March 6, 2023

GUEST ROOM | Stop Scheduling Anti-Israel Events During Jewish Holidays

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Cornell is once again hosting an anti-Israel event during a Jewish holiday. Thus, depriving Jewish students and allies of Israel the opportunity to counter or engage with the narratives pushed at the event.

This Tuesday afternoon, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program are hosting an event titled: “Settler-colonialism and Indigeneity: Arrivant and Settler Solidarity and Responsibility in the Contexts of Turtle Island and Palestine.” The term settler-colonialism has been repeatedly used in anti-Israel rhetoric as a means of delegitimizing the Israeli government’s legitimacy and depicting Jews returning to their historic homeland as colonists of Palestinian land. 

This event hosts Syracuse University Associate Professor Dana Olwan who has ardently supported the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement at Syracuse, has accused Israel and Canada of engaging in “settler-colonialism,” and has argued that a poem calling for “death to Jews” is a legitimate form of resistance. These sorts of defamatory and antisemitic remarks ought to, at the very least, be challenged by students who disagree at Cornell.

However, the Tuesday, Mar. 7 event coincides with the Jewish holiday of Purim which is celebrated from Monday to Tuesday evening. Jewish students will be celebrating the triumph of Mordecai over the Persian Vizier Haman. Due to its joyous nature, it is one of the most celebrated holidays in the Jewish calendar.

By knowingly holding this event on Purim, the organizers of this event have deprived dissenting voices a chance to challenge or complicate narratives presented. This will result in a deliberately one-sided affair for students trying to learn more about the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

This is not the first time anti-Israel events have been scheduled during Jewish religious practices in order to avoid criticism. Last March, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine hosted Palestinian poet Mohammed el-Kurd on a Friday night at 7 p.m. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, begins Friday night at sundown. El-Kurd has accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians (a component of the antisemitic blood libel trope), compared Israelis to Nazis and trivialized the Holocaust. The event was part of the tour for his book of poetry, Rifqa, which featured some of his blood libel poems.

Very few events are scheduled for a Friday night as most organizations know students would much rather celebrate the beginning of the weekend outside of a lecture hall. One of the only possible reasons to schedule this event during the start of Shabbat, other than it being one of the times professors’ schedules were free, is to deliberately suppress dissent. Some Jewish students were able to attend before sundown but left for their religious observances before they could challenge El-Kurd and his antisemitic remarks. 

Worst of all was an event this Fall sponsored by the Institute for Comparative Modernities on settler-colonialism held on Oct. 5. The same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews. The professors in attendance had previously compared the territory of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto under the Nazis. Jewish students who may have attended to dispute these harmful claims were occupied with fasting and resting from work, as is required by the holiday. 

Academic and intellectual freedom is an important component of the university and campus culture. Ideas and hurtful comments deserve to be condemned in the public square. No idea deserves to be presented without challenge. The Israeli-Palestinian debate is just that: a debate which requires participation from both sides. To deprive Jewish students a voice in this conversation every time there is a speaker for the Palestinian cause is a failure to uphold intellectual freedom. 

This pattern of scheduling during Jewish religious events is at best a troubling oversight and at worst a deliberate attempt to silence dissenting voices. Jewish students should not have to choose between practicing their religion and defending the existence of their historic homeland. Yet, time and time again, Jewish students are forced to make these difficult decisions because of when anti-Israel events are scheduled. To hold an event where the humanity of Jews and their right to exist in their historic homeland is called into question without any chance for them to defend themselves is malicious. 


Adam Abergel ‘24 

David Ackerman ‘66, MEE ‘67

Sasha Addi ‘25

Leona Barsky ‘80, MS ‘81

Aaron Baruch ‘26

Alyssa Benyaminy ‘23

Ethan Berman ‘23

Zoe Bernstein ‘24

Avery Bower ‘23

Caroline Chun ‘25

Talia Dror ‘25

Liat Frumer ‘25

Harry Heering ‘25

Jinyoung Hur Kupperman ‘93, Parent ‘21

Liana Maza ‘24

Danielle Mimeles ‘23

Brielle Ohana ‘25

Ethan Oliner ‘25

David Portman ‘59

Samuel Price ‘21

Susan (Portman) Price ‘90, MRP ‘91, Parent ‘21

Rabbi Dovid Birk, Chabad at Cornell 

Yael Schranz ‘26

Ella Schwartz ‘23

Melanie Schwartz ‘25

Simone Shteingart ‘24

Alexis Siegel ‘25

Amanda Silberstein ‘26

David Sommer ‘23

Alexandra Sperling ‘23

Ella Sperling ‘25

Sarah Grace Victor ‘13

Max Whalen ‘26

Raquel Zohar ‘23

This statement was co-written and signed by members and allies of Cornell’s Jewish community, Jewish student leaders and alumni committed to combating antisemitism on Cornell’s campus. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.