more proof that the Zionist and anti-Zionist blocs totally deserve each other.”

Holocaust discourse in general is something that is all too easily buffeted about. Palestinian supporters often accuse Zionists of acting like Nazis toward the Palestinians — within a homeland that was created to be a Jewish safe haven in the face of Nazism. Similarly, Zionist are often too quick to pull their own Holocaust card. We’ll see who racks up the most references when we get down to the “discourse.”

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