»Before studying at Columbia University, I hadn't thought much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Coming from Europe, I had no specific links to the area. But after finishing my undergraduate degree in Europe and enrolling at Columbia as a graduate student, I was struck by how fanatically pro-Israel Columbia was.
After being at Columbia for a while it occurred to me that international organisations and the UN, on the one hand and Columbia and New York, on the other, functioned in parallel universes. At international fora and assemblies, which I followed for my studies, Israeli repression was condemned, and countless resolutions requesting Israel to abide by international law were blocked by the US. At Columbia, arguments were concocted to defend Israel. I have been to many universities in many different countries and I have to say that, by far, I have never attended a more closed-minded campus than Columbia. And I am not saying this merely on account of the density of Israeli army T-shirts that can be regularly observed there.
By fall 2000 at the beginning of the second intifada, fanatical supporters of Israel sought to violently repress anybody defending the Palestinians. Students belonging to the Middle Eastern group at the Law School were practically spat upon, their tables overturned - occurrences that in Europe would be inconceivable. On the other hand, maybe due to international condemnation of Israeli policies, a debate was finally opening up on campus. Because they no longer dominate one hundred percent of public discussion, fanatical supporters of Israel on campus now claim that their voices are "stifled" and that they are "unwelcome" and "silenced."«
»It also bears comparing the "silencing" to what the late Professor Said had to deal with at Columbia. His life was constantly threatened, so much so that he was put under police surveillance. But this silencing wasn't meant to stifle discussion, didn't lead to any public investigation and wasn't a cause of concern by New York politicians.«
»And, while it is perfectly legitimate to write a paper on the injustices committed against the Palestinian population for a specific class on Human Rights (at the student's risk with respect to the grade), those wishing to conduct more thorough research on the topic after the J.D. degree, for which the assistance of a professor is necessary, have been told that "while the subject may be worth-while, there is no current interest among the faculty."«
»The truth is that Columbia has been a refuge for Zealots for Zion. It is precisely when the ideological walls protecting this haven began to crumble that they started shouting about "silenced" and "stifled" voices and anti-Semitism. One doesn't hear this nonsense on European campuses, because the zealots know the battle has been lost there: the truth is out about what Israel has done to the Palestinians. But here in the U.S. the hope is that by whipping up enough hysteria they can still win here. If they do, it won't be because what they're saying is true but because the rest of us were, yet again, "silenced" and "stifled."«
»But intimidating measures will not work. Dean Bollinger should be criticised for succumbing to the pressure of a group well-known for carrying out a witch hunt against anybody daring to criticise Mother Israel in all circles and walks of life. Cancelling a class - as one professor has done or has been forced to do after the pressure of events - suggests that academic freedom and freedom of thought are at danger. Furthermore it constitutes a dangerous precedent. What if any other group did not like the contents of a class in which they were criticised ? Should that class be cancelled ? What if Turkish groups engaged in a campaign to protest against classes that mention the Armenian genocide ? Or what if Armenian groups pressured Mr Bollinger to protest lectures where the existence of an Armenian holocaust is put into question? Would he also cancel that class and punish the professors that teach it? «