BDS at Columbia: Bold, determined, and set on fighting it 

I ask, I plead, I beg the students on this liberal-minded, open-minded, beautiful campus to vote no to antisemitism, to vote no to hatred.

Romy Ronen, | updated: 21:38

OpEds Columbia University
Columbia University
INN:Douglas Gorenstein

We walked in knowing, deep down, that our defeat was most likely inevitable. We walked in understanding, deep down, that the council was not on our side. We walked in recognizing, deep down, that the 10,000 Jewish students on our campus, the pro-Israel voices on our campus, our strong, brave, bold voices would be muted with a simple “yes” vote. But we walked in together, ready to fight BDS.

Hours before the vote on whether to have a campus referendum to guage students' attitudes to BDS, members of Students Supporting Israel, Aryeh, J Street, and Hillel put all their cards on the table, ready and able to unite, despite their different views, against the possibility of Columbia College Student Council sending a hateful, antisemitic referendum to students.

We had pages and pages of written, evidential facts proving the detrimental results of BDS to various communities, countries, nations. We formulated paragraphs and paragraphs of arguments and counter arguments and counters to counter arguments until it was time to enter that room with everything we have and everything we believe in.

As soon as the other groups made their aggressive, misinformed, hurtful statements about Israel, I knew the night would end with us in tears. And that it did. A council member, who had no opinion on the matter, suffered a panic attack causd by the extreme tension in the room. Other council members, BDS supporters, publicly shamed her for having PTSD, saying that if she "couldn’t deal with it, she shouldn’t be here.”

We found that pro-BDS students made sure to have people run for council who would only be there long enough to pass this one vote. Does this council represent our student body? Is the council there just to insert people who feel one way or another about certain issues? Is this at all democratic? We don’t think so.

While we were in the room, students filled the overflow room, watching us live. On the live stream chat, someone posted a meme about the situation, an antisemitic, anti-Israel, hateful meme. Jewish freshmen began to cry, feeling helpless, hopeless, uncertain on how to deal with such malice, a malice that they were not expecting at all. When we mentioned this to the council, they claimed it was an “anecdote” and somehow, irrelevant.

After hearing the word “yes,” after hearing the vote to have a referendum ipassed, my heart fell to the floor. As I am someone who never cries, I didn’t think I would, but I did, along with many others who felt the same way I was feeling at that very one moment.

We left the room as SJP and JVP members screamed, boasted, roared in great excitement, singing at the top of their lungs “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Holding my camera up in dismay, tears trapped in my eyes and my hands shaking uncontrollably, I couldn’t believe my ears, my eyes, the insensitivity happening right in front of me, in front of all of us.

I had asked, pleaded, begged the students of this liberal-minded, open-minded, beautiful campus to vote no to antisemitism, to vote no to hatred, to vote no to this referendum that will only divide, that will only bring detriment, that will only harm.

When you hear that we are the anti-BDS side, and they are the pro-BDS side, remember that this does not mean that we should be classified as anti. In fact, we are the pro. We are the pro-Israel, pro-Jewish, pro-peace side that doesn’t want “sides.” We want dialogue. We want inclusion. We want together.

Do you?