A European Columbia Student's Experience: Campus is Fanatically Pro-Israel, Anti-Muslim

- Introduction by M. Junaid Alam

Readers who have been following the attacks on Arab professors at Columbia University may have read my recent investigative article on the subject. The piece elicited many positive responses, including from Columbia staff and students. One such respondent was a recent European graduate who shared some startling revelations about the university's real atmosphere. Relating his experience below, and using the pseudonym "Mark Roberts" to avoid the kind of vicious attacks Zionist groups are notorious for, he describes how Zionist students have attacked Muslims inside and outside the classroom, and exposes the heavily pro-Israel nature of Columbia Law School.

- by "Mark Roberts"

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. Then, after finishing my undergraduate degree in Europe and enrolling at Columbia as a graduate student, what struck me most was just the opposite of what some are complaining of nowadays: that is, 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 hand, 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 violently to repress anybody defending the Palestinians. Students belonging to the Middle Eastern group at the Law School were practically spat upon, their tables overturned, etc. - 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 claim that their voices are "stifled" and that they are "unwelcome" and "silenced."

Consider these recent incidents, which I personally witnessed. When Palestinian students on the main campus distributed flyers by spring 2002 to commemorate the 1948 "nekhba" (disaster), a crowd of Hillel fanatics approached them shouting "terrorists." Had they said that to me or to any other person and had I been in the Palestinian students' shoes, it would have ended up in a fistfight. But it was the Palestinian students and not the Hillel provocateurs who showed extreme restraint.

When Dr Mustafa Barghouti (who just finished second in the recent Palestinian elections) came to Columbia to give a talk in November 2003, two Hillel fanatics began to harass him during the Q&A; session, heaping ridicule on his presentation as "this wonderful display of propaganda" and charging that "you Palestinians feel like victims, but how about all the weapons you get from Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah?" They then demonized Arabs in the rudest form that I have ever seen. "Thank you for the compliment about my propaganda," Barghouti replied, "but actually we are still learning about this - from you know who."

When Barghouti mentioned the 4,000 Palestinians killed one of the Hillel fanatics laughed. A lady stood up and very angrily told them at least not to show their scorn for the victims publicly. When they continued to laugh, a professor told them to shut up. I wonder if that is what is meant by "silencing students who offer opposing views" - that is, rightly telling them to show a little bit of respect towards the keynote speaker and victims of the conflict, just as Israelis expect respect to be shown for their 1,000 dead since 2000. No such vulgarity was on display every time Benjamin Netanyahu came to the Business School to give a talk during the previous years.

It also bears comparing the "silencing" to which the late Professor Said was subjected 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.

Then there's the stifling of dissenting voices by fanatical Zionist professors at the Law School. Some of them seem to spend all of their waking hours concocting legal alibis in defense of Mother Israel, much like Communist Party hacks did for Mother Russia in the 1930s. For example, at the height of the Israeli incursions of 2002, Professor George Fletcher put forth the long discredited notion that UN Resolution 242 "did not compel Israel to leave all territories." This masterful piece was published in the New York Times as some kind of intellectual breakthrough. Never mind that 242 emphasizes "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." Other law school professors are avid proponents of Israel exceptionalism - that is, human rights protections like the prohibition on torture must be afforded to everyone except victims of Israeli policy.

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."

After September 11, fanatical Zionists began enrolling in Middle East classes at Columbia. Those dealing with Iran have been a favourite. I vividly remember one of these classes where the presentation of a pro-Israel student supposedly on Iran turned into a defense of Israel and an attack on Palestinians. In fact, Iran was not even mentioned once in the presentation. In Europe this could not have happened. The professor would have politely told the student that Israel was the topic of the class. But not at Columbia, where terrified professors allow these poor "silenced" and "stifled" students go on interminably (and boringly) about Mother Israel.

In this same class during another session the (foreign-born) professor's uncontroversial, at any rate in the real world, assertion that "Palestinians are oppressed" was met by the fanatics' outrage. The professor, no doubt fearing reprisals, did not dwell on the issue and barely defended himself while the "silenced" students angrily protested. That European students came to the professor's rescue and initiated a debate after class would seem to suggest that it is not Israel's supporters students but its critics who are "silenced" and "stifled.." The European students were then accused by their pro-Israeli counterparts of being - surprise, surprise - "anti-Semites."

Indeed, one wonders why these fanatics feel it necessary to defend Israel in class. Isn't such defense redundant when these same "silenced" students offer their partisan views in the school's newspaper on a weekly basis? And, truly the anti-Semitic oppression weighs heavily at the Law School, where only a handful of Arab and Muslim students gain admission while more than half of the accepted candidates in the S.J.D program every single year are Israelis, a country of 6 million people in a world with 6 billion inhabitants. It might also be mentioned that the few Arab and Muslim students often contemplate leaving or long for the last term there because of the fanaticism of those "silenced" and stifled" apologists for Israel.

The truth is that Columbia is the last refuge of self-delusional 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."

"Mark Roberts" is the pseudonym for a recent European graduate of Columbia University.
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