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Williams Initiative for Israel

A student reports that “Apparently there was huge commotion at CC last [Tuesday] night. I expect this to be picked up by national news outlets as the details of what happened are revealed.” From the Record:

Last night, College Council (CC) voted 13–8 with one abstention to reject a request from the Williams Initiative for Israel (WIFI) to become a registered student organization. The vote came a week after the club’s request was tabled at a previous CC meeting, and the meeting involved nearly two hours of protracted and heated debate among both CC members and a large number of guests attending.

Before the debate began, numerous members and guests expressed concerns that publicly revealing the names of those speaking, as CC has previously done to some extent through livestreams on its Facebook page and published minutes accessible to students at the College, would make students feel unsafe and prevent them from fully expressing their opinions. Several members and guests cited national news coverage of College events in recent weeks, including cases where specific students were mentioned by name, as justification for these concerns. CC ultimately decided to publish anonymous minutes accessible only to students with College emails.

This is a developing story, occurring exceptionally close to our print deadline.

The minutes are here, but inaccessible to me. Could someone post them in a comment?

The video for last week has some interesting discussion starting at the 25 minute mark . . .

“The state of Israel, at least if it’s not completely illegal . . .”

It is one thing for leftist students on campus to attack random WASPs, especially WASPs who might be Republican. But when they go after mainstream (?) Jewish organizations, they may be treated very differently . . .

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20 Comments To "Williams Initiative for Israel"

#1 Comment By Jon Serviam On April 25, 2019 @ 2:01 pm

This is a really curious episode. Reaction against WIFI was way stronger than it seemed like it would have merited, especially since its would be founders took pains to express that their only essential political stance was the right of Israel to exist (a very mainstream take on the subject, and the virtually unanimous consensus in the US Congress, just as an example). Minutes from that meeting are anonymous and heavily redacted. No livestream recorded.

Not sure what’s next for WIFI. Appeal to office of student life to override College Council? Seems like something they could get accomplished in spite of getting rejected by their peers.

#2 Comment By ’11 On April 25, 2019 @ 3:00 pm

i think that since ivanka trump, jared kushner, and stephen miller are jewish, and also likely racists and white supremacists by their close association with this administration (maybe fascists too), that just the fact an organization is jewish or associated with israel doesn’t mean it can’t have ties to fascism, racism, or white supremacy. i would need to see the details to make that judgment though.

#3 Comment By Fragesteller On April 25, 2019 @ 3:36 pm

Does anyone on CC possess the self-realization to understand their own prejudice and anti-semitism in rejecting such a proposal?

Does the administration have the balls to treat a wicked child appropriately?

#4 Comment By CCmember On April 25, 2019 @ 3:49 pm

The leader of WIFI said that the killing of Palestinians did not deserve the term “genocide” because to be a “genocide” would required overall population decrease. This is the quote that highlights the intention of this group, especially when there is already another Israel group on campus advocating for the state of Israel. I was leaning toward WIFI until this pathetic of a definition was used in an attempt to devalue the lives of Palestinians.

The intention of this group is nothing but to assert power and fear over current Palestinians on campus. SJP advocates for peaceful solution and welfare of Palestinians and Jewish people, but WIFI mentioned nothing about peace, welfare, or anything that would help both Jewish people and Palestinians at the same time. This was my decision to vote No.

Say rather than WIFI-SJP it is Nazi-Jews. Would you allow a group that considers the killings of humans justified simply because it helps them reach their end goal,which is to have power over another group of people?

#5 Comment By Fragesteller On April 25, 2019 @ 4:40 pm

So the CC would reject ROTC on campus?

#6 Comment By Fragesteller On April 25, 2019 @ 4:41 pm

Isn’t killing people to have power over them, exactly what the Allied Nations did in response to the Third Reich?

#7 Comment By Observer On April 25, 2019 @ 4:41 pm

CCmember,

I wish we could learn more details. But what you are represent above is not, standing alone, sufficient grounds to deny this group recognition. Arguing that the death of Palestinians is not a “genocide” is not akin to saying the death of Palestinians is a desired or appropriate outcome. A lot of people are killed in all sorts of conflicts, many in deeply tragic ways, but that does not necessarily constitute a “genocide,” which is a very narrow term that has been improperly co-opted by various groups (e.g. white nationalists and “white genocide).

And indeed, one can be very critical of some Israeli policies and actions (I certainly am) without agreeing that Israel has been guilty of “genocide.” It has not, just as Hamas, while a bloody and violent organization with largely horrific goals, has not been guilty of a Jewish “genocide,” either.

And indeed, I can’t imagine that EIGHT CC members would vote to fund an organization which, as you are (surely incorrectly) suggest, advocated for the genocide of Palestinians.

In general, CC should not be engaging in viewpoint discrimination in regards to political groups that it may or may not fund. Especially when funding groups on one side of an issue. Now, at the extremes, this may be debatable. But again, there is a HUGE distinction between actually advocating for genocide, and advocating for a definition of genocide that excludes the victims of one side of a a longstanding, two-sided violent conflict in which both sides have engaged in plentiful wrongdoing.

#8 Comment By Fragesteller On April 25, 2019 @ 4:50 pm

(Did a CC member really just show up, and blithely compare the sacrifices of the brothers and sisters in the IDF to secure a homeland for the Jewish people, to Nazis? Godwin’s Law aside, is there any explanation for that particular quite unexamined and inappropriate comparison, other than anti-semitism?)

#9 Comment By Fragesteller On April 25, 2019 @ 5:03 pm

Is US prison policy “genocide?”

#10 Comment By abl On April 25, 2019 @ 5:05 pm

Can someone help clarify what CC’s guidelines are for approving of student groups? I also hope that the CC member returns here to further specify whether the WIFI representative spoke approvingly of the killing of Palestinians or refused to affix the label of “genocide” to such killing.

Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but my sense was that there was far from any widespread consensus, even in the Democratic party, about the use of the label “genocide” more generally — let alone whether the label fairly applies to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Fragesteler — I didn’t read CCmember’s comments to compare Israel to the Nazis.

#11 Comment By Guest On April 25, 2019 @ 5:11 pm

The bylaws simply state that a group has to open to all and fulfill an underrepresented niche on campus, which nobody contested. In fact, a CC member asked “if a group fills the requirements, do the bylaws say we have to approve them?,” further demonstrating the double standard.

And nobody spoke approvingly of killing Palestinians. What happened was the student leader of WIFI contested the definition of genocide, noting Palestinian population increases. I felt it was extremely distasteful, but it was not malicious. Also, it would be important to note that this student was one of the only students on her side allowed to speak, while the other side had 15+ students all jumping at her with questions, comments, and interrogations.

CCMember is being disingenous when they state they were on the fence about WIFI, their second and third paragraphs clearly indicate they had no intention of ever voting for it.

#12 Comment By Williamstown Resident On April 25, 2019 @ 5:18 pm

Calling Kushner, Ivanka and Miller “fascists” because you disagree with their policies comes from the same sewer of thought that leads to lunatics ranting unchecked at CC meetings because no one wants to speak up lest they be called racist. It also completely devalues the meaning of the word “fascist” much like calling the conflict between Israel and Palestine “genocide”. Words have actual meanings.

#13 Comment By Student Guest On April 25, 2019 @ 5:23 pm

CC’s guidelines for approving groups are twofold: they have to be open to everyone, and also to fill an underrepresented niche. Both of these conditions hold here. In addition, a CC member opposed to WIFI even asked “if a group fulfills the conditions does it say anywhere in the bylaws we HAVE to approve them?”, showing the clear double standard set here.

Nobody was speaking approvingly of the killing of Palestinians. The student leader of the group took issue with the label “genocide,” arguing that the Palestinians did not decrease in population. I felt this remark was misguided and insensitive, but then again, realize this student was one of two or three in this room against 15+ students, all of which yelling at yer and interrogating her with many questions. As the meeting was run in a biased manner, one co-President kept calling on the other side but only rarely on WIFI to respond.

And CCMember is being disingenous when they say they were on the fence. I highly doubt that, considering what they say in their 2nd and 3rd paragraph indicates they intended to vote against this proposal from the start.

#14 Comment By Current Student On April 25, 2019 @ 7:37 pm

WIFI met all of the CC bylaw requirements. Its rejection was primarily due to the fact that people would feel “unsafe” because of its existence on campus. Not sure how well everything about it was presented to CC, but it was stated numerous times that it did not support Israel’s government and only wanted to support Israel as a state. Quite frankly, there was nothing else that could have been done to get this group passed.

#15 Comment By Another Student On April 25, 2019 @ 7:41 pm

CC’s guidelines for approving groups are twofold: they have to be open to everyone, and also to fill an underrepresented niche. Both of these conditions hold here. In addition, a CC member opposed to WIFI even asked “if a group fulfills the conditions does it say anywhere in the bylaws we HAVE to approve them?”, showing the clear double standard set here.

Nobody was speaking approvingly of the killing of Palestinians. The student leader of the group took issue with the label “genocide,” arguing that the Palestinians did not decrease in population. I felt this remark was misguided and insensitive, but then again, realize this student was one of two or three in this room against 15+ students, all of which yelling at yer and interrogating her with many questions. As the meeting was run in a biased manner, one co-President kept calling on the other side but only rarely on WIFI to respond.

And CCMember is being disingenous when they say they were on the fence. I highly doubt that, considering what they say in their 2nd and 3rd paragraph indicates they intended to vote against this proposal from the start.

#16 Comment By Anon On April 26, 2019 @ 6:47 am

Post the minutes. They are anonymous so the only threat presented is to show, or disprove, bias.

Hiding records is normally done to avoid embarrassment…

If you are conducting official business in a shameful way, sunshine, not secrecy, is the path to progress.

#17 Comment By CCmember On April 26, 2019 @ 7:21 am

I was initially on the fence because WIFI presented that the other Jewish group did not have the correct agenda and thus WIFI is necessary to fill the niche. As the debate went on, they never explained what the other Jewish group’s agenda was or how WIFI’s agenda was any different. They preferred to talk more about how Israel deserved the right to exist(with no intention of communally with Palestinians) and implied the end justifies the means. I came in with no emotional connection to either causes, and I was still disgusted with the lack of regards for human lives(both Palestinians and Jewish people) from WIFI.

@Fragesteller If the definition of genocide is the deliberate killing of a large group of people, then, in a way, prison can be viewed as institutional genocide due to biases(suppression of evidences, unequal application of the laws, police misconduct) within the judicial system

#18 Comment By Abl On April 26, 2019 @ 9:46 am

@CCmember,

What is the other pro-Israel club and what do you understand its purpose to be?

#19 Comment By Another Student On April 26, 2019 @ 1:22 pm

There is no other pro-Israel club. There is a collection of students known as SIPD (Students for Israel-Palestinian Dialogue) which takes no official stance on the issue and has done few events, all of which being discussions/dialogues between those on both sides. That club appears to have sprang up in opposition to the ridiculous wall last year, and WIFI appears to be a separate outgrowth based on current campus and nationwide events.

#20 Comment By Concerned On April 29, 2019 @ 4:25 pm

It would appear that the WIFI representative was not really afforded the opportunity to explain in full what she meant on any front presented and that the CC jumped on whatever they could to prevent this group from forming. If the term “genocide” was the concern, genocide means the intentional and deliberate killing of a group of people. There is not a single fact that would prove Israel does this, only a mob mentality of distorted facts to “prove” that concept. Do Palestinians get killed? Yes, that is a fact. Does Israel intentionally kill them in mass to deliberately eliminate them? No, that is also a fact. Does Hamas kill Palestinian civilians under their own control? Yes, that is also a fact that seems to have been ignored as well. To suggest anything otherwise and claim it as fact is an emotional-based rather than fact-based set of standards, something that students at Williams should rise above.