Columbia Conference Postponed

Published January 28, 2005, issue of January 28, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Campus tensions regarding the Middle East spilled over into the political realm at Columbia University this week when Israel’s ambassador to the United States called off an appearance at the university.

Ambassador Daniel Ayalon had been scheduled to appear at an all-day conference, sponsored by Columbia’s Center for International Conflict Resolution on the crisis in the Middle East, but he pulled out after hearing complaints from members of the Jewish community who were concerned about recent instances of alleged anti-Israel bias by members of the university’s Middle Eastern studies department. Hours later, Columbia postponed the entire event.

Former senator George Mitchell, a senior fellow of the center organizing the conference, released a statement that made no mention of Ayalon’s cancellation, and instead attributed the postponement to sudden changes in the travel plans of a number of the conference’s participants.

“Several government officials — Israeli, Palestinian and American — who had agreed to participate have informed me that they will be unable to attend because they must remain in or travel to the Middle East this week,” Mitchell wrote.

Ayalon is in Washington this week, and the other Israeli participant, former consul general Alon Pinkas, was planning to be in New York. The only government official from the Arab world scheduled to attend the conference, Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, is also in Washington this week.

The campus has been roiled by controversy since this past October, when a documentary appeared in which a group of Jewish students accused a number of professors in the campus’s Middle Eastern studies department of anti-Israel bias and intimidation.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who was scheduled to appear at the event, has appointed an ad hoc committee to look into the bias allegations and author a report.

But some Jewish communal leaders have felt that the university’s efforts so far have been insufficient.

One of the university’s harshest critics has been Weblogger Martin Kramer, who, in a January 23 posting, took aim at the Columbia conference and encouraged Ayalon and Pinkas not to attend.

Kramer, when reached by the Forward, seemed pleased by the turn of events.

“The whole purpose of the meeting at Columbia was to legitimize Columbia, to legitimize the policies it has followed in this crisis,” he said. “The function of the event was one large photo op for the university.”

On his weblog, Kramer had also suggested that Pinkas withdraw, but the former consul general was still planning to attend when the conferencne was canceled. “Any place where there is a discussion — a dialogue — forfeiting and not showing up is not an option for the Zionist cause,” Pinkas told the Forward.

The committee named by Bollinger to look into the bias allegations, which is composed of five members of the faculty, has said that it will release its findings before the university’s spring break, which begins March 14.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.