Columbia University Hosts 'Zionists Are Racists' Forum

Pro-Israel leaders condemn campus event as anti-Semitic

Credit: Flickr user Takver
February 27, 2017

Columbia University is facing criticism from pro-Israel groups for hosting an on-campus forum entitled, "Zionists are Racists."

The event, set to be held Monday evening in a university building, is being organized by Columbia University's "Apartheid Divest" groups, which is comprised of several anti-Israel organizations committed to boycotting Jewish goods and individuals.

The event will feature speeches by individuals critical of the Jewish state, according to information publicly posted on Facebook.

The event is just another salvo in the campus war over Israel, which has become bound up in accusations of anti-Semitism against Jewish students and, in some cases, violence.

Much of this is being spearheaded by virulently anti-Israel campus organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, and Jewish Voice for Peace, both of which advocate boycotts of Israel. SJP has been banned on some college campuses for promoting anti-Semitic materials. Both organizations are backing the forum at Columbia.

Monday evening's event is being billed as an opportunity to "learn about Israel's racist and imperialist policies," according to event information.

"Come learn about Israel's racist and imperialist policies and hear Barney Pityana, leading figure in the Black Consciousness Movement and the South African Students' Organisation, as well as a close comrade of Steve Biko, will discuss what the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] struggle looks from the perspective of South Africa (sic)," the organization writes on a Facebook page promoting the event.

Similar events have been held at universities across the country and have been tied to a rising wave of anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses, according to multiple pro-Israel and Jewish organizations.

Multiple commenters on the Columbia organization's Facebook page blasted the group for advocating anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews.

One pro-Israel leader told the Washington Free Beacon that the event is merely an excuse to forward pernicious lies about the Jewish state and foster an atmosphere of hostility towards Jewish students.

"This is a stance that has long been rejected by all people of good faith, including the overwhelming majority of Americans, because it's an obvious and anti-Semitic attempt to erase the history of Jews as an indigenous people in the land of their origin," said Josh Block, president and CEO of the Israel Project, which works to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses and elsewhere.

"Anyone is entitled to think and say what they want, even when those things are hateful and outrageous," Block added. "But let's be clear that's what this is: Hate directed at Jews."

The Columbia event is being held amid an uptick in threats against Jewish community centers and other facilities. At least eight Jewish centers were hit with bomb threats on Monday in yet another wave of potential violence.

"On a day in which there are more bomb threats and Jewish nursery school children are being evacuated from classrooms and parents frantically racing from work to yet another eight Jewish community centers, and there are more desecrated Jewish cemeteries to clean up, it raises real questions about the judgment of administrators at Columbia who would let a campus like Columbia become a place that feels unwelcome and unsafe safe for Jewish students," Block said. "Our elected officials need to take notice if they won't fulfill their duty to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning and free of the fear of such discrimination."

A second senior pro-Israel leader who requested anonymity due to sensitivities over his work with student groups told the Free Beacon that Columbia should be ashamed for allowing its facilities to be used for such an event.

"Saying that Zionism is racism is so fringe that even the United Nations, which is now universally acknowledged as a hot bed of anti-Israel ideology, revoked it decades ago as being a completely unacceptable stance," said the source. "Universities should be bastions of free speech and sustained debate, but you have to wonder what's going on at Columbia when their students are exploring ideas that have been rejected as anti-Semitic even in the world's most hostile anti-Israel forums. It raises legitimate questions about whether Jewish students can feel safe on the Columbia campus."

Representatives from Columbia's media relations department did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment by press time.