Manipulating the Israel-Narrative at Columbia University

Calling-Out Columbia

How did we get to this point? How is it possible to consistently manipulate people who are educated, pro-human rights and against violence, into believing a narrative that is built on promoting hate?

On campus, the trickery is perpetrated by certain organizations whose angle is to ensnare and recruit those who stand for peaceful protest about whatever issues they might feel strongly about, to join their cause and “plight.”

At Columbia University, reported in 2015 to be the most anti-Semitic campus in the United States, the latest manipulation is spelled: “ApartheidDivest.”

BDS Bullying

The latest attempt in the ongoing crusade to manipulate students into a distorted view of Israel is Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), spearheaded by Columbia students Shezza Abboushi Dallal, Jannine Salman, Jeffrey Jacobs and Eva Kalikoff and promoted on social media by Yasmeen Abdel Majeed and Adrian McAfee.

The name “Apartheid Divest” itself, is an outrageous microaggression designed to bully students into swallowing a hate-narrative, by presenting Apartheid as Israel-normative.

A collaboration between Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (CSJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the campaign was launched with a petition and inaugural event titled BDS 101 on February 4, 2016.

To be clear, CUAD is a rebranding attempt of the now-famous campus BDS campaign.

However, it is a further cynical move to normalize the usage of “Apartheid” within the Israeli narrative: go straight to the point, minus the bothersome dialogue about other views.

CSJP Bigotry

Apartheid Divest is only the most recent experiment by CSJP (in conjunction with JVP). A tragically long history of activities and events exposes their true agenda. Here is a run-down of some of this SJP chapter’s more derisive moments:


In December 2015, CSJP promoted a video originally produced by Al-Jazeera; in it, the group pointed out that language is an “important tool” — and characterized Israel’s security fence (97% of which is a low chain link barrier), as “The Apartheid Wall.” The video focused on the atypical concrete portions of the Israeli security fence —  which were built in response to Palestinian sniper attacks.

In November 2015, CSJP protested opposite an ‘Israel Week’ event, organized by the Israeli government Ministry of Tourism. CSJP attempted to hijack and politicize the event —  holding up banners accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid.”

In March 2015, CSJP’s held its yearly ‘Israel Apartheid week,’ which included building a Mock ‘Apartheid’ wall on campus. Some of the students directly involved were Shezza Abboushi Dallal, Jannine Salman and Darializa Avila- Chevalier.  

CSJP occupied both sides of the College Walk, a heavily-trafficked thoroughfare in the center of the Columbia  campus — boxing out pro-Israel organizations’ freedom to table and counter the false claims of SJP and their associates.

In April 2015, Jannine Salman organized and promoted the SJP event to host Haneen Zoabi —a member of Israel’s parliament — who has been investigated for inciting violence on numerous occasions.

On April 3, 2015, Yousr Shaltout co-authored an Op-Ed in the Columbia Spectator with fellow CSJP member Darializa Avila Chevalier titled: “Reflecting on a Culture of Intimidation.” There, Shaltout claimed that pro-Israel student groups harassed, intimidated and silenced anti-Zionist groups.


In March 2014, CSJP members hung a banner created by Jannine Salman on Barnard Hall, the entryway of the college, to kick off Israeli Apartheid Week. The banner featured a map of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, with no internal borders, colored uniformly green— visually eradicating the Jewish State.

The next morning, the banner was removed after Barnard received numerous complaints from students and alumni who felt uncomfortable and unsafe. Some students felt the banner was an overt display of anti-Semitism. Others opined that the banner space was inappropriate for any political message, by any student group — since the implication that the University endorsed any such message served only “to ostracize segments of the community.”

In response to the banner’s removal, a March 26, 2014 editorial, authored by Shezza Abboushi Dallal and Feride Eralpe on behalf of SJP — entitled “SJP banner removal implicitly backs pro-Israel view” — objected to the banner’s removal “without warning or consulting SJP.”

The editorial dismissed the feelings of Barnard students who felt threatened by the banner, as trivializing “the experience of actual violence that we may be complicit in, from the suffering of the people of Palestine to global indigenous dispossession and the oppression of communities of color.”

In December 2014, CSJP hosted a panel discussion event at Barnard, entitled “Race, Violence, Resistance From Gaza to Ferguson.” This event encouraged false comparisons between the populations of Gaza and Ferguson – fueling accusations that Israel is inherently “racist” and justifying Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians — labeled as “resistance.” The event was introduced by Aya Zaki-Sabet and Shezza Abboushi Dallal was a speaker.


In April 2013, Mona Abdullah of CSJP was an organizer and promoter of a press conference launched by members of the Barnard and Columbia faculty, calling on College Retirement Equities Fund TIAA-CREF to divest from Israeli corporations, including Elbit Systems, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Veolia. However, the divestment effort failed as the pension fund received admittance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s that they would “take no action” on the matter.


In February 2012, CSJP staged a mock house demolition, on Columbia’s Low Plaza — propagating the falsehood that Israeli-Arabs do not have the same building rights in Israel as Jews. The actors included Feride Eralpe, Thaer-al-Sheik Theeb and Maya Wind. Eralpe stated that Palestinians are therefore “forced” to build illegally.

In November 2012, Qais Malhas filmed a dramatized mock arrest protest, on behalf of CSJP, featuring fellow students Feride Eralp, Isabel Penaranda  and Thaer-al-Sheik Theeb  as part of aRight to Education week —  an initiative started by Birzeit University, whose student body has been ridden with terrorists for more than a decade. The dramatization falsely represented that Palestinians were arrested solely for the “crime” of attending University.


In February and March of 2010, Dayana Khatib, Tanya Keilani, Rahim Kurwa, Alaa Milbes, Fatimah Rimawi, Matt Swagler and Randa Wahbe co-authored  opinion pieces for the Columbia Spectator with other CSJP members, promoting and defending “Israeli Apartheid week.”

In November 2010, CSJP staged a mock Israeli checkpoint on Columbia’s Low Plaza, in which Maya Wind, portraying an “Israeli soldier,” harassed and yelled at passers-by. Feride Eralpe is first “citizen” in line. CSJP members also blindfolded and placed tape over the mouths of other students, who were meant to portray security detainees.

Following the checkpoint event in 2010, Michael Kennedy co-wrote an article with Dina Omar and Alaa Milbes excusing Palestinian terrorist attacks on the basis of “inequality” –  “Terrorist attacks are a desperate response to the inequality between Palestinians and Israelis.”


In November 2002, a group of faculty at Columbia and Barnard launched a divestment effort entitled “Columbia University Divestment Campaign” to encourage the United States government to suspend its military aid to Israel, and divest from all companies that manufacture military hardware sold to Israel.

As of January 1, 2016, fewer than 1000 people signed the group’s divestment petition as compared to more than 33,000 who signed Columbia’s anti-divestment petition.

Columbia’s President, Lee Bollinger, blasted the divestment petition: “I want to state clearly that I will not lend any support to this proposal. The petition alleges human rights abuses and compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I believe is both grotesque and offensive,” he said.

Committing to a Better Columbia

Standing against the latest BDS smear campaign, pro-Israel students launched “Invest in Peace,” a campaign to educate students about how divestment generates distrust, and will only make it harder to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians, said Daniella Greenbaum, president of Aryeh, the Columbia student association for Israel.

If those who are looking to be educated are most at risk of absorbing a false narrative, campus organizations such as Aryeh and Columbia SSI are a hope for students seeking a more fair and truthful discussion about Israel.

The AparthedDivest joint venture between CSJP and JVP may be the next manipulative attempt to gain support for a false narrative, but if those who are firm and committed to a truthful portrayal of Israel stand in solidarity, this latest attack and any after it will be able to confronted.   

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