Monday, March 2, 2009

Columbia University:

Movement to divest, from Apartheid Israel, is back.

March 3, 2009

Columbia students join divestment movement--

Columbia Palestine Forum

On the Web at:


We, as Columbia University Students, join the growing number of universities world-wide that are standing up for Palestinians’ rights to education, to academic freedom and to self-determination in the face of the Israeli Occupation. We do so in honor of the academic code to which Columbia University is also obligated.

In particular, we stand with our peers at the University of Rochester, Hampshire College, New York University and numerous UK Universities, and issue to Columbia an affirmative statement of our demands:

  1. We demand that Columbia University make full and public biannual disclosure of the University operating budget and endowment. Currently, a mere 10% of the budget and endowment is disclosed to the Columbia community.
  2. We demand that the University hold an open forum detailing its investments in companies and corporations actively involved in or profiting from the Israeli occupation, to begin a conversation University-wide conversation about divestment.
  3. We demand that the University partner with a Palestinian university and provide much needed academic aid, including but not limited to computers, books, etc.
  4. We demand that the University grant a number of scholarships, to be decided, for Palestinian students to attend Columbia University every year. In addition, we demand that the University pressure the appropriate Israeli authorities to guarantee the necessary visas for Palestinian scholars to participate fully in the international academic community: e.g. to accept fellowships and scholarships to attend institutions outside the Occupied Territories, attend conferences, participate in panels, give lectures, and so on. The University should regularly issue an official report regarding the efforts it has taken to assist Palestinian scholars to gain visas to attend conferences and/or other academic events at Columbia University.
  5. We, in solidarity with a growing group of Barnard and Columbia faculty, students and alumni, demand that the University issue a statement defending the academic freedoms of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
  6. Furthermore, we demand that the University formally state support for the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, and condemn the destructive actions of the Israeli state, which are in defiance of international law and have brought about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.


More details:

"Columbia demands justice for Palestine"

March 3, 2009

NEW YORK--Students at Columbia University are taking up the fight for Palestinian rights and have begun organizing around a set of demands for the university's divestment from Israel.

The students' demands, released on March 2, include full disclosure of Columbia's budget and endowment, a public forum on divestment, partnership with a Palestinian university, scholarships for Palestinian students and statements of support for Palestinian academic freedom and self-determination.

Students plan to host a forum on March 4, on "Columbia University's Relationship to Palestinian rights." A rally in front of the administration building is planned for the next day.

This comes just two weeks after more than a hundred Columbia University faculty members signed a letter demanding that the university's president take a stand for academic freedom in Palestine.

The faculty letter, now signed by 132 professors, points out that Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, has frequently "expressed [his] views in public on questions of academic freedom in the Middle East. Yet [he has] remained silent on the actions by Israel that deny that freedom to Palestinians." In 2005, Bollinger helped organize a group of university presidents across the U.S. to denounce a British professors' union that had voted to consider a boycott of Israel.

Bollinger came to Columbia with a reputation as a liberal, after his defense of affirmative action as the president of the University of Michigan. But he has alienated progressives on campus over a number of issues. He angered many faculty members by launching an investigation of Middle Eastern Studies professors who were attacked in a film by an off-campus group, the David Project, for their pro-Palestinian views.

A final straw for some came when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited campus in 2007, and Bollinger--who has treated visiting U.S.-friendly dictators like Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf with kid gloves--denounced the Iranian leader with an introduction that repeated discredited neoconservative talking points blaming Iran for the U.S. failure in Iraq.

Soon afterward, more than a hundred professors signed a letter criticizing Bollinger for refusing to defend the independence of Columbia's tenure process, failing to consult with faculty and having effectively "allied the university with the Bush administration's war in Iraq." Many of the same professors have signed on to the more recent letter around Gaza.

In the past, Columbia has hosted pro-Palestine scholars like Edward Said, Joseph Massad and Rashid Khalidi as well as pro-Israel forces. In recent years, pro-Palestine activists on campus have often been on the defensive--in the face of the David Project's campaign and a more recent attempt to deny tenure to Nadia Abu El Haj--but that period may be ending.

According to Rahel Aima, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, "Recent events in Gaza have changed the campus climate...despite Israel's attempt to keep its actions out of the sight of the media, the Internet has brought war crimes in Gaza into homes in the U.S., as television did for Vietnam."

If students, faculty and workers who want justice in the Middle East can take advantage of this new atmosphere, substantive change may be coming.