On Tuesday February 16, Hunter Hillel in coordination with Hunter Students for Israel, Zionist Organization of America Campus, and United Jewish Appeal Federation of NY was to host Mordechai Kedar in an event called “Israel and Her Neighbors.” Mordechai, a former member of the Israeli Defense Forces and an Israeli professor, said regarding Palestinians: “The only way to force terrorists to think twice about their actions is the threat of the rape of their sisters and mothers.” Such hideous, criminal, violent, and misogynist speech is deplorable, but not unexpected from someone proudly representing Zionism, which represents a settler-colonial project responsible for the dispossession of millions of Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. An outcry erupted in response to the announcement that this man would come to Hunter College, where Hillel was going to give him a platform. Now, thanks to the efforts of numerous students, organizations, and departments, both within and out of CUNY, we are happy to say this event will no longer be taking place on February 16. Yesterday, Hillel announced the event was postponed. As far as we are concerned, this was a calculated response to not concede that they were wrong to even consider allowing Mordechai a platform, and an easy way to absolve themselves of any real responsibility. For this reason, the event was announced “postponed” and not what it likely actually is – cancelled. To be clear, if Kedar comes to Hunter, either on Tuesday or in the future, we will also be there.
To be clear, we do not think it is simply a miscalculation or mistake on the part of Hillel and Students for Israel to invite a Zionist who holds misogynist beliefs. This is not an incidental occurrence but rather one that is a reflection of an ideology rife with chauvinism. Instead, this highlights for us the integral part patriarchy (sexual/gender oppression) plays in upholding the Zionist project, and reinforces our belief that we must forge strong connections with women’s and LGBT organizations in order to combat our common enemy. The Zionist movement and Israeli politicians have long relied on the logic of patriarchy to justify their 68 year occupation of Palestine, centering the root of the “problem” of terrorism on Palestinian mothers, who must be killed along with their children because a mother must know “if she sends her son to to hell she should know she’s going with him, along with the house, and everything inside it,” as Ayelet Shaked, Israeli Justice Minister, put it. At the same time, Israeli politicians rail about the “demographic threat” to Israel’s sovereignty, premised on the Palestinian birthrate that will soon render Jewish Israelis as a minority in occupied Palestine, casting as the chief enemy not any political faction or militant group, but rather Palestinian women and mothers as a group. Therefore, Israel’s patriarchal roots appear not only in rhetoric but in actions that underlie the basis of the state, including the mass rapes that occurred in the 1948 Nakba used as a psychological weapon to colonize and wipe out Palestinians, as well as the daily assault and sexual harassment of Palestinian women to this day in israel, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. These actions represent the attack of the israeli state against what they euphemistically refer to as the “demographic threat” but what we really know to mean Palestinian women in general. Zionism uses patriarchy, just as it uses racism, imperialism, and other systems of oppression, to ensure its continued survival. It is therefore our duty as advocates and supporters of the Palestinian people to unite with all those fighting gender oppression whether they be those fighting in Palestine against gender oppression, or on college campuses in the United States with policies that protect perpetrators of sexual violence.
CUNY, along with universities in general, has a specific role in the reproduction of dominant social relations, including reproducing patriarchy and rape culture, and legitimizing settler-colonial ideologies like Zionism. In this case, the administration was not only prepared to allow Kedar to spew his misogynist propaganda, but they were reportedly, “preparing for protests”, showing that in a school made up of more than 70% women, the administration will both hold the door open for rape advocates as well as protect them from public criticism. We need look no further than the investigation for violating Title IX (mishandling sexual assault cases), one of only 55 colleges in the country under investigation, to illustrate how CUNY, and Hunter specifically, upholds patriarchy in the university.
While events like this from Zionist organizations tend to have the privilege of sneaking by unnoticed, if women’s organizations and Palestine solidarity groups do not make noise about it, organizations advocating for self-determination of oppressed groups must suffer unwanted excessive security at their events, sudden cancellations, and public letters from the CUNY administration denouncing their actions. The double standard is visible to all, and while the Hunter administration is more than willing to denounce Students for Justice in Palestine, they apparently have no plans to publish any such statement denouncing the event hosted by Hillel.
New York City Students for Justice in Palestine would like to thank every student at Hunter College, the Women & Gender Studies Department, Hunter Students for Justice in Palestine, and CUNY 4 Palestine who refused to be silent about genocide and rape advocates speaking on our campus and contributed to this amazing victory. We acknowledge that organizing has power to produce change not only at Hunter, but across CUNY. As we have stated before, NYC SJP strongly believes that “…the student movement can provide revolutionary leadership to a larger movement if it is integrated among broader progressive struggles to build power for oppressed people.” We will not be silent when our own colleges decide that it is “free speech” to invite people who support the killing of a people or the rape of women to speak. We want #ZionismOutOfCUNY not only for the above-mentioned reasons, but also because our university is invested in companies that profits off of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, as well as private prisons. More important than economistic demands of where investments are is the question of content of education. We want a university that serves the oppressed communities of this city, both in terms of access to the institution as well as what we are taught. A Liberated CUNY doesn’t mean simply switching around investment portfolios, it means we teach and are taught our people’s real histories, and leave the university not just to become low-level managers or academics, but as revolutionaries who will return to our communities to struggle for the people. #ZionismOutOfCUNY means people like Mordechai Kedar are not only refused entry to student spaces, but their ideas are also actively combatted, both on and off campus. The struggle of women and other oppressed genders against patriarchal systems of reaction and imperialism is part and parcel of the Palestinian national liberation movement, and as solidarity organizers in the United States, our feminism must take an anti-imperialist character, and our anti-imperialism must take a feminist one.
The vanguard of CUNY privatization Macaulay Honors College initiates a study-abroad program in Israel, Hunter administration remains quiet when a Zionist advocating for rape as a weapon of war is invited on campus, and Zionists still ask us in the halls,