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Mass Arrests and Suspensions at Columbia Amidst Pro-Hamas Demonstrations

Columbia University exploded into a welter of anti-Israel protests while its president, Minouche Shafik, was in Washington, DC on Wednesday testifying before US lawmakers about antisemitism on the New York campus, where law enforcement had to be called to pacify the ongoing demonstrations on Thursday.

A group that calls itself Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) commandeered a section of campus on Wednesday afternoon and, after declaring it a “liberated zone,” lit flares and chanted pro-Hamas and anti-American slogans, according to reports. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrived to disperse the unauthorized gathering, hundreds of students reportedly amassed around them to prevent the restoration of order.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, a wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!” they shouted, words that reinforced the theme of Wednesday’s US congressional hearing: “Crisis at Columbia.”

NYPD officers began making arrests on Thursday morning, although it was unclear how many of those apprehended were Columbia University students and what success they have had in regaining control of the “liberated zone.” Video from the campus showed officers loading dozens of protesters onto police buses.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” Shafik said in a statement, adding that the protesters had “violated a long list of rules and policies.”

Founded in 1754, Columbia University has reached an inflection point in its history as critics strive to hold it to account. Since Oct. 7, anti-Zionist agitators have beaten up Jewish students, stolen posters of missing Israelis who have been taken as hostages into Gaza, called for a genocide of the Jewish people, and invited members of a terrorist organization to speak at events on campus. Critics have alleged that no one has been punished for these violations of the school’s code of conduct.

While Columbia spiraled into chaos, Shafik was in Washington, DC telling lawmakers on the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce that she has done all she can to address the severity of antisemitism fueled by anti-Israel animus.

“Trying to reconcile the free speech rights of those who wanted to protest and the rights of Jewish students to be in an environment free of discrimination and harassment has been the central challenge on our campus and numerous others across the country,” said Shafik, who admitted she prepped many hours for Wednesday’s hearing. “Regrettably, the events of [Hamas’ invasion of Israel on] Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge, and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents.”

At one point, Shafik claimed that over a dozen students have been suspended for antisemitic conduct and holding an unauthorized event, titled “Resistance 101,” to which a member of the Palestine Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was invited. However, committee chair Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) responded that since Oct. 7, only Jewish students have been suspended for allegedly spraying an “odorous” fragrance near anti-Zionist protesters, an incident mentioned by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to seemingly undermine the verbal and physical abuse to which Jewish students at Columbia have been subjected.

On Thursday, Miriam Elman, a Columbia University alumna and executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, told The Algemeiner that Shafik was outshone by three of her colleagues who were also called to testify before the committee and discussed the presence of antisemitism among the school’s faculty: Professor David Schizer — co-chair of the school’s antisemitism task force — Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald, both of whom are members of the board of trustees.

“Shipman was right to say that professors need to be held to a higher standard than students,” Elman said. “The Columbia official who delivered the best performance at the hearing, however, was David Schizer. He compared what Jewish students are facing on campus to the long history of anti-Jewish hate and to experiences that his own grandfather faced when he was nearly lynched by antisemitic thugs. His powerful and personal opening statement was pitch perfect for the moment.”

Columbia University is under investigation by the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce and is preparing to defend itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that school officials intentionally ignored antisemitism and left Jewish students exposed to numerous physical and emotional injuries inflicted on them by students and faculty.

For many in the Jewish community, what is happening at Columbia is a microcosm of a problem plaguing colleges and universities everywhere.

“Yesterday’s hearing is a recognition of the growing atmosphere of hate that continues to target students around the country,” said Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, which is representing one of the students who is suing Columbia. “We want to thank Chairwoman Foxx and the committee for their work to hold higher education institutions and their leaders accountable for protecting against antisemitism.”

https://www.algemeiner.com/2024/04/18/anti-israel-activists-protest-outside-us-israeli-pavilions-venice-biennale-accuse-jewish-state-genocide/