The presidents of Columbia University and Barnard College are publicly opposing a faculty-sponsored campaign calling for their institutions to divest from Israel.
Lee Bollinger of Columbia and Judith Shapiro of Barnard issued written statements last week as a group of faculty and staff members prepared to lobby Columbia's Board of Trustees to endorse their divestment petition this week.
The poster advertising the first Palestinian film festival at Columbia University seemed innocuous: a map of Israel with four white doves perched on tree branches and the numbers 1-9-4-8 running the length of the map.
But in the Middle East, and on college campuses these days, little is simple or innocuous, least of all a map.
On closer inspection, the map promoting last week's festival, called "Dreams of a Nation," was in the colors of the Palestinian flag: red, black and green. And there was no West Bank: all of Israel was symbolically Palestinian.
Columbia University is the latest battleground in a national drive to persuade universities to stop investing in Israel because of its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.
Dueling petitions are circulating on the Internet this week on both sides of the divestiture issue.
A group of faculty members from Columbia and Barnard College launched a petition Oct. 26 calling on Columbia to use its “political and financial influence to encourage the United States to suspend military aid and arms sales to Israel.”
When Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb rose to speak before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here last week, “You could hear a pin drop,” she said.
The only rabbi, and one of just a handful of Jews to attend a dinner dialogue between Ahmadinejad and a coalition of religious peace groups during his visit to address the UN last week, Gottlieb knew her words would weigh heavily in the air — not least with the Quakers, Mennonites and other peace churches that sponsored the gathering.
American Jews and their allies ramped up a campaign this week against a British union promoting an academic boycott of Israel aimed at pressuring it to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza — even as some British Jews said the union’s drive was going nowhere.