LETTER TO THE EDITOR | The Encampment is a Repeat of History

To the Editor: 

Re: “Students Stage Pro-Palestine Encampment on the Arts Quad” (news, April 25)

35 years ago I was involved in another divestment movement at Cornell — that of divesting from South Africa’s Apartheid regime. It was my first experience of political activism, and much of what is happening now appears to be repeating what happened then albeit with an added element of racial/ethnic tension. We built a shantytown on the Main Quad, held protests in front of various buildings, invaded the President’s office and disrupted a Board of Trustees meeting. Did it influence Cornell’s investment policy? To this day, I do not know.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | The Letter from Professors Weaponizes Expertise

To the Editor:

Re: “On Language, Misinformation and Divisiveness” (letters, April 29)

In an April 29 letter to The Sun, a group of Cornell professors opposed the University’s condemnation of the chant “there is only one solution, Intifada Revolution” on the grounds that the University’s statement was “based on a failure to understand the literal and historical meaning of an Arabic word, intifada.” Their argument attempts to divorce the word “intifada” from its well-understood meaning within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in so doing, give the air of academic legitimacy to a pro-terrorism chant. 

There are many examples of words with general meanings that take on specific meaning when applied to specific historical events.  For example, the word “holocaust’” has a literal meaning (a burnt sacrifice), but a very different meaning in the context of World War II.  Likewise, the word “intifada” has a specific meaning in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The specific historical periods that the word “intifada” refer to are the First and Second Intifadas, which took place from 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, respectively.  While both intifadas were characterized by Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis, the Second Intifada was a particularly painful and scarring period.  Over 1,000 Israelis were killed, largely in random acts of terrorism that were meant to make everyday life in Israel psychologically traumatizing (such as suicide bombings in buses, Passover seders, restaurants and markets).  As one article puts it:

Mind-numbing terrorism made it scary to ride a bus, nerve-wracking to send kids to school, a psychological effort to take the family downtown for a falafel. Everyone eyed fellow passengers warily on the bus at one time or another during these years – especially fellow passengers wearing coats on a sunny day – wondering if they may be hiding explosives. But according to the professors, considering the meaning of “intifada” in the context in which it is being used is wrong.  To use the term properly, they instruct readers to  “reach out to subject matter experts … for education on matters related to Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish or Persian language …”  In other words, reach out to them.  

Their expertise, however, is questionable.  A closer look into the professors’ suggested readings for those interested in “expert” opinion on the intifadas reveals not only their false expertise, but also their real agenda. 

One of their suggestions is “The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle” by Dr. Ramzy Baroud.  An initial look at Dr. Baroud’s website reveals that he is no dispassionate scholar of the Middle East. He routinely writes about Israel’s lack of a right to exist or defend itself.  Even more shockingly, Dr. Baroud taped a video of himself on Twitter with the words “What Happened on October 7th and Why We Should Not Apologize for Palestinian Resistance” written on the screen.  In the video, Dr. Baroud claims, “…

MALINA | A Clarification on Student Suspensions

RE: “WILSON | The Power to Evict” (opinion, May 2)

I write to offer an important correction to what was stated in a guest column by Nick Wilson on May 2. 

A student on temporary suspension approached West Campus House staff at approximately 6:40 p.m. on Wednesday expressing concerns about their ID card access. Staff immediately provided the student a temporary ID card to ensure continued access to their housing and dining privileges and assured them that this ID card would work until move-out if their original ID was not fixed. No student on temporary suspension in connection with the unauthorized encampment on the Arts Quad has been informed by the University that they have been evicted or must vacate university housing this term. Any assumption otherwise is incorrect. Students on temporary suspension who are living on campus continue to have access to housing, dining and student health services.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Cornell’s Administration Was Justified in Criticizing Chants

Re: Everything That Happened on Day Four of the Encampment (news, April 29)

Cornell’s Administration was justified in calling out and criticizing chants on campus of “There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution!”  It was distressing to read the didactic and overly semantic excuses that certain faculty (letters, April 29) and a follow-up story (news, April 30) offered as cover for those violent taunts.  If our campus echoed with encouraging chants about the “Klan,” the outrage rightly would rain down from all quarters, and justifications based on the supposedly neutral meaning of the word would be cast aside.  Everyone knows what it means to call for “intifada” as the “solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict: It refers to the spate of murders of Israeli civilians.  It was no simple “shaking off” and it certainly is not the solution. While we defend the right of people to engage in protected speech, community members should call out offensive conduct —inside and outside the current encampment.  Those saying hateful things, and those providing hollow cover for hate, are deserving of condemnation. — David J. DellaPelle ‘17

Jonathan M. Fordin ‘80

Wayne Forman ’80

Marshall Gilinsky ‘92

Joseph Hellerstein ‘92

Donald Motschwiller ’80

Bennett Pine ‘76

Michael Reiner ‘78

Steven Rosenzweig ‘79

Jarett Wait ’80

Gary Weber ‘81

Barry Weiss ‘81

Sylvia Emmerich Fogel ‘94

Amy Richter ‘92

Ruth Serrousi ‘92

Mark Sherwin ‘80

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GUEST ROOM | The Ann Coulter Event Demonstrates Poor Judgment

We write to express our dismay at the poor judgment demonstrated in the hosting and funding of Ann Coulter’s visit to campus.  We do not deny Ann Coulter’s right to express her opinions, nor a student organization’s right to invite whomever they choose, but we are very puzzled by why the event warranted the presence of the University’s chief academic officer. We find it odd that while Provost Kotlikoff has repeatedly asked that the faculty help lower the temperature of the campus climate, he chose to support Ann Coulter, a known provocateur, in an action which has in fact helped to create a tenser, less safe and more discriminatory climate on campus.  Hosting a speaker whose presence purportedly warranted such heavy policing illustrates questionable judgment and indicates a lack of true commitment to creating a community of belonging.  In The Cornell Daily Sun, Provost Kotlikoff said he supported Coulter’s visit because “there could be few more powerful demonstrations of Cornell’s commitment to free expression than to have Ms. Coulter return to campus and present her views.”  In this same statement he demurs from outright support of Coulter’s many controversial opinions and denies that Coulter’s opinions are of import to students but suggests instead that her appearance on campus is of symbolic value. Symbolic of what?  Such symbolic value comes at no small price:  Coulter’s bureau says that her fee ranges from $20,000 to $50,000 per event.  To this price we would also add the additional cost of policing and travel and housing. Does this statement indicate that the Office of the Provost ceded decision making power to outside groups in the selection of the speaker?  Or would the provost, a scientist, have sponsored a speaker that peddles conspiracy theories about his colleagues and profession or who is adamantly opposed to vaccinations?  Would police have arrested the scientists who verbally challenged such absurdities? At a moment when students, faculty and staff are deeply divided about US foreign policy, why did the chief academic officer of the University, Provost Kotlikoff, think it appropriate to bring a speaker who has publicly stated that “We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.  That is what Christianity is.  We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express.”  At a moment when many people are struggling with the ramifications of pervasive violence, why would Provost Kotlikoff think it useful to bring a speaker who famously said that “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”  At a university that proudly draws its students, staff and faculty from around the world, why would President Kotlikoff think it appropriate to offer a platform to a speaker who complains regularly that immigrants to the US are from “the most backward, dysfunctional cultures,” who suggests that migrants should be shot, and at the recent Cornell event asked, “Why does every sad sack in the world have to come to this country?” At a moment when we are encouraging civic engagement in the 2024 elections, why would Provost Kotlikoff host someone who thinks women should be denied the right to vote and that “overweight girls” should be barred entry into the country?