Photo Credit: courtesy, Rudy Rochman, SSI
Columbia University student Rudy Rochman heads SSI, the Students Supporting Israel organization.

Anti-Israel agitator Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the global anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, appeared Monday night for a speaking engagement at Columbia University a day after picking up an award for being a “peacemaker” in Connecticut.

That Barghouti had arrived in the United States at all was due to a decision last week by an Israeli judge who lifted a travel ban stemming from an investigation into allegations of tax evasion on some $70,000 in speaking fees and other income connected with his company. His attorney petitioned the court to free him from house arrest in order to accept the honor abroad.

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Barghouti accepted the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award from the “Promoting Enduring Peace” organization in New Haven, CT. He entered Yale University’s Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall together with Ralph Nader to accept the award. Both received standing ovations.

According to a report on the event by Randall Beach at The New Haven Register, Barghouti led his address by dedicating his award to the “heroic Palestinian political prisoners in apartheid dungeons,” who he said are being held illegally.

Nevertheless, Yale University took the precaution of issuing the following statement to media: “A student organization reserved space for the awarding of the Gandhi prize, which is given by an organization not affiliated with Yale,” the statement began.

“Yale honors requests by our community to invite speakers and groups to campus in accordance with our academic mission of fostering the free exchange of ideas. Views expressed at these events are those of the individuals involved and do not represent the views of the university as a whole.”

Within 24 hours, Barghouti was also taking his message to the Big Apple, where anti-Israel students and professors were eagerly waiting to hear him as well.

“The Israeli government is drunk with power and impunity — particularly since [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s rise to power,” Barghouti told them in his address Monday night at Columbia University. “Israel … is moving at dizzying speed to build more settlements.”

Barghouti touted a list of BDS accomplishments to the crowd at the event, one of two in the city sponsored by the pro-BDS group “JVP” — ‘Jewish Voices for Peace’ and at Columbia at least, also by the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). That unholy alliance at Columbia University forms a coalition known as CUAD — Columbia University Apartheid Divest.

Among the anti-Israel ‘wins’ he listed were the adoption of pro-BDS resolutions on American campuses by student government bodies — ultimately ineffective though the motions were.

However, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz newspaper — known everywhere as a liberal, leftist news outlet — was nevertheless unable to persuade Barghouti to acquiesce to an interview, according to The Forward, which reported that he responded to the request by writing “I do not do interviews with the main Israeli media.”

How’s that for BDS inclusion?

Rudy Rochman, founder and president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Columbia University attended the event. He noted — underlined, in fact — in a post on his Facebook page that it was scheduled on Holocaust Memorial Day.

“Let us remember that the Nazis in Germany first boycotted, demonized and isolated the Jews before pursuing their ‘final solution,’ Rochman wrote in his post.

Students Supporting Israel (SSI) silently accuse Omar Barghouti of lying about the nature of his cause.
Students Supporting Israel (SSI) silently accuse Omar Barghouti of lying about the nature of his cause.

Rochman later said in an exclusive interview with JewishPress.com via email that the group of students protesting with SSI was not only Jewish students; “we also had non-Jews with us.”

Rochman added that both JVP and SJP “pride themselves on the exploitation of Palestinian suffering in order to further demonize and delegitimize Jewish self-determination.”

In addition to Barghouti, the event also hosted the executive director of JVP and a professor from the university, Rochman said. But oddly, most of the talk “had nothing to do with Israel or Palestinians,” he added.

“It was more an orchestrated indoctrination seminar where they spoke about Trump, Breitbart, racism, the far right, oppression, South African apartheid, slavery … and trying to convey the message that if you truly care about these “other” issues, then you should support BDS and attack Israel.”

When Rochman got his chance to ask Barghouti a question, it was blunt.

“As a part of the pro-Israel community at Columbia University I can tell you that I don’t know one person on Israel’s side that denies Palestinian human rights or that doesn’t want to find a solution to achieve coexistence,” Rochman said. “It seems to me that the only way in which someone can be ‘pro-Palestinian’ today is one in which they must be entirely anti-Israel.

“BDS is yet another platform that promotes this polarization on campus which not only prevents people from coming together, but also forces the hand of individuals with compassion to hate another people. It seems like continuing on this path will only further the status quo and conflict.

“As a strategist, where do you think this polarization will lead?”

Barghouti’s answer was a repetition of the mantra: “BDS fights oppression and apartheid, and we will continue to push for justice in Palestine.”

Rochman, who has served as an IDF paratrooper, said in his Facebook post that he got the message.

“BDS and the other branches of the anti-Israel movement are pushing for more bloodshed and for a total war that with ethnically cleanse the Jewish people from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”

Rochman — who will graduate a year from now, said he is majoring in Political Science. Born in France, he grew up in Miami and served in the IDF paratroopers. He also lived in LA and Asia before moving to New York City in September 2015.

“I founded SSI when I came to Columbia University in order to really change Columbia University’s campus and to empower other pro-Israel students and groups from around the world,” he said.

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