Members of Students for Justice in Palestine stage a die-in at a Cornell Hillel event celebrating Israel Independence Day on Monday

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine stage a die-in at a Cornell Hillel event celebrating Israel Independence Day on Monday

May 2, 2017

Pro-Palestine Protesters Disrupt Celebration of Israel Independence Day

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Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine protested and held a die-in at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Anabel Taylor Hall on Monday, angering many of the event’s student hosts and leading to arguments with Cornell Police who provided security at the event.

The festivities in Anabel Taylor were sponsored by Cornell Hillel and held with several other Jewish campus organizations to celebrate Israel’s declaration of independence in May of 1948.

“It’s all about spreading positivity, really just to let people have a good time,” said Cornell Hillel President Brandon Cohen ’18. “We are just here to celebrate the Jewish people having a state, with anti-semitism on the rise around the world.”

About 20 SJP members distributed fliers that said “the modern day Jewish state was founded on the expulsion of the indigenous population” and marched from Goldwin Smith Hall to enter the event, but were initially stopped by police.

“What I’m saying is that it is a little odd that you’re here to attend an event and everybody is getting ready to pull out a flag,” a policeman guarding the entrance told protesters. “We’re not saying you can’t protest, you’re just going to do it outside because you are not going to disrupt the event.”

Organizers eventually agreed to let SJP members into the private event once they promised police that they would not protest and agreed to swipe their Cornell IDs.

Within five minutes of entering, however, four members of SJP held a sign that read “Celebrating 69 years of Genocide” while others handed out fliers. Most members lay silently on the floor, some covered in flags, as part of the die-in protest.

“The celebration of Israel Day ignores a lot of genocidal histories and ignores a lot of the human suffering that is going on in Palestine right now,” said Hadiyah Chowdhury ’18, an SJP member, adding that “it also appropriates a lot of Arab culture and clumps it together in one weird category that we think is pretty racist.”

Cornell Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Ari Weiss said he was disappointed that the protesters had lied to gain access to the celebration.

SJP and other organizations protest an Israeli Independence Day event in Anabel Taylor Hall.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

SJP and other organizations protest an Israeli Independence Day event in Anabel Taylor Hall.

“They said that they were coming as individuals,” Weiss told The Sun. “We asked them if they would protest, they said they wouldn’t, they lied. When they came in, I said ‘Did you lie to me?’ and one member shrugged their shoulders and nodded their head yes.”

Ithaca College students who planned to join the protest were not supposed to be allowed into the event, although Weiss said a few made it in. Cohen told The Sun that Hillel only wanted Cornell-affiliated people at the event because they have previously had trouble with violent actions by non-Cornell affiliated students at an event in 2014.

At one point on Monday evening, SJP members told police that someone had attempted to push and trip one of their members during the altercation, but the officer said he had not seen anything. SJP members then told the officer that they would file an incident report.

Cornell Police Chief Kathy Zoner confirmed late on Monday night that CUPD made no arrests during the protest.

Weiss told The Sun that Cornell Hillel members explicitly conveyed to CUPD that they did not want any force to be used against protesters.

“Because they are students, we have no interest in violence or force, and we will continue to celebrate Israel’s independence because we are proud Zionists,” he said.

After about 20 minutes of protesting, organizers, protesters and the police came to an agreement that the protest would end within 10 minutes. Protesters stood up and peacefully exited the room around 8:30 p.m.

Nicole Sochaczevski ’20, a member of TAMID Group at Cornell and the Jewish Greek Council, said she was glad conflicts like Monday’s occur less often than on other campuses and believes SJP should have the right to express its opinion, but added that she was still concerned with the protesters’ message.

Pro-Palestine protesters marched from Goldwin Smith Hall to Anabel Taylor Hall on Monday evening to protest a Cornell Hillel event celebrating Israel Independence Day.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Pro-Palestine protesters marched from Goldwin Smith Hall to Anabel Taylor Hall on Monday evening to protest a Cornell Hillel event celebrating Israel Independence Day.

“The fact that some of the terms used by some groups are very specific, and to me the term genocide has a very specific meaning,” Sochaczevski, who is Jewish, told The Sun late on Monday night. “There is no genocide occurring in Israel.”

Chowdhury said she was disappointed that police ignored the alleged physical harassment against a member of SJP.

“We were really disrespected by the police, who ignored an incident of physical harassment in which one of our members was shoved,” she said. “We are really disappointed by the way CUPD treated us and are certain it was a result of racism.”

SJP members discussed plans to file two incident reports relating to verbal and physical harassment that occurred at the event.

Piragash Swargaloganathan, a member of SJP, said the protest did not go according to plan, but said he thinks the group achieved its goal of raising awareness.

“It didn’t go as what we were expecting, but our goal is to … bring awareness that we need the people who are celebrating this event to be uncomfortable and to confront that they are celebrating a genocide, and I think we did achieve that,” he said.

Chowdhury said the main reason the group demonstrated is to draw people’s attention to what she said is an uninformed campus.

“I think this campus is very ignorant of this issue in general, or if not ignorant, not well informed — intentionally or not intentionally — and drawing attention to this event and its racism and the problems that it ignores is really important to me and others,” she said.

Swargaloganathan echoed these sentiments, saying Cornell tacitly supports what he said is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

“We believe that Palestinian voices throughout the entire U.S. college campuses have been oppressed,” he said. “We feel the need that this voice also needs to be heard, just as any other community’s voice.”

Many other SJP protesters declined to speak with The Sun when approached for comment. Cohen, the Cornell Hillel president, said Hillel members have reached out to students who disagree with the group in the past and that many were “not as interested in having a conversation and were more interested in protesting.”

“It would be nice to actually have a conversation rather than just being antagonistic against us,” he said.

“We are all Cornell students, we are all here to get experiences in college, and obviously this is a very hot topic, but I think it is important for people to experience different things.”

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs ’19 contributed reporting to this article.

  • Too Cool for Schul

    Stop blaming Israel for the plight of the Palestinians.

    The Palestinians suffer because none of their Arab or Muslim brothers were willing to take them in and share the profits of oil with them.

    To those who sympathize with the Palestinians: Any of a dozen obscenely wealthy Arab/Muslim nations (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE etc) could have taken the Palestinians in and given them a decent life. Instead, they opted for a fleet of luxury cars for each of their citizens. But tell me more about Arab brotherhood haha

    • Giorgi Tsintsadze

      Really impressed by this argument. Not only is its logic impeccable, it’s also so thought-provoking. Makes me think: in 1939, 900 jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany aboard MS St. Louis were turned away at the US border. At least a quarter of passengers died in concentration camps later. Stop blaming Nazis for their death? Brilliant.

    • anon

      wrong, idiot. Palistinians suffer because israelis pushed them off their land and continue to do so. It really is astonishing how you disgusting pro israeli scum ignore the facts.

  • Too Cool for Schul

    Why hasn’t any fantastically wealthy Muslim/Arab nation taken in their Palestinian brothers? Oh right, because the people there would rather drive a maserati than help their “Palestinian brothers.” what a joke

  • A view from above

    It is sad to see the levels of bigotry and ignorance being shown and thrown from both sides. The misinformation that has been stated for so long is now being taken as fact.

    Both sides should study history, not alternative truths prior to taking any stand.

    And yes, dialog is clearly the answer. Not obstinant disrespect of other’s religion and ancestry in the form of self-serving protest.

    • Arafat

      Dialogue? You’re funny.

      There has been more time, energy and money pissed away trying to reach an agreement than there is sand in Saudi Arabia. One cannot speak to a people (the Palestinians) whose only answer is stabbings, bombings and goals of wiping Israel off the map.

      • anon

        maybe they wouldn’t want to stab you if you didn’t steal their land. Just a thought for you pro-israel morons.

      • Julie

        So true!

        • Julie

          So true is meant for “Arafat.” Their land was not stolen. The Palestinians are better treated in Israel than any other Arab country. If they don’t think so, they are free to leave. No one is holding them back. If they want good jobs, they can get them. They go to universities if they want to. Too many of them would rather kill Jews than live a decent life.

  • Ockie

    Pays to remember that, according to the Palestinian Authority, no Jews, not just Israelis, but no Jews, will be allowed in any separate Palestinian state.

    The charter of Hamas, which controls Gaza, calls for the extermination 0f all Jews.

    This is what these demonstrators are demonstrating for. Heil!

  • Ashley Dickenson

    Waste of space and one of them’s too underdressed for her own good.

  • Sam

    No one cares anymore about the Palestinians. They have had ample chances to make lives better for themselves, and failed every time. Then they just blame Israel (have to blame somebody… North Korea and Russia blame America-same thing).

    Before anything can happen, Palestinians need to first figure out who is going to govern them. After that is sorted out, instead of building bombs and killing themselves-maybe they should start doing something productive like building power stations and food sources… Then we can talk.

  • Miransky

    There’s no genocide of Palestinians. That’s a deliberate and cynical mal-use of the term. But if the SJP wants to use that term, they must accept that blowing up busloads of Israelis; bombing Passover seders; blowing up pizza restaurants; killing Israeli schoolchildren in their classrooms; killing Israeli athletes at an Olympic games; (did I mention bombing buses?); stabbing Israelis, non-Israeli Jews, and non-Israeli non-Jews who happen not to be Muslim; and bombing markets on the day before the Sabbath, must be called the same. These sanctimonious and ill-informed protesters represent those whose hands drip with blood.

  • Rodney Gleiberman

    Every time I read one of these stories I get out my checkbook. I am 25 years removed from campus but more than happy to support Hillel in their efforts!

  • Dupin

    It is sad to see the fanaticism on display here with broken promises.

    Blame it on the Hews, never their governments, the governments of Jordan and Egypt from which nations they came to fill the jobs created by Jewish settlers, some who died making the land inhabitable in the first place, betrayed them by telling them to get out of the way and then shutting them up into ghettos and impoverishing them to create a lingering boil of resentment towards the Jews instead of taking care of and fairly resettling their own citizens. Nope, it has to be the Jews, the victims of one of the most horrible genocide of the 20th century egged on by the Arabs during the second World War. Yep, murder Jews in their own homes in the middle of the night and then blame the victims for their own murders and for the measures taken to punish those responsible.

    Rain down missiles on Israel hoping they will hit and massacre whole families and then blame them when the Jews strike back with precise munitions against launchers they’ve placed close to civilians deliberately in hope of seeing women and children killed they can then parade around as victims of “crimes against humanity.” Attack them in the market places or at tourist attractions and then blame them for fighting back and killing their would-be murderers. Oh, yeah, that’s real “genocide.” Isn’t it?

    Campus police should’ve hauled them out ignominiously in handcuffs, but the administration they work for is just as gutless as the “fighters” for the “Palestinian cause” who hide behind women and children for protection and slip in under the darkness of night to murder the innocent when they do get the chutzpah to come out from behind their shield of other innocents to do their dirty work.

    I, for one, look forward to seeing the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel and her survival of the following attempted genocide of the Jewish people over a 20 year period. Those were real heroes who deserved the nation they built for themselves and their children.

  • BlueFace

    What is this “Palestine?” Why were these students allowed to lie about the name of a country? Can they point to it on a map? How about its place in the UN?

  • Arafat

    Instead of promoting justice, SJP and/or its members spend almost all of their energy demonizing Israel, advocating for its eventual destruction, showing an unfortunate affinity for pro-terrorist figures, bullying and intimidating pro-Israel and Jewish students with vicious and sometimes anti-Semitic rhetoric, and even at times engaging in physical violence. While SJP may pay lip-service to peaceful aims, their rhetoric and actions make it hard to avoid the conclusion that a culture of hatred permeates nearly everything the group does—making the college experience increasingly uncomfortable, at times even dangerous, for Jewish or pro-Israel students. Perhaps equally disturbing is the limited response from university authorities that have an obligation to prevent such attacks and protect Jewish students.

    • ASF

      So, let me get this straight: The SJP, who outright lied about their intentions and plans to both the police and school authorities, make an accusation that no one can substantiate about one of their membership being intentionally “tripped” and threaten to write out a report and consider filing charges. These jokers go way beyond being hypocrites. They are sociopaths who ecstatically think that their politics give them the right to do and say anything they please. They would be right at home with their buds in ISIS, if they could tolerate the poor living conditions,

  • Arafat

    by Khaled Abu Toameh • March 25, 2016 at 5:00 am
     While the anti-Israel activists are busy protesting against Israel on Western campuses, Palestinian students and professors are persecuted by their own Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas governments.
     Let us redefine “pro-Palestinian.” Instead of bashing Israel, real pro-Palestinians will demand democracy for those they champion, and scream for public freedoms for Palestinians under the PA and Hamas regimes, which have always smashed dissent with an iron fist.
     PA security forces systematically target students and academics under various pretexts. Hundreds of students have been rounded up. Many remain in detention without the possibility of seeing a lawyer or a family member.
     Palestinians on campuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have once again been reminded that they remain as far as ever from achieving a state that would look any different from the other Arab dictatorships in the region. The campus incidents, which have hardly caught the attention of the international media and anti-Israel activists in the West, also expose the media double standard about human rights violations.
     In the first case of its kind under the PA, Kadoori University in Tulkarem suspended a student who hugged his fiancé in public.

  • Arafat

    While Israelis laud their scientists, their artists, their doctors and multiple Nobel Prize nominees and recipients, Palestinians have a long and ignominious tradition of extolling the virtues of those who commit mass murder, slaughter innocents on buses and hijack commercial airliners. Public squares and streets are named after them and their children are taught to emulate them. The contrast between Israeli and Palestinian society could not be starker. One society celebrates and encourages progress and life while the other has morphed itself into a death cult, steeped in perverted traits that are an anathema to Western civilization.

  • Mark E Klein

    I hate to break it to these “Protestors” Israel is not going anywhere. The Palestinians have had ample opportunity to make peace and they rejected it every time. They will continue to live in misery and they have no one to blame but themselves. Go live in Iran, Syria, Iraq Afganistan and get back to us.

  • Proud Jewish Alum

    Agree with all comments above.

    Jews cannot live in peace in any of the Islamic countries in the Middle East that control thousands of times more area than tiny Israel (the size of New Jersey). Where are the billionaire sheiks of the Middle East and their wealthy countries? They don’t aid these “Palestinians”. Only Iran (a terrorist state) does. They are a loser society and have nothing to do but “blame the Jews” for all their problems!

    These ignorant, dishonest “protesters” lied their way in to Anabel Taylor. Don’t expect anything else from them. That is how they “negotiate” with Israel.

  • SJP raised awareness alright-that they are a bunch of Brown Shirts. This tactic has been used over and over by this organization across the country. SJP was co-founded by notorious UC Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian, a Palestinian who came to the US for his education and in 2004 called for an intifada in the US.

    This despicable organization should be removed from Cornell and every other university.

  • Pingback: Pro-Palestine Protesters Disrupt Celebration of Israel Independence Day on The Cornell Daily Sun | Israel Genocide?()

  • SJWsAreLaughable

    Aren’t these Palestine folks the same morons who protested on Ho Plaza a few years ago waving a South African flag instead of a Palestinian one? Does anyone actually take them seriously?

  • Julia

    Fire that Rabbi! What a fool for “believing” the SJP. What will he believe the next time??

  • LW

    Should have urinated on the jihadi-appeasing idiots.

    Here’s how it goes, college students (especially those of you near ready to graduate:

    When we are hiring someone and we look at their CV/resume, take a look at their educational history.

    We note the dates, search online for their college AND the phrases “America” “Amerikkka,”BLM”, “conservative” , Trump”, “Israel occupation”, or “illegal immigration”.

    We note the particular far left insanity that pops up, and ask the prospective hire where they stood on the issue when they attended (and now).

    “Agreed with it and proudly marched/attacked the Trump-loving, Zionazi, Tea-Tards!” – undependable moron and security risk.

    “Didn’t care one way or another” – sheep

    “Actively opposed it!” – Patriot with backbone.