February 12, 2009

Israel Supporters React to Display on the Arts Quad

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Three days after signs protesting the war in Gaza were vandalized and stolen from the Arts Quad, Cornell has seen a backlash of pro-Israel sentiment on campus. Flyers stating, “Would you want Hamas in your backyard?” were attached to the black flags in the Gaza display early Tuesday morning, but were removed by 5 a.m. Tuesday.
The original signs — which included facts from Amnesty International and the United Nations about the crisis in Gaza — have been replaced with new signs with the same statements. Police still have not apprehended any individuals involved with tearing down the original signs.
“It is an ongoing investigation, but I can’t give out too much information. We have some leads and opportunities and we are following them up,” said Kathy Zoner, deputy police chief.
“Right now, I am not that big on catching the people who did it, but I’d like to get the message out that this was an inappropriate action and that they could have protested in another way,” said Tara Malik ’10, current president of the Islamic Alliance for Justice.
Claiming the display leaned heavily on only one side of the issue, Shai Akabas, president of the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that CIPAC and Hillel are in the process of planning a joint response to the display on the arts quad.
Akabas explained that he and 35 other Cornell students spent yesterday on Capitol Hill lobbying their different congressional representatives.
“Many of us actually met our congressman in person,” Akabas said.
The students spoke about the recent events in Gaza, the events’ impact on the Middle East, the looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and the U.S.-Israel relationship.
While Akabas said that there were no definite plans in place yet, he said that a response would be visible on campus within the “coming days.”
Kim Haines-Eitzen, department chair of Near Eastern Studies, also agrees that Cornell students have the ability to voice their opinions in a more appropriate manner.
“Cornell students have a remarkable capacity for understanding complex political situations and I hope they will use this capacity, along with their sincere desire for dialogue and understanding, to generate productive, sensitive and thoughtful conversations about the situation,” Haines-Eitzen stated in an e-mail.
According to Malik, the IAJ was not the organizer of the display. Rather, a group of students interested in spreading awareness of the Gaza conflict came together to organize the event. The students received funding from the Office of the Dean of Students, Ethics and Public Life, Cornell United Religious Works, Near Eastern Studies Department and Alice Cook House.
“My sincere hope is that we can engage in a constructive dialogue that will lead to mutual understanding of the complex issues at work. Let’s hope and pray for a peaceful resolution that will end the suffering on all sides,” said Kent Hubbell, dean of students.