Members of Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine pose with their mock apartheid wall on Low Plaza Monday. Photo by: JARED ORELLANA

40 Columbia University professors sign petition in support of BDS

PNN/New York

From the Columbia Spectator.

Forty Columbia University faculty members have signed a petition urging the New York school to divest from companies that “supply, perpetuate, and profit from a system that has subjugated the Palestinian people.”

The petition was released Monday morning this week to mark the first day of Israel Apartheid Week, the Columbia Spectator reported.

According to the petition, the signatories “stand with Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine as well as with Jewish Voice for Peace in calling upon the University to take a moral stance against Israel’s violence in all its forms.”

“As both scholars and community members, we are professionally, intellectually, and morally invested in our University. We deem it our duty to hold our institution accountable for the ethical implications of its own actions, notably its financial investments and their implications around the world,” the petition said. “In particular, we take issue with our financial involvements in institutions associated with the State of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian lands, continued violations of Palestinian human rights, systematic destruction of life and property, inhumane segregation and systemic forms of discrimination.”

They include:

  • Rashid Khalidi, a history and Middle Eastern studies professor who has been a longtime critic of Israel and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel;
  • Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history who sees Zionism as a racist and colonialist movement;
  • Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropology professor who received tenure in 2007 following a heated battle over the merits of her work, particularly a book that accuses Israel of manipulating archaeological findings to legitimize its existence.
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University.
Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Chair in Arab Studies at Columbia University.

The most heavily represented departments among the signers are Middle Eastern South Asian and Africa studies, or MESAAS, English and comparative literature, and anthropology.

Partha Chatterjee, an anthropology and MESAAS professor at the Ivy League school who signed, told the Spectator in an email that he wanted to protest Israel’s security regime, which “virtually amounts to apartheid.”

“I fully support every effort to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands,” he said.

Dirk Salomons, a signatory who is a senior lecturer at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, told the Spectator:

“I’ve always had a feeling as a Jew that a Jewish state should rise slightly above the lack of morality of its neighbors. It pains me to see how a country which I love and which I have visited many times can be so blind to the needs of its neighbors.”

English professor Bruce Robbins, another signatory, compared CUAD’s campaign to efforts in the 1970s and ’80s pushing for divestment from apartheid-era South Africa, noting that many opponents labeled these efforts as “too radical” at the time.

“I have also seen what it’s like for Palestinians on the West Bank to live under the occupation,” Robbins said. “Once you’ve seen that, and you are offered a form of non-violent protest that is also endorsed by Palestinian civil society, it seems like a no-brainer.”

Read the full petition here:

However, at the same time, over 600 students, faculty, and alumni have signed a petition condemning what they are calling Columbia University Apartheid Divest’s “dismissal of terrorism as ‘civil disobedience.’”

The petition comes in the middle of Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual event hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine with Jewish Voice for Peace. This year’s awareness week is calling on the University to divest from eight companies that it says profit from and enable violations of Palestinian human rights.


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