This idea of perpetual discussion being a tool of oppression towards Palestinians was certainly not directed at anything specific. Like all discussions regarding human rights and their violations, the conversation is not localized, but global, affecting all people. The point struck incredibly close to home for me. Earlier in 2021, the Palestinian struggle gained global notoriety due to the eviction of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, leading to a rally of Cornellians sympathetic to the cause, organized by Prof. Eric Cheyfitz and members of Students for Justice in Palestine, at which others and I gave speeches. Cornell’s response to our voices left much to be desired.
The focus was both local and international at Thursday’s S.A. meeting, as representatives wrapped up end-of-year business, like reallocating funding and swearing in new members, and confronted escalating violence in Israel as conversations have rippled across campus.
Cornell is a tough place. Each semester often feels increasingly more trying. Last semester was particularly difficult because of three little letters: BDS, which stand for the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel, a country to which many Cornellians, including myself, feel deeply connected. For those new to campus, the “divestment” campaign that was brought to the Student Assembly claimed to start conversations about the century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a worthwhile goal that I share. Instead, after many twists and turns last semester, including President Martha Pollack’s principled rejection of BDS and the paralysis of student government for most of the semester, BDS caused a deep rift in the campus culture and was defeated.
Cornell, an intellectual Garden of Eden, has been my “home away from home” for three miraculous semesters. There is only one other paradisiacal location on earth that is as close to my heart as the Big Red: The State of Israel. I deferred my enrollment to Cornell, resisting the allure of its 25-acre Botanic Gardens, to take a gap year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, with its similarly alluring 25-dunams Botanical Garden on Mount Scopus. The miracle of a “nation reborn,” as Israeli author Daniel Gordis characterizes the return of the Jewish people to their homeland, lies at the heart of my deep connection to the State of Israel. I was accepted to Cornell nineteen years after having been born in the Weill Cornell Medical Center; Big Red was my destiny.
Last Sunday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” in her flippant criticism of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s control over U.S. foreign policy on Israel. She has since been in hot water for her anti-Israel stance and anti-Semitic tweets, which buy into the long-standing trope of Jewish corruption and Jewish money in politics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the entire Democratic House leadership condemned her comments and President Trump called for Omar’s resignation. Omar apologized on the same day, again via Twitter. But the hullabaloo over her stance on Israel is just beginning.
As a former advisor to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and a member of the Palestinian negotiating team during the 2000 Camp David Summit on Israeli-Palestinian peace, Omari offered a behind-the-scenes look into the peace process.
It is often noted that young American Jews are far more conservative when it comes to the Israeli conflict than they are in any other realm. Non-interventionist across the rest of the world, people of my demographic will gladly support massive military support for the state of Israel, whose governing coalition seems presently disinterested in any immediate peaceful resolution. In a variety of ways, the American left is full of young Jews who find common ground with conservatives on this particular issue. And the explanation that is consistently offered seems simple, that they are aligning with their faith. But upon closer examination this doesn’t really make very much sense.