Columbia has always had an antisemitism problem

Morgan Raum

Columbia Spectator

Mon Dec 03 2018

In October, Columbia released a short statement—two brief paragraphs—in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. They used extremely vague, non-specific language and somehow neglected to mention Jews or antisemitism. In taking an intersectional approach rather than one that explicitly decried anti-Jewish bigotry, they also diluted and drew attention away from the specifically antisemitic nature of the crime, which shocked the community and personally affected many Columbia students. In the administration’s more recent statement on the enormous red swastikas and the antisemitic slur spray-painted on the walls of 77-year-old Jewish Holocaust studies professor Elizabeth Midlarsky’s office on Wednesday, the Administration wrote two generic, three-line paragraphs expressing its “shock and anger” and listing the school’s available resources in this “difficult time.” If this statement was in any sense an attempt to make up for their previously lacking one, they did not do so adequately.

On multiple other occasions, the administration has written thoroughly detailed statements to assuage students’ concerns. For example, in their statement on contentious speakers at Columbia, five exhaustive paragraphs were dedicated to assuring students that their safety and wellbeing would be ensured, along with a note that these speakers’ messages contradict Columbia’s core values and commitment to diversity. Perhaps the response to CUCR speakers would feel less inopportune and inconsistent if the administration provided a more detailed response to what happened on Wednesday—especially considering Columbia’s large population of Jewish undergraduates, many of whom have felt their safety and well-being have been compromised by this gruesome hate crime on our own campus.

In just the last year alone, numerous Columbia professors have also invoked dangerous antisemitic tropes in order to criticize Israel. While criticism of the Jewish state is perfectly acceptable and warranted, using harmful canards in order to do so is not. On one occasion, Professor Rashid Khalidi stated during a radio interview that Israel supporters would “infest” the Trump administration. He used the same word three times. In doing so, he implicates that Zionists are vermin. This Nazi-era rhetoric dehumanizes an entire group of people, many of whom are Jewish, by likening them to pests. Another Columbia professor, Hamid Dabashi, wrote numerous controversial Facebook posts this summer, including one in which he called Israel a “key actor” in “every dirty treacherous ugly and pernicious act happening in the world.” His claim invokes the familiar antisemitic trope that Jews are responsible for all the world’s evils. Though he does not mention Jews specifically, his comment is reminiscent of language historically weaponized against Jews, much like Khalidi’s language.

Both professors still teach here, and Columbia did not care to make a statement or distance itself from their careless, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous rhetoric....

Columbia has always had an antisemitism problem

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