Given the growing controversy swirling around charges of anti-Israel bias
and intimidation of Jewish students by some Arab professors at Columbia
University, one would think Columbia would be wise enough to police itself
rigorously on this score.
Instead, on Jan. 31, a university panel advocating a one-state solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict served as a forum for vicious propaganda and
hate speech against Israel.
A packed room of hundreds of students and community members spilled over to
an adjacent chamber. Overwhelmingly, it was an anti-Israel crowd. Smirks and
laughter erupted from the audience whenever Israel was ridiculed.
Moreover, the panel, dubbed "One State or Two? Alternative Proposals
for the Middle East," attracted multiple sponsors on campus. The
university chaplain, the Student Senate, a Columbia Law School Arab student
group, the School of International and Public Affairs and the Middle East
Institute, a university affiliate, were all signed on.
The title of the panel was suspect in the first placewhat one-state
solution seekers really want is the destruction of the only Jewish state and in
its place, the creation of yet another Arab Muslim state to add to the 22
others that already exist.
Though the events official invitation called on participants to
"come hear four eminent scholars discuss and debate both sides of the
issue," the panel was overwhelmingly stacked against Israel, ensuring the
absence of debate on "both sides of the issue." Among the speakers
was Joseph Massad, a Columbia professor of Middle East studies accused of
intimidating Jewish students. (See page 5).
A second panelist, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab
Studies and Literature and director of Columbias Middle East Institute,
is considered by the Palestine Liberation Organization to be a reliable ally.
(See page 7.)
A third panelist, Haifa University lecturer Ilan Pappé gave the
keynote speech at "Israeli Apartheid Week" at the University of
Toronto. (See page 18).
Pappé claimed that the attempt at a two-state solution in 1947
"generated a war which ended with the Palestinian catastrophe and the
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population." However, it was not the
two-state solution which generated a war, but the invading Arab armies that did
As to "ethnic cleansing," if it were Israels goal, a fifth
of Israels population would not be Arab. In fact, Israeli Arabs and
Palestinians have the highest rate of natural increase in the world. According
to Professor Arnon Soffer, Israels leading demographer, the natural rate
of increase of the Arab population in Israel and the West Bank is 3.5 percent.
Among the Bedouins (in the south of Israel) and in the Gaza Strip the figure is
as high as 4.5 percent, which means that the population doubles in 15 to 17
years ("Israel, Demography 2000-2002," University of Haifa). For
comparative purposes, Egypts natural rate of increase is 1.89 percent,
and Saudi Arabias is 3.41.
Marc Cohen, a Princeton historian of medieval Israel, was the only panelist
who was not known for his extremist views about Israel. However, Cohen himself
concluded that his talk regarding the Middle Ages was irrelevant to the
panels topic. That left no one to defend Israel from heinous charges, let
alone advocate for a two-state solution.
Massad and Pappé hurled the usual distorted epithets against the
Jewish state: Israeli "racism," "colonialism" and
"apartheid." Khalidi called a two-state solution "a prescription
first for civil war
and then for unending conflict." He said only a
one-state solution would lead to democracy and equal rights for all.
Pappé agreed, even going so far as to suggest that a one-state solution
would enhance womens and childrens rights.
The so-called "debate," in which all the participants agreed with
each other, did not consider the historical record that would presage the
likely fate of Jews in a one-state solution. While Arabs live as a healthy
minority in Israel, Jews have largely been driven out of Arab nations where
they lived as subject people. Even Jordan, among the most moderate of Arab
countries, does not allow any Jew to become a citizen. Why would Jews be
treated justly and allowed to live at peace in a new Arab state in which groups
like Hamas and Islamic Jihad would likely be key players?
No panelist acknowledged Palestinian terrorism or the Jewish peoples
historic right to the land of Israel and to self-determination.
Massad, perhaps the most extreme speaker, drew the biggest applause from the
audience, launching into a 15 minute tirade and labeling Israel
"racist" almost 30 times. Massad accused Israel of treating its Arab
inhabitants as "third-class citizens." The Columbia professor held
Israel to impossibly high standards that no other western or democratic country
is held to, let alone the Arab countries of the Middle East. In actuality, Arab
Israelis, who constitute nearly 20 percent of Israels population, are
citizens of Israel who enjoy full voting rights and hold seats in Israels
parliament, the Knesset. Israelis Arabs have freedom of movement all over
Israel and can legally live in any city within Israel. They attend
Israels top universities and are among the most educated people in the
By contrast, in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi
Arabia and other states in the region where the official religion is Islam,
non-Muslims are in varying degrees relegated to inferior status. Arab states,
including Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, prohibit land sales to
non-Arabs. In fact, the PA decrees a death penalty for the "crime" of
selling land to a Jew.
Massad and the other panelists expended enormous energy attacking
Israels "Law of Return" as racist.
Yet, Israels 1950 Law of Return extending citizenship to any Jew who
desires it is entirely consistent with international law and practice.
According to Article 1(3) of the International Convention on the Elimination of
all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), nations are permitted to favor
certain groups for citizenship provided there is no discrimination against any
particular group. In addition, Article 1(4) allows for "affirmative
action," entitling states to exercise preferences in granting citizenship
to remedy the effects of past discrimination. In the case of Israel, such prior
incidents of past discrimination include Britains 1939 decision to ban
Jewish immigration to Palestine, thereby sealing the fate of thousands, if not
millions, of European Jews.
Israel is no different from numerous other democratic countries which
provide certain people easier access to citizenship, including Mexico,
Venezuela, Greece, Poland, Germany, Italy and Denmark. As noted by Amnon
Rubinstein in a Jan. 4, 2000 Haaretz article:
the Law of Return has parallels in
other countries. Most notable among them is the law of return included in
Section 116 of the Federal Republic of Germanys constitution. This
section confers automatic citizenship on hundreds of people of "ethnic
German origin" who were expelled from their homes in the former Soviet
Union. ..Nearly all of the Balkan and Baltic countries have laws of return
known as repatriation laws
As Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz points
out in his book The Case For Israel, Jordan, the most liberal and
Western of Arab countries, has a law of return that explicitly denies
citizenship to all Jews, even those who lived there for generations. Its law
provides that citizenship is open to any person who was not Jewish
and who meets certain other criteria.
At the same time, Massad denounced Israels refusal to implement the
so-called Palestinian "right of return." Those who endorse such a
policy claim that Palestinians who fled in 1948, and their descendants, have a
legal and moral "right" to move to Israel. Most legal authorities,
however, contend that international law, in particular United Nations General
Assembly Resolution 194, does not codify a Palestinian "right of
return." Moreover, many analysts have pointed out that because an Arab and
Palestinian-initiated war against Israel created a similar number of Jewish and
Palestinian refugees, and because Israel settled the Jewish refugees, the Arab
side should settle the Palestinian refugees.
Massad also falsely accused Israel of "stealing Palestinian water"
from the Palestinian territories. The geographic reality, however, is a matter
of gravity: Israels coastal plain is at sea level, and underground water
from the higher elevations of the West Bank naturally flows downhill to Israel.
Most of the water in the aquifer in questionthe so-called Mountain
Aquiferis most readily accessible in Israel, where it is close to the
surface, rather than in the West Bank.
Israel has rights to the water just as Egypt does to the Nile. The waters of
the Nile dont originate in Egypt, but flow through other countries into
Far from "stealing" water, Israel has greatly augmented water for
the Palestinians, connecting hundreds of villages to the Israeli water system,
digging or authorizing the digging of wells and directly pumping millions of
cubic meters of water from Israel into the West Bank and Gaza.
Since Israel gained control of the West Bank, Palestinian use of water from
aquifers shared with Israel has increased, while the percentage of water used
by Israel has decreased.
Holding a panel dubbed as "One State or Two? Alternative Proposals for
the Middle East" inflamed an already heated campus atmosphere. Tellingly,
the next day Columbias student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator,
apparently accepted the panels allegations at face value. A photo picture
caption read: "MEALAC professor Joseph Massad, above, met at the Law
School yesterday to discuss racism and sovereignty in the Middle
East"as if racism were a legitimate charge and as if Israels
sovereignty really was up for debate.
Indeed, among certain influential circles at Columbia, there is a consensus
regarding Israels sovereingtythat it should be relinquished.