Written by Casey Breznick and Andres Sellitto.
A ragtag group of students, faculty, and city locals associated with Cornell’s chapter of Students of Justice in Palestine (SJP) gathered in Cornell’s central campus Friday afternoon to stage a protest against Israel and Operation Protective Edge.
The protestors stood in a crescent formation in Ho Plaza, one of Cornell’s most-walked intersections, as many hundreds of disinterested students walked by during the hour-long ordeal. At the peak, SJP’s numbers reached about 40. Occasionally, they were joined by either confused or gleeful students eager to chant for a minute or so before booking it to lunch or class.
Needless to say, the rhetoric of the several speakers using a bullhorn was as expected narrow-minded, reminiscent of Hamas’s propaganda talking points, and at times just bizarre.
Along with chants like “From river to sea Palestine will be free!” to “Resistance is justified when you’re occupied,” the major speech delivered by an unidentified student dressed in a black thawb (a traditional Middle Eastern ankle-length robe) included such memorable lines as “Palestinian resistance group” when referring to terrorist organization Hamas and “Israel was established militarily in 1948 as an exclusionary state based on Jewish ethnic supremacy.”
Another off the wall remarke included something along the lines of “Israel’s occupation of Palestine is the number one cause of anti-Semitism in the world.”
However, surely topping it all off was this rallying cry: “… the general opinion in Israel and the United States that the life of a Palestinian Arab is worth jackshit next to the life of an Israeli Jew.”
One figure in the audience, Cornell researcher Don Barry, astronomy, was handing out flyers advertising the World Socialist Web Site and the International Youth and Students for Social Equality.
Another older man, who refused to identify himself, was quoted in a Cornell Review interview saying, “In a world without capitalism Israel has no place.”
In the midst of the protest, an unidentified graduate student approached a Review staff member asking him to stop filming the event (see video for confrontation). The protester challenging the Review’s freedom of the press eventually walked away before the situation got out of hand.
Rounding out the speakers’ anti-Israel talking points were the attempts to implicate Cornell and all of its students and faculty for the deaths of Palestinians in Gaza. Because Cornell’s endowment is partially invested in Israeli companies like SodaStream and companies that do significant business in Israel like Raytheon, the protesters concluded that anyone paying tuition to or working for Cornell is funding Israel’s military.
About twenty feet down the plaza from where the protesters were gathered stood a few Jewish students from Challah for Hunger selling challah bread to raise money for poor families in Israel and the United States.
The Students for Justice in Palestine were not seen fundraising for the children and families of Gaza.