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March 2, 2016 10:30 am

Pro-Israel Installation at Columbia U Featuring 12-Foot Pinocchio Forced Down by Pro-BDS Student Government

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12-foot tall Pinocchio display at Columbia University

12-foot tall Pinocchio display at Columbia University

A pro-Israel installation set up opposite an “Israeli Apartheid Week” display at Columbia University was partially dismantled Tuesday, amid claims it violated campus rules, according to a student who witnessed the event.

The demand to take down the 12-foot-tall inflatable Pinocchio came from Columbia’s Student Governing Board (SGB), whose chief officers are supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the student witness told The Algemeiner.

“The SGB originally wanted them to take down the entire installation,” the witness told The Algemeiner. “But when they pointed out that they had received a proper permit for it, the SGB relented and just told them to take down the Pinocchio. SGB kept giving different reasons — that it was too large; that it needed to be tied down; that the generator was noisy — but the students kept responding that they had gone through the proper channels and been granted a permit to put up a large display. The students had even gotten approval that their display did not violate the ‘amplified noise’ restriction.”

Craig Dershowitz, a member of Artists4Israel who, along with the Columbia chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), erected the installation, told the blogger Elder of Ziyon that “Jewish Voice for Peace members even made the ridiculous claim that Pinocchio’s large nose was antisemitic.”

In video footage seen by The Algemeiner, a young woman, identified as Mariam Elnozahy, chair of SGB, can be seen telling a young man — later identified as Rudy Rochman, a co-founder of Columbia’s SSI — that his group needed to remove the Pinocchio. In the video, Elnohazy is wearing an “Apartheid Divest” sweatshirt, the logo of the BDS campaign launched last month at Columbia, as reported by The Algemeiner.

Present also was SGB Vice Chair Karim Nader, who, the witness informed The Algemeiner, is also a member of Columbia’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and a supporter of the BDS campaign.

Rochman told The Algemeiner that, after an extensive discussion, he agreed to take down the Pinocchio and attend a special meeting of Columbia staff and safety personnel at 4 pm on Tuesday, to discuss whether the Pinocchio would be permitted to be displayed the rest of this week. As of Wednesday morning, no final verdict on the question had been offered.

According to Rochman:

For “Apartheid Week” we decided to showcase the truth, support Israel, promote coexistence, but also stand up to the lies being presented. We like to call their strategy “compassion abuse,” where groups exploit people’s suffering in order to portray Israel as a terrible state that must be destroyed. SSI brought out a 12-foot tall Pinocchio that had a sign stating “Apartheid Week – Compassion Abuse,” to present our message clearly to the students at Columbia University. Unfortunately after receiving approval to table and set up a large display, the school forced SSI to take the Pinocchio down and, as a result, is silencing our message.

The Pinocchio was just one element, the student witness told The Algemeiner, of the large multi-panel installation that provided information about Israel and countered “the many lies that anti-Israel activists tend to tell about Israel.”

“The Pinocchio was a good way to make that point,” she said.

Neither Elnohazy nor Nader replied to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment.

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