No, Columbia is not complicit in ‘genocide’

Rich Lowry, syndicated columnist

As Morningside Heights goes, so goes the Levant.

This is the childishly self-dramatizing conceit that’s been driving the pro-Hamas protests at Columbia University, with similar ideas playing into protests elsewhere.

It allows students living privileged lives at elite universities to believe that they are on the front lines of fighting so-called genocide, and what happens at their schools — and to them — is exciting, dangerous and determinative of geopolitical events half a world away.

This is not to say that what’s happening at Columbia isn’t important — to Columbia, in terms of who’s really in charge and whether the rules apply to pro-Hamas protestors or not.

But that doesn’t match the world-historical significance that the students want to attribute to their sloganeering and sleepovers.

According to the statement issued by Columbia protestors at the outset of this episode, Israel has undertaken a “brutal onslaught” against the Palestinian people for 75 years that is “enabled by financial investments made by institutions like Columbia University.”

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been a focus of international attention, intense news coverage and extensive academic research for decades now, and yet no one to this point has realized Columbia’s role in multiple wars, terror attacks and refugee crises.

Has anyone in the Middle East ever paused before taking a decision to ask, “What does President Minouche Shafik think?”

So, how does Columbia pull the strings in a conflict that, to the uninitiated, seems to be a function of the priorities of major geopolitical players in the region and around the world?

Well, the Columbia students claim, “The University’s weaponization of policy to silence students enables the atrocities that Israel has subjected Palestinians to for decades.”

As if Israel’s pursuit of the war in Gaza depends on whether there’s an illegal pro-Hamas encampment at Columbia or not.

Ah, and then there’s the influence of … Columbia University emails.

“The Columbia administration,” the students complain, “has set a dangerous precedent by erasing the Palestinian struggle through one-sided decisions and emails that threaten and suppress the voices of students who support justice for Palestine.”

Actually, the “Palestinian struggle” isn’t subject to erasure by anything anyone says or does at Columbia. And even if the decisions and emails are, indeed, for the sake of argument, “one-sided,” that doesn’t suppress or threaten anyone. This is safe-spacism on behalf of people who want to violate the rules with impunity in the course of supporting a hideous terror group. The threatening nature of those decisions and emails, though, can’t be underestimated, according to the students. They supposedly are “enabling a violent, repressive environment that puts Palestinian students, as well as all their Arab, Muslim, Jewish and BIPOC peers, at risk through surveillance and policing.”

If only Columbia cared about the fate of its BIPOC students enough to issue less one-sided emails. And who’s ultimately behind this potential repression? Yes, the Zionist entity. “We reject,” the students intone, “the violence of the Israel Defense Forces-trained, police-industrial complex that chokes our communities and disproportionately enacts brutality against people of color.”

At the core of the case that Columbia is “complicit” in genocide relies on the old BDS agenda that demands that Israel be treated as an apartheid state and attributes moral responsibility for Israel’s supposed sins to any institution that doesn’t divest. This campaign is based on a lie about the nature of Israeli society. That aside, the idea that Columbia is responsible for the Gaza war because index funds it invests in might own shares in Israeli solar or high-tech firms is preposterous.

Of course, the larger point is that people who won’t condemn a terror group or the horrific pogrom it carried out on Oct. 7, who never demand that Hamas release its hostages, who single out for condemnation a democratic society beset by profoundly illiberal forces all around it, are presuming to lecture everyone else about “complicity.”

To the extent that they really are engaged in a great moral struggle, they are on the wrong side.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rich Lowry is on X @RichLowry.


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