Demonstrating NYU students graft Gaza demands
onto their protest; campus bracing for
upcoming Israel Apartheid Week.
The students’ demands, at first glance, seemed like standard-issue ones: a tuition freeze, requests for budget transparency, student representation on the board of trustees, and fair labor contracts for all employees.
But the 64 New York University students who barricaded themselves inside a cafeteria for two days last week had two other demands, that seemed out of left field: Provide 13 Palestinian students from Gaza with scholarships to the university, and donate all excess supplies to rebuild the University of Gaza, damaged in Israel’s recent war against Hamas.
For several tense minutes last week, it seemed as if the first “National Summit of Imams and Rabbis” might fail even before it got off the ground.
Both participants and observers waited with bated breath as Sheik Omar Abu-Namous, one of the event’s organizers, called for an Israeli “apology” to the Palestinians, along with some form of compensation for families who lost their land in 1948, the year Israel was established.
Watching him in the kosher café at NYU, his BlackBerry on the table while he talks with a student, you would be forgiven for mistaking Rabbi Yehuda Sarna for an undergraduate himself. But Rabbi Sarna has served as the rabbi for the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU since 2002, also founding the Jewish Learning Initiative on campus in 2005, building a reputation for engaging Jewish students in creative ways and for encouraging interreligious dialogue, especially through his close friendship with NYU Imam Khalid Latif.