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February 3, 2016 6:28 pm

Student Israel Advocates Leading Anti-BDS Effort at Columbia: ‘It’s Considered Cool to Oppose Zionism’ (INTERVIEW)

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SSI cofounders Rudy Rochman and Alexandra Markus. Photo: Courtesy.

SSI cofounders Rudy Rochman and Alexandra Markus. Photo: Courtesy.

A student group at Columbia University is gearing up to counter an anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign being launched on campus this Thursday, The Algemeiner has learned.

The Columbia chapter of “Students Supporting Israel” (SSI) – established in September to prevent and combat such efforts, which have become increasingly commonplace at colleges across America – intends to send a delegation to attend a launch event, sponsored by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a joint organization formed by Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.

CUAD has been advertising on social media and in fliers distributed throughout the Ivy League school in New York City that it is holding an event to kickstart its BDS endeavor, which is focused on pressuring the university to divest “from companies that benefit from or provide funds for the continued presence of Israeli homes, business, and infrastructure in the West Bank,” as The Algemeiner reported on Tuesday. It has also been circulating an online petition and referring students to a Facebook invitation page called BDS 101.

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SSI Columbia founder Alexandra Markus told The Algemeiner that this kind of event is precisely what spurred her into action in the first place.

“The scariest part about the CUAD initiative is not that it comes from Students for Justice in Palestine, but also from Jewish Voice for Peace,” she said. “But that’s not surprising, since most of the Jews on campus say they love Israel, even went on Birthright, but insist they are uncomfortable with Zionism, because it’s unjust. It’s the cool thing to say. If you don’t say it, you’re seen as unsophisticated — as someone who listens only to what your parents and rabbis tell you, have no mind of your own and lack the capacity for critical thinking. Even the Israelis on campus say they go back home during election time just to vote for Meretz,” a left-wing political party in Israel.

It is an atmosphere, Markus said, that affects everyone, including the faculty. “The professors who support us have said they can’t come out publicly on our side, because they’re afraid it would jeopardize their careers. And they’re right. Look what happened to [Connecticut philosophy professor] Andrew Pessin. And to tell you the truth, I am also petrified that my pro-Israel activism could ruin my career.”

Still, she does not intend to back down.

Markus, a student of Narrative Medicine who attended McGill University before moving on to Columbia said she used to be a “radical leftist – a radical feminist; a radical environmentalist; a radical LGBT activist, the whole works. I was surrounded by professors and other students with communist views and indoctrination.”

Her awakening, she said, was due to several factors and mentors, as well as a stint in Israel. “And when I started getting involved in the Israel club at McGill, all my leftist friends rejected what I was doing.” Tolerance, it seemed to her, was something preached by her cohorts, but not practiced – at least not regarding the Jewish state.

At Columbia, she encountered a similar situation.

SSI co-founder and president Rudy Rochman expanded on what he considers an anti-Israel climate at the university by telling The Algemeiner how the dean of students recently addressed an orientation gathering. “He told us he was proud to be part of the faculty when, in 2007, then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was invited to speak at Columbia, saying such events allow a platform for shared ideas and acceptance.”

Rochman reiterated what he had written on Facebook in response to this statement: “Acceptance for what? Terrorism, radical Islam, mass murder and the pursuit of world power through the destruction of everyone else? We shouldn’t share those ideas; we should destroy them and at the very least not give venom a voice. There were those who invited Hitler to speak … Oh boy, we have a lot of work to do here.”

Markus said anybody who would allow Ahmadinejad, a rampant Holocaust denier who called for Israel’s destruction, to present his views, or for the BDS movement to flourish, must be “so open-minded that their brains fell out.”

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  • Robert Davis

    I see from the Jérusalem Post that antisémites are proud to be called so because…”it shows they are working for justice” but where is justice turning the arabimperialism oppressor into a victim and oppressed and the victim defing its only jewish State in the world into an…oppressor? be proud of being a LIAR? that’s whart antisémites are :liars and cowards. Unfortunately Israel’s “leaders” are among the cowards and the israeli medias is almost worse. Inter alia they prohibit thru despicable tricks most pro Israel to even comment. In a regressive world where the communists are called “progressive” or “liberals” and have so much power thru their lies, one can Wonder whether göbbles system was not efficient. Of course it will deflate one day and probably even provoke a ww3 but in the meantime it…works!

  • I wouldn’t say that it’s cool, I’d say that it’s imperative!

  • J A Davis

    These brave students who have the strength and integrity to go against the prevailing hostile atmosphere on the campus of Columbia must be supported by those of us who feel the same and are outside the campus.

    Bravo to Alexandra and Rudy.

    • Robert Davis

      brave? they are the aggressors take advantage of their numbers to take on more or less isolated jews and you call that “brave”? on top of that they support totalitarian communist and arab imperialism against democracy and you call this brave? evidently you miust be one of these communist liars and cowards always prone to fight 10 to 1

  • Markus Elkana Brajtman

    Ii lIKE YOUR LAST COMMENT
    “MUST BE OPEN MINDED THAT THEIR BRAINS FALL OUT”
    PROBLEM>
    THEY DO NOT HAVE A BRAIN
    how can any Jew be anti Zionism?
    It is because of Zionism that we have a Jewish state, a home to call”OUR OWN”and have a future as Jews to live.
    For more than 3 thousand years, we have been “the wondering Jew””
    We never had a home. Wwe were murdered, expelled, hated etc.
    We are still hated. Why, because the Jewish brain has done so much for the world, created so much in medical, technical, agricultre. etc
    Those who hate us, have contributed nothing.
    ALEXANDRA MARKUS.

    MAY HASHEM BLESS YOU AND GUIDW FOR WHAT YOU ARE DOING

    • Abby

      Sorry, I can only hear your privilege talking. There have been many more persecuted minorities than us. We don’t get to be special.

    • Robert Davis

      Those who hate us are mostly communist, far left and far right parties and arabs. All of these are cowards and liars they will NOT prevail but they have already provoked 2 ww and are going to provoke a third one if they are not rejected. However most governments nowadays are socialist and protect those antisémites people such as hussein obanana and France in europe which made emules.On topof that universalsmis the worse thing that could happen to this planet :ONE govt. or UNIQUE thought for…7 billion people. What chance to have peace? only fools can think universalism can bring peace to the world nothing is worse for the world. Worse than nazism!

  • Judith Levine

    Alexandra Marcus is an intelligent and passionate young woman. She is very well spoken and an excellent leader in the fight to keep Jews from being silenced and bullied on American Campuses. As a member of the allied group Stop BDS on Campus, founded by Naomi Friedman, I am very proud that I get to work with this remarkable person!

    • Michael Bass

      Judith well said. Alexandra is an inspirational young lady. Great effort.

  • Richard E Sherwin

    hating, condescending, and assimilating (supersessionalisms) jews was always ‘cool’ in the west. it just wasnt ‘polite’ for the 2 decades after the holocaust (the west’s sacrifice of living jews to their idolatrous jewhatred) was published –about 1945-1967. It still is not merely cool but quite violently stimulating in the moslem world, nearly everywhere.
    congratulations to you who are opposing this bds aspect of the worldwide ‘cool’ (cf UN, EU, most arab and persian islam) ….

  • Ike Semaya

    I would pose this question to the Jackass’ who support BDS, “WHY ARE YOU USING YOUR CELL PHONE IF YOU SUPPORT BOYCOTTING ISRAEL AND ISRAELI PRODUCTS. DON’T YOU KNOW AN ISRAELI COMPANY INVENTED THE CELL PHONE AS WELL AS THE INTERNET.
    TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL THROW AWAY YOUR CELL PHONES AND STOP USING THE INTERNET.

  • Jay

    This harassment of Jewish students should be stopped. If this was against black students heads would role. Ask the large donors to help. Also ask the JDO, Kahani Chai, Dov Hikend, Chabad, Aguda, and any other outspoken people to be invited by the students. Publicize the faculty in charge email to all Jewish sites and ask that they email them.

  • ZG

    Good for you. Wish you a lot of success, and I greatly respect your courage which very few possess.

  • Myron Slater

    All the respect that I had for Columbia University, I now have replaced with scorn. How can an institution of higher learning, not use their intelligence to check the facts before making comments about a murderer and terrorist.

  • Chaim Birnboim

    My congratulations and best wishes to SSI cofounders Rudy Rochman and Alexandra Markus. The assorted anti-Zionist groups on American (and Canadian) University campuses make a mockery of the notion of social justice, of women’s rights, of gay rights. Let us hope that SSI will be successful in rallying the silent majority of Jewish and non-Jewish students in opposition to these aggressive, intolerant groups.

  • Steve Loeb

    Its either rappers or the JDL that will make it Zionism very cool …. since the Jihadis have already coopted Black groups, we need the JDL to show them cool or not – screw with us and they’ll be consequences – JUST like the Muslims have done for years

  • Why do progressive Jews who fight for non-Jewish causes often ignore the anti-Jewish oppression of their peers?

    After centuries of waiting in vain for others to come to our defense, have we internalized the idea that there’s no hope of getting other people to stand with us?

    Jews learned our only meaningful role in changing the world would be supporting other peoples’ struggles; in making ourselves useful. that means we often stay quiet about anti-Jewish oppression: We learn to fight in support of other groups without requesting the solidarity that we, ourselves, need.

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