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February 14, 2017 2:10 pm

Columbia University Protesters Call for Elimination of Jewish State During Speech by Israel’s UN Ambassador

avatar by Lea Speyer and Rachel Frommer

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Protesters gather at Columbia University against a speech by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Monday, February 13, 2017. Photo: Lea Speyer/The Algemeiner.

Demonstrators gather at Columbia University to protest a speech by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon on Monday, February 13, 2017. Photo: Lea Speyer/The Algemeiner.

Shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” protesters gathered Monday evening at Columbia University to disrupt a lecture by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon.

The popular chant calling for the elimination of Israel was used during one of seven organized interruptions of Danon’s speech by individuals associated with the New York City school’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and other left-wing groups.

As the protesters were escorted out by security — to cheers from the audience — Danon said the slogan’s message demonstrates “a very important point”: that there are those who “don’t want to see the existence of a Jewish state,” within any borders.

“Some Palestinians — not all, but some — don’t want a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but a Palestinian state that will replace Israel,” the ambassador said, referring to the chant of the demonstrators about the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea — the entire Jewish state

Event co-sponsor Victor Muslin 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 that Danon “masterfully called attention to Palestinian incitement and to the fact that the Palestinians’ interest is Israel’s total destruction, not peace.”

Among the other slogans chanted by some 70 demonstrators gathered on the street and in the lecture hall were: “Racists not welcome,” “Danny Danon you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide” and “One, two, three, four, occupation’s gotta go. Five, six, seven, eight, Israel’s an apartheid state.” Protesters also held signs and banners supporting “resistance” and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Rudy Rochman, president of the Columbia chapter of grassroots activist group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and an organizer of the event, told The Algemeiner that SJP and JVP are “hate groups on campus that have hijacked legitimate Palestinian voices.”

“We want to create a space on campus where we can have actual dialogue,” Rochman said. “However, groups like these are not willing to listen or talk at all.”

Throughout his lecture, the ambassador invited protesters to stay and debate with him, a move Columbia Chabad director Rabbi Yonah Blum said was filled “with grace and humor.”

Danon told The Algemeiner that the anti-Israel movement’s efforts “to spread lies and silence our voices” will not succeed.

“We will continue to stand up for Israel in any capacity, defending the Jewish state’s right to exist and our right to defend ourselves, both across our borders and within our lecture halls,” the ambassador said.

Responding to The Algemeiner’s request for comment about the students’ disruptions, a Columbia spokesman stated: “Almost all of the attendees at last night’s event with Ambassador Danon came to listen and to engage in conversation. Ambassador Danon delivered his remarks and responded to questions from students as he and the sponsors intended. A small number of students sought to disrupt the event and their actions will be addressed under the Rules of University Conduct.”

Rochman told The Algemeiner that he “highly doubts” the university will go through with punishing disruptive protesters.

As The Algemeiner reported on Friday, organizers of the ambassador’s appearance on campus were forced to slash the number of non-university attendees after the school threatened to shut down the event, citing security concerns. Following the program, ACF’s Muslin told The Algemeiner it was a shame that “quite a few seats remained empty that could have been filled by those who…truly wanted to hear the ambassador but were turned away.”

Columbia was recently ranked by The Algemeiner as the “worst” North American campus for Jewish students in 2016, due to its record of antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on campus last year, among other factors. 

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