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December 4, 2016 5:04 am

Israel Advocates at Columbia University to Hold ‘Indigenous People Unite’ Event to ‘Reclaim Narrative’ About Jewish Right to Native Land

avatar by Lea Speyer

“Indigenous People Unite” event poster. Photo: SSI Columbia.

A poster for the ‘Indigenous People Unite’ event. Photo: SSI Columbia.

Students at New York City’s Columbia University have launched a new initiative aimed at refuting the claim that Jews have no historic right to the land of Israel.

Rudy Rochman, the president of the Columbia chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) who is spearheading the campaign, told The Algemeiner that his group seeks to “reclaim the narrative” with an upcoming event entitled “Indigenous People Unite.”

“The Palestinians frame Israel and Jews as a movement that came to take away someone else’s and whose mere existence impedes on the Palestinian right of self-determination,” he explained.

According to Rochman, anti-Israel Columbia faculty and student groups — like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) — “target the average student on campus by playing up and riding on the shoulders of other minority struggles,” while maintaining that the Israeli cause lies outside of that group. “It’s no coincidence they use phrases like ‘boycott’ and ‘apartheid’ when it comes to Israel.”

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By including an “Israelite” on the event’s program, which highlights the plight of indigenous peoples, alongside Assyrian, Yazidi, Native Canadian and Tibetan speakers, Rochman said his group aims to change that perception.

“Martin Luther King Jr., a revolutionary, was inspired by the story of Israel because it resembled his own,” he said. “The Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan people, has said it is important to learn from the Jewish tradition to survive in the Diaspora. Yet most people today are not inspired by Israel’s story, because we don’t speak about it enough.”

Rochman said he hopes the program will show that “you can support Palestinian human rights while also supporting the story of Israel — the story of a people who have a right to exist like any native people.” He said he wants to encourage his peers to “feel empowered by Israel, and not view the situation as one in which they have to choose sides.”

According to Rochman, several other SSI chapters have expressed interest in holding their own “Indigenous People Unite” events — which he believes will mark a “shift in the way students and the younger generation advocate for Israel.”

“The way the hasbara [public diplomacy] industry is pumping out information is not working, and we, as people who are pro-Israel, are tired of being automatically branded. I want to tell the story of my people: of our yearning to come back to our homeland, and of why we pray three times a day, facing Jerusalem. This connection is what needs to be shared with the world.”

The first “Indigenous People Unite” event is slated to take place on December 6 on the Columbia campus.

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