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February 10, 2017 5:38 pm

Columbia University Forces Organizers of Upcoming Event With Jewish State’s UN Ambassador to Slash Number of Pro-Israel Attendees

avatar by Lea Speyer and Rachel Frommer

Event flier for Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon's speech at Columbia University.

Event flier for Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon’s upcoming talk at Columbia University.

Organizers of an upcoming program at Columbia University featuring Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon have been forced to slash the number of non-university attendees after school officials threatened to shut the event down, citing security concerns, The Algemeiner has learned.

The move will effectively reduce the number of supporters of the Jewish state who will be able to attend the Monday lecture.

“We were originally asked to limit non-Columbia people to around 70, and to hand in a list of names for pre-approval,” Rudy Rochman, president of the Columbia chapter of grassroots activist group Students Supporting Israel (SSI), said. “Now we are left with maybe 10 non-university individuals, outside of the ambassador’s team, who we can invite.”

Event co-sponsor Victor Muslin co-sponsor of Columbia Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) — part of a national network engaged in combating antisemitism and anti-Israel bias on campuses — told The Algemeiner he was “disappointed” by the school’s decision to issue the strict cap of 20 non-university individuals permitted to attend the event. This number includes the ambassador’s security detail.

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“This decision will affect a number of alumni who are entitled to attend,” Muslin said.

Those with a valid student, faculty or alumnus ID are not included in this new quota, but they will now have to register beforehand, rather than simply showing their identification at the door.

Rochman said the university’s decision came after he described a “war zone” atmosphere playing out on campus in the days before the scheduled speech. Rochman said school officials cited his “figurative language” when raising concerns about potential clashes flaring up between pro- and anti-Israel activists.

In a recent letter, obtained by The Algemeiner, Columbia ACF called on university officials to take steps to “live up to its commitment to free speech and student safety” after anti-Israel groups launched a campaign to protest Danon’s talk.  

“Given the [protest] organizers’ inflammatory rhetoric, the recent violent protests at UC Berkeley and the history of anti-Israel groups disrupting events with high-level dignitaries, we wanted to ensure that this event will proceed without endangering anyone,” Muslin told The Algemeiner.

As The Algemeiner reported on Thursday, student groups at Columbia — such as the school’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and Columbia University Apartheid Divest — are planning a “Racists Not Welcome” protest against Danon’s speech.

Organizers have accused Danon of representing a country “born, like America, through savage ethnic cleansing of the original inhabitants.” Israel, they wrote, “is a state that has besieged and bombed the Palestinian people since its inception. Their alliances are global, and ours must be too. We will beat the far-right, but we will only beat them if we turn up everywhere to fight them.”

Columbia SSI’s Rochman told The Algemeiner on Wednesday: “You can survive here if you stick to yourself and don’t express your opinions. If you stand up for Israel, you are viciously shamed, targeted and slandered by these terrorist sympathizers who call Hamas a ‘liberation organization.’ This is the life we activists live here on campus.”

Responding to the controversy surrounding his Columbia appearance, Danon told The Algemeiner he won’t be prevented from “speaking in any place, and at any time, on behalf of the world’s only Jewish state.”

Columbia was recently ranked by The Algemeiner as the “worst” campus for Jewish students in 2016, in large part due to dozens of antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on campus.

Columbia officials did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment on the event. 

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