By Dalia Zahger As a passionate young Israeli who strongly believes in fighting for justice, I came to America to pursue my personal goals of studying international law and diplomacy. It seemed like New York, the city of opportunities, would allow me the freedom to fight for what is right while at the same time getting the education which will later allow me to do it professionally.
Starting my path here, I was surprised with the extreme anti- Israeli rhetoric and approach on campuses in the United States and specifically in New York, where Columbia University holds the notorious title of one the top two anti-Israel campuses nationally. As an Israeli, I could not shy away from the blunt lies and demonizing accusations which are directed on a daily basis towards my homeland and often specifically towards Israeli soldiers, which I have been a few years ago. Very shortly after arriving to New York I joined Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University and found myself in a new, civil type of fight for Israel
As a future law student and a justice seeking person, I found the American constitution to be very inspiring and innocently believed it would be the foremost guardian of people’s rights both generally and specifically in academia. Little did I know. As part of SSI Columbia, I helped lead many events with one clear goal: to share with the student body the Jewish story and connection to Israel. I expected to be able to speak my mind and my truth freely, but, anti-Israel groups often managed to disrupt our events to a point where speakers were silenced. As an example, Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, came to Columbia to speak of how Israel is viewed in the UN. Ambassador Danon was interrupted multiple times and could not give his full speech as planned. Just like any other student group, SSI should be allowed the freedom of speech but that is currently not the case, not only in Columbia but nationwide. Systematically, groups such as SJP and JVP which hold only one goal of demonizing Israel never miss an opportunity to show up and shut down events SSI and other pro-Israel groups hold. SSI’s flyers which promote events are being vandalized or thrown away completely. Each college student and parent should ask themselves how they want the college experience to be. Is it one where social life and freedom of speech is controlled by bullies or one where we take our rights back and start demanding what we all deserve? SSI Columbia fights and will continue to fight these anti-Israel attacks. Our group shifts the conversation on campus and shows Israel in a different light. Israel finds itself attacked again and again but always prevails, SSI as its representative on campus shall do the same. At the same time, we expect university authorities across the country to be much more proactive in protecting the right of speech for all. The article is written by Dalia Zahger a former IDF soldier and a member of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University.