New York University activists who led a failed campaign to push the institution to divest its investments in Israeli companies are circulating a new Internet petition denouncing "Israel's aggression," "atrocities," and "state terrorism" in Lebanon and Gaza.
At least 85 NYU students and faculty, in addition to some two dozen at Columbia and 19 at CUNY schools, have joined more than a thousand worldwide in calling for economic and political consequences.
"Along with the devastating U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the current U.S.-Israeli threat to Syria and Iran, Israel's escalation indicates another terrifying example of the heightened reliance on military force by both these powers in their ongoing struggle for hegemony in the Middle East," the petition states. It says that "Israel's destructive and expansionist policies are primarily to blame for the seemingly perpetual ‘Middle East crisis.'"
"The assumption here that it's Hezbollah that began this is ridiculous," one of the NYU professors who added his name, Bertell Ollman, said yesterday.
Israel says it's fighting a defensive war triggered by the kidnapping of two of its soldiers by a group America considers a terrorist threat, and by Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli cities.
"Occasionally, Israel reaps some of the seeds of oppression which it has planted," said Mr. Ollman, a full professor in NYU's Wilf Family Department of Politics who teaches a graduate course on Communism.
He added: "I think Israel is the main cause of growing anti-Semitism in the world today. I say this as a Jew."
For many Jews, "Israel has become their god and they support it no matter what it's doing," Mr. Ollman said.
Another professor who signed the petition said he read about it on a history newsletter online.
"I don't have a lot of faith that this will do a lot, but I felt it's the least I can do to express my outrage at both Israeli policy and at American policy," a history professor at Clark University in Massachusetts, Paul Ropp, said. The China specialist insists he isn't anti-Israel.
The petition's organizers appear to be NYU Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that has led the divestment campaign. E-mail messages sent by the Sun to the address listed on the site weren't returned.
A former chairman of the Middle East studies department at Columbia University, Hamid Dabashi, is listed as a signer of the petition, though he did not return phone calls and an e-mail attempting to confirm that he had signed it.
A critic who monitors Mideast studies on college campuses speculated that the petition is the work of frustrated academics who are out of touch with mainstream American views about the war's justification.
"It helps to signal to the outside world how extreme opinions are in the academy," Daniel Pipes, who directs a Web site called Campus Watch that documents anti-Israel bias. The full text of the petition, along with names of signers, is on the Web at petitiononline.com/caracas/petition.html.