WIFI’s leadership responded to this student by saying that this and other clear attempts at ethnic cleansing against Palestinians did not constitute genocide. When asked why the intentional displacement and killing of an ethnic minority would not be a textbook example of genocide, WIFI’s leadership pointed to the slight increase of the Palestinian population in recent years. The United Nations Genocide Convention specifically defines genocide as “acts intended [emphasis mine] to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” Population decrease or increase has nothing to do with the definition of genocide, and attempts to redefine the term to protect a narrow political interest and invalidate the lived experiences of Palestinian students should be beyond the bounds of reasonable debate.
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A request by students to create a group supportive of Israel was rejected by the student government, the College Council, in late April, amid accusations that the group’s beliefs did not fit the moral values of the student body. In the face of complaints from national right-leaning news outlets, Jewish organizations and free speech groups, the college’s president and administration intervened, ultimately reversing the rejection in mid-May. When the campus comes back to life this fall, the Williams Initiative for Israel, or WIFI, will be a registered student organization, having full access to funding and services available to official student groups. But along the way, its birth sparked debates over pro-Israeli thought in the United States, scrutiny of how student groups win approval and the nature of campus political debate and free expression… Mohazzab Abdullah, a student who spoke against WIFI at meetings, said such rhetoric is similar to treating free speech like a “buzzword.”
“Free speech arguments need to be qualified,” Abdullah said. “I think that this campus should exclude and suppress pro-genocide discourse.”
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