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Tensions flared between dozens of pro-Israel demonstrators and members of “Students for Justice in Palestine” on Sunday afternoon, October 16th outside of Columbia University on the third and final day of the 2011 National Students for Justice in Palestine “teach-in” organized by members to prepare for their upcoming Israel Apartheid Week events across college campuses throughout North America.
Holding aloft both Israeli and American flags and signs saying, “SJP Brings Stealth Jihad to Columbia University,” “Stop Hamas Terror Against Jews and Christians” and “Occupy Columbia With Truth and Justice – Not Lies and Anti-Israel Incitement,” the pro-Israel supporters represented such organizations as Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), the National Conference of Jewish Affairs (NCJA), Amcha – Coalition for Jewish Concerns and the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI).
Rancorous debates and raucous arguments broke out between the two sides as the Zionist contingent engaged the SJP members, as they exited the university on the corner of 116th Street and Broadway. “Our conference is about advocating for human rights in Palestine. Our Palestinian brothers and sisters are being subjected to the most severe degree of oppression on a daily basis by the Israeli colonialists and occupiers and we are here to put forth our message that a Jewish state is a fundamentally racist concept as are the apartheid practices of that state,” said Amina Fayyid, a SJP student organizer.
According to the SJP web site, one of the objectives of the conference is to “facilitate and support the advancement of existing campaigns and the development of new campaigns with particular (but not exclusive) emphasis on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel.” Among the multifarious seminars and workshops taking place at the conference is one titled “Indigenous Struggles: situating Palestine as a settler-colonial project,” which ostensibly explores “understanding Palestine within comparative settler colonial framework while seeking to re-align the Palestinian movement within a universal history of decolonization, and imagining new possibilities for Palestinian resistance, solidarity and common struggle.”
Helen Freedman, executive director of Americans For A Safe Israel (AFSI), said, “Israel is the only stable democracy in the Middle East and these student activists know very well that Palestinians living in Israel have a much better lifestyle than they would in any other Arab country; yet their goal in organizing such a conference is to perpetuate the myths, incessant lies and blatant distortions that they use in their quest to demonize Israel. What we are witnessing here today is nothing short of the most egregious form of anti-Semitism cloaked in the clever subterfuge of anti-Zionism.”
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