Another indication of escalating intimidation on campuses.
We have long tracked the increasing aggressiveness of anti-Israel groups on campus.
See my post this summer, Expecting anti-Israel violence on campuses this fall, for a partial catalog of such instances.
One component of these protests is non-student activists inflaming the situation. For example, on April 10, 2014, after the Cornell student assembly tabled an anti-Israel divestment resolution, a non-student Ithaca activist (kat yang-stevens) confronted me and falsely accused me of putting my camera in her face. In fact, the video clearly shows (language warning) she made it up in order to create an incident.
On November 19, 2014, Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine organized a mock Israeli checkpoint at Ho Plaza, a central student gathering point on campus between the Cornell Bookstore and Willard Straight Hall, where many student activities are centered.
Casey Breznick, Editor in Chief of the Cornell Review and an author at Legal Insurrection, has the story at the Cornell Review Blog of a confrontation that took place when a group of pro-Israel students counter-protested holding Israeli flags and signs calling for peace.
Here is video we put together based on footage provided to us by multiple student sources, showing yang-stevens pulling the same ploy she pulled on me last April, claiming that the student had his camera in her face (which he denies both in the video and also in communications with me), as yang-stevens taunted the pro-Israel student to hit her. As another person shouted out “Fuck you Zionist scums”:
In addition to his Review report, Casey told me:
At the rally, I witnessed [yang-stevens] acting very aggressively towards pro-Israel students who were peaceably standing off to the side of the plaza waving posters or merely observing the pro-Palestinian displays. Yang-Stevens taunted and cursed at pro-Israel students, and tried provoking some into hitting her. When I said something to her (I forgot exactly what I said, but something to the effect of “Do you condemn Hamas?”), she responded “Do you want some of this?” To another student, she repeatedly asked if he wanted to slap her and taunted him for “foaming at the mouth.” She stood nearly nose-to-nose with this student, who eventually walked away to neutralize the situation.
The Cornell Daily Sun student newspaper reported:
Some individuals at the rally — which included members outside the Cornell community who were not affiliated with SJP — confronted the students representing Israel, smearing their sign with ketchup and shouting things such as “Apartheid is fucking apartheid,” “there’s no logic to Zionism” and “we will respond to aggression with aggression.”
This was a really dangerous confrontation, with the chance to escalate if the pro-Israel student had reacted to literally in-your-face taunts.
The student subjected to this abuse, who did not want to be identified by name, told me:
As I captured video depicting Kat Yang-Stevens, she approached me, screaming at me not to touch her. As I raised my hands in the air, she came closer to me. She continually shouted at me as she came within a centimeter of my face, breathing deliberately and forcefully all over me. She shouted to me to “slap me bitch” as her friends egged me on. I never initiated with her or her fellow protesters. I was attacked, and effectively spit on, for being Jewish and taking a video.
The publicly available Cornell Police Daily Crime Log reports that two complaints were filed regarding harassment (and a third because someone mistook the mock checkpoint to be real). The Cornell Police Chief did not respond to my inquiry as to the status of the investigation.
Jacob Glick, Chair of Cornell J Street U, who was present during the incident, gave the following statement:
“The supposed focal point of the protest was the mock checkpoint that had been set up in the center of Ho Plaza, but the fireworks took place at the margins of the crowd, where Jewish students were silently holding up signs that read, among other things, “Israel invests in peace.”
As SJP protesters chanted “genocide is genocide,” they repeatedly approached the sign-carrying students; one protester, who admitted that she was not a Cornell student, challenged one student to slap her, shouting “you know you want to” at close range.
I’m deeply disappointed and disturbed by the lack of emotional maturity on the part of SJP protesters, who refused to condemn the terrorist attack in Jerusalem when pressed by counter-protesters. The aftermath of such barbaric bloodshed should have been a moment for us to unite around a common regard for humanity.
SJP, in refusing to acknowledge the enormity of the Jerusalem massacre by rescheduling or toning down their protest, forfeited any credibility as an organization that seeks to pursue a political agenda while at the same time having the philosophical flexibility and self-confidence to acknowledge that some atrocities are beyond politics, and not all days are meant to be days of rage.”
Adam Schlussel, Vice President of CIPAC (the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee), who also was present during the incident, told me:
SJP claims to be a group pursuing justice but their actions consistently prove otherwise. They didn’t condemn the horrific and gruesome murder of four Jews praying in a synagogue by Palestinian terrorists. Rather, they decided it was a good time to protest checkpoints that Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered to protect Israeli civilians in response to an increase in terror attacks. In fact, SJP paid kat yang-stevens to incite a response from pro-Israel students on campus.
Don’t think that these activists are unwelcome on the Cornell campus. To the contrary, yang-stevens the next day appeared at the Africana Center, where she led a panel discussion on Resisting Domination:
This aggressive behavior towards peaceful pro-Israel students is becoming all too typical on college campuses, including Cornell.
Update 11-22-2014: Casey, who was at both the protests and the Africana Center event, tells me that he believes the woman shown in the video shouting “Fuck You Zionist Scums” is Amanda Lickers, who appears on the Africana Center event poster and also was involved in the 911 Memorial desecration at Middlebury College in September 2013.
Here is a screen shot from the Cornell video of the person Casey believes is Lickers: