Last week many Americans were shocked by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s apparent reversal of his longstanding support for a two-state solution. In an interview he gave the day before an election that he seemed poised to lose, Netanyahu commented: “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands, is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel,” when asked if that meant that a Palestinian state would not be established if he remained Prime Minister, he responded, “Indeed.” Apparently recognizing that his election-eve statement crossed a line that for years has been a bedrock of both American and Israeli policy – support for a two-state solution – Netanyahu quickly walked away from that statement and reasserted his commitment to a two-state solution, provided that it would be “sustainable.” That’s good news because most Israelis, as well as most Americans, support a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Here at Columbia University, however, there seems to be much more support, at least unofficially, for a one-state solution. And the one state being celebrated on campus is not the one that came into being in 1948 after it was endorsed in a United Nations resolution, but the one that is not yet recognized by the United States and whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, as Bret Stephens noted in the Wall Street Journal this week, last year “threatened Israel with a global religious war if Jews were allowed to pray in the Temple Mount’s Al Aqsa mosque.”
You see, this week marks the annual “Israel Apartheid Week” at Columbia University, in which pro-Palestinian groups agitate against the Jewish state. Unlike in prior years when both pro-Palestinian student groups and Zionist student groups were afforded locations to hold their respective rallies, this year Columbia has only authorized an anti-Israel space on College Walk.
In past years, pro-Israel groups have been allowed to set up their own tables and Israeli flags on the Sundial, opposite the makeshift “apartheid wall” that covers the width of Low Steps. This year, however, the University allowed SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) to book both sides of College Walk, and SJP gave that real estate to a group ironically called Jewish Voice for Peace. Predictably, in passing JVP’s tabling initiatives one sees a banner reading “Boycott Israel,” essentially an identical mission to that of SJP. JVP has placed itself on the sundial, preaching an ideal that is certainly not representative of Jewish thought on campus, and they are barring the pro-Israel lobby from holding a counter-demonstration. So much for giving voice to a two-state solution on campus.
Until now, Hillel’s pro-Israel groups have gathered together on the sundial in a counter-demonstration to stress the importance of conversation over confrontation. But without a place to park themselves this year, the pro-Israel groups are effectively being silenced. Rather than simply give up, they have mounted a silent protest this year distributing and posting fliers in order to raise awareness about Israeli Democracy and to show the Columbia community that Israel could hardly be farther from an apartheid state.
Indeed, had the pro-Israel organizations been allocated a space to exhibit their views during this apartheid week, the Columbia community would have seen two flags displayed on its banners, both an Israeli flag and Palestinian flag, in order to affirm the commitment to a two-state, peaceful solution, and the desire to commit to dialogue with our anti-Israel counterparts. Students at the University will not be seeing anything that resembles that from SJP, and should be conscious to take what they hear from SJP and JVP this week with a grain of salt. They are hearing only one side of the story.