Shifting Tides at Columbia University

By: Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University Board  
New York City is at the epicenter of liberal politics, and Professor Alan Dershowitz is the epitome of the New York City liberal. Professor Dershowitz is a lifelong Democrat: he campaigned and voted for President Barack Obama, he endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, he supports universal healthcare, he is pro-choice, pro-gun control, and pro-LGBTQ rights, etc. It is clear to most that Professor Alan Dershowitz is a loyal, outspoken and fierce defender of all human and legal rights.

Professor Dershowitz is also one of Israel’s greatest public advocates and a powerful defender of Israel in the face of a brutal and demonizing propaganda war. A liberal in most respects, Dershowitz’s opinions and endless writings on the “world’s most intractable” conflict are highly regarded as diplomatic, well researched, and intellectually grounded.

His liberal leanings, however, are not enough to save him from the scathing criticism of anti-Zionists.

 Professor Dershowitz came to speak to students at Columbia University on Wednesday (09/28/2017) as the result of an invitation extended by Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University, a group that is bipartisan, unapologetic, pro-Israel, and pro-dialogue. SSI is a grassroots movement that has an international reach on college campuses. Apart from their empowering cultural events, the SSI Columbia chapter has invited speakers from all sides of the political spectrum: UN Ambassador Danny Danon, MK Tzipi Livni, Professor Alan Dershowitz, MK Sharren Haskel, MK Erel Margalit, with a clear goal in educating the greater Columbia community on wide variety of topics and promoting an appreciation for Israeli culture.

Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld

 Within a few days of announcing the event, the tickets for Professor Alan Dershowitz’s anticipated appearance sold out and the waiting list numbers reached the hundreds. There was no doubt that this would be one of SSI Columbia’s biggest event of the semester.

Early on, it was rumored that the anti-Israel groups on campus, which claim Jews have no right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and who ride on the genuine struggles of Palestinians in efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State, were planning to disrupt Professor Dershowitz in order to prevent him from enacting his right to free speech. Like other events that SSI Columbia had previously hosted, they told several students that they would “shut down the Zionist event”.

 Zionism is the indigenous rights movement of the Jewish People as a means of liberating and self-determining on their ancestral homeland. Zionism has also nothing to do with countering any other peoples’ claim to lands or to other peoples’ pursuit of self-determination. It is too easy to allow anti-Israel students to conflate Palestinian struggles with the homecoming story of the native Jewish People. This story does not only warm the hearts of millions, but also empowers minority and native rights around the world.

 The Dalai Lama once stated that “among Tibetan refugees we are always saying to ourselves that we must learn the Jewish secret to keep up our traditions, in some cases under hostile circumstances”. For those who don’t know, the Dalai Lama is a leader of the Tibetan people who suffered the loss of their country to China, in which many were forced out and into diaspora. It is evident to him, that if the Nation of Israel was kicked out of Judea some 2,000 years ago and managed to survive wave after wave of ruthless persecution, yet out of the ashes of the Holocaust managed to rise up and liberate their occupied homeland, then they too could survive and one day come home.

 In fact, the Jewish story actually represents the most effective indigenous liberation story that has ever taken place and is a successful model in achieving the aspirations for marginalized minorities and natives around the world. 

Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld

 With all the rumors and media attention, the anti-Israel groups were smart in backing out of their original scheme, and instead passed out flyers to all the event’s attendees. Although the flyers were filled with lies that were quickly debunked by Professor Dershowitz during the event, SSI Columbia commended the anti-Israel students for legally expressing their right to free speech rather than targeting and bullying students with different opinions or with a different identity.

SSI Columbia and professor Alan Dershowitz hoped that the anti-Israel students would come and stay for the Q&A session, but immediately after disseminating their flyers they were nowhere to be found.

 This event marks a new day at Columbia University. It marks the beginning of a shift of tides where pro-Israel students are no longer afraid of stepping into the great arena of ideas. A day where anti-Israel students are no longer confident enough to bully students, and a day where a large pro-Israel event can be held without disruption. This just marks the beginning, but there is much work ahead.