(New York Jewish Week) — Jewish students at Columbia University said at a press conference on Monday that they and their peers on campus had been subjected to a series of antisemitic incidents in recent weeks, including death threats. They demanded the university administration take action to protect Jews on campus.
The press conference came after a series of antisemitic and anti-Israel actions at the school in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which killed and wounded thousands and led to Israel declaring war on the terror group.
An Israeli student was assaulted in the days after the attack in what police charged as a hate crime. A statement signed by a range of student groups placed blame for the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. After a swastika was found in a bathroom in the school’s International Affairs Building last Friday, Keren Yarhi-Milo, the dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, said, “I am shocked and dismayed that anyone would promote this most notorious symbol of antisemitism, hatred, and racial supremacy.”
Dozens of Columbia faculty in a letter published Monday called the Hamas attack a “military action” linked to Israel’s occupation.
Police and Jewish security groups have reported a spike in antisemitic incidents since the start of the war in the New York region and around the country. Recent incidents in New York, where Jews are targeted by hate crimes far more than any other group, have ranged from physical assaults to graffiti and harassment.
Monday’s press conference took place outside the gates of the school’s campus in Morningside Heights and did not appear to be organized by a student group. At least three of the four student speakers, however, have spoken to the media in recent weeks about antisemitism on campus, and the event was publicized by a professional public relations agency. Around 20 students attended.
The students said the school’s administration did not take sufficient action after receiving reports of antisemitism, and has not held perpetrators accountable.
“As a result of this inaction, there are Jewish students who do not feel physically safe on campus,” Noa Fay, a senior at Barnard College, said in a statement.
Among the incidents the students listed were the swastika graffiti, students carrying signs saying “resistance is not terrorism” during an on-campus walkout and, at Columbia’s law school, a student saying “F— the Jews” to a visibly Jewish student. They also said Jews were targeted with antisemitic tropes in group chats. Reached by the New York Jewish Week, the university did not confirm or deny any of the incidents.
“With my own eyes I have witnessed Columbia students resort to based bigotry,” junior Yoni Kurtz said, according to the New York Post. “I’ve seen them parrot foul antisemitic tropes, I’ve seen them label visibly Muslim students as terrorists, I’ve seen them roar in approval for calls of violence against civilians, and I’ve seen them take to social media nearly every day of the last three weeks to call for each other’s deaths.”
The students demanded the university clarify its policies on identity-based bigotry, including antisemitism; enforce those policies; devote more funding and staff to supporting student victims; and create spaces to bring students together from different backgrounds.
“The university’s lack of a meaningful, practical response to these acts of blatant antisemitism is incredibly disheartening,” said sophomore Jessie Brenner. “Students of all religious identities, political affiliations, and ethnicities deserve to feel safe on campus and supported by the administration.”
The activists also demanded the administration publicly condemn Hamas and treat students who support the terror group differently from those who support Palestinian rights. The administration has released several statements since Oct. 7, but none has mentioned the terror group.
“If these measures are not taken, we fear that campus will only continue to become more divisive, more volatile and more unsafe,” said Kurtz.
Following the press conference, the university told the New York Jewish Week, “Antisemitism or any other form of hate are antithetical to Columbia’s values and can lead to acts of harassment or violence. When this type of speech is unlawful or violates university rules, it will not be tolerated.”
A university spokesperson added, “We are using every available tool to keep our community safe and that includes protecting our Jewish students from antisemitic discrimination or harassment.”
The university has made a series of statements since the Oct. 7 attack, which has led to a spike in antisemitism worldwide. Two days after the attack, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said that she was “devastated by the horrific attack on Israel.”
In a separate statement earlier this month, Shafik said, “Some are using this moment to spread antisemitism, Islamophobia, bigotry against Palestinians and Israelis.”
She added, “I have been disheartened that some of this abhorrent rhetoric is coming from members of our community, including members of our faculty and staff.”
On Oct. 12, three Columbia administrators released a statement on the conflict, condemning antisemitism and Islamophobia and saying, “We reject and will not tolerate hate speech, violence, or the threat or any acts of violence in our community.”
Jewish students have also faced threats on other campuses in New York City and state. Last week, Jewish students at New York City’s Cooper Union college sheltered in the school’s library as pro-Palestinian demonstrators pounded on the door and shouted slogans. On Sunday, police at Cornell University were called to the school’s kosher dining hall, and the campus Hillel warned students to stay away from it, after anonymous antisemitic posts on a Greek life website that included threats to “shoot up” the building and kill and rape Jewish students. A suspect was arrested on Tuesday.
Penn president resigns amid criticism of her testimony on campus antisemitism
(JTA) — The president of the University of Pennsylvania announced her resignation on Saturday after facing growing backlash for declining to say outright that calling for the genocide of Jews violated the school’s code of conduct.
“I write to share that President Liz Magill has voluntarily tendered her resignation as President of the University of Pennsylvania,” Scott Bok, the chair of the school’s board of trustees, said in a statement. Bok subsequently said he would also be resigning.
Magill’s resignation is the most significant fallout so far from a congressional hearing on Tuesday in which she and the presidents of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were all asked whether calls for genocide of Jews would constitute harassment or bullying. All three responded that the answer depended on “context.”
Video of the exchange went viral and was highlighted by Jewish and pro-Israel activists as an illustration of how universities have failed to take campus antisemitism seriously in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and Israel’s ensuing war against the terror group in Gaza.
“I hope this signals a new start for @Penn & a wake-up call for all college presidents,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Campus administrators must protect their Jewish students with the same passion they bring to protecting all students. They can’t hide behind language coached by their attorneys & look the other way when it comes to antisemitism.”
In the wake of the hearing, Magill in particular faced mounting criticism from Penn’s stakeholders. The board of the school’s Wharton School called for new leadership for the school and a donor threatened to pull a $100 million donation unless Magill stepped down. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is a non-voting member of the board of the private university, said Magill “failed” to create a safe atmosphere for students and urged the board to review her leadership.
In her own brief statement Saturday, Magill did not mention the reason for her stepping down, and said, “It has been my privilege to serve as President of this remarkable institution.” Bok said in his statement that Magill was “not the slightest bit antisemitic” but had faltered in the hearing because she had given “a legalistic answer to a moral question, and that made for a dreadful 30-second sound bite.”
Both Magill and Harvard President Claudine Gay walked back their comments to Congress in statements the day after the hearing, and Gay issued a subsequent apology in an interview with the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, saying, “When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret.”
MIT’s board, meanwhile, is backing its president, Sally Kornbluth, who is Jewish. “I write now to let you know that I and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation entirely support President Kornbluth,” MIT Corporation chair Mark Gorenberg wrote in an open letter on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Rep. Elise Stefanik, the New York Republican who asked the questions about genocide, celebrated Magill’s resignation and called for Gay and Kornbluth to follow suit.
“One down. Two to go,” Stefanik wrote on X. “This is only the very beginning of addressing the pervasive rot of antisemitism that has destroyed the most “prestigious” higher education institutions in America.”
At least one other elite university has taken the opportunity to signal that its approach to antisemitism is different. “In the context of the national discourse, Stanford unequivocally condemns calls for the genocide of Jews or other peoples,” Stanford University wrote in a social media post on Friday. “That statement would clearly violate Stanford’s Fundamental Standard, the code of conduct for all students at the university.”
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University of Pennsylvania President Resigns Amid Massive Backlash Over Tepid Response to Campus Antisemitism
University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill resigned from her position on Saturday, ending a 17-month tenure marked by controversy over what critics described as an insufficient response to surging antisemitism on campus.
“It has been my privilege to serve as president of this remarkable institution,” Magill said in a statement. “It has been an honor to work with our faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members to advance Penn’s vital missions.”
Magill’s resignation followed growing calls from university leaders, donors, and students, as well as US lawmakers, for her to step down after refusing to say during a congressional hearing held on Tuesday that calling for the genocide of Jews would not constitute a violation of school rules.
“It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman,” Magill said, responding to US Rep. Elise Stefanik (D-NY), who posed the question. “If the speech becomes conduct, it can be harassment, yes.”
“Conduct meaning committing the act of genocide?” Stefanik asked, visibly disturbed by Magill’s answer. “The speech is not harassment? This is unacceptable Ms. Magill.”
The following day, Magill apologized.
“In that moment, I was focused on our university’s longstanding policies aligned with the US Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable,” she said in a video posted on X/Twitter. “I was not focused on, but I should have been, the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate.”
Appointed in July 2022, Magill, an alumnus of Yale University and the University of Virginia Law School, began her position at the school vowing to “shape Penn’s next great chapter.” By the time of Saturday’s announcement, however, two Jewish students had sued the school, alleging that it violated their civil rights by “selectively” enforcing rules that would punish those who harass and intimidate Jewish students, hiring radical anti-Zionist professors, and fostering a hostile learning environment.
Meanwhile, the US government began investigating accusations of antisemitism at the university, and a major donor threatened to rescind a $100 million gift if she remained in place.
Jewish students have said that antisemitism at Penn is an “institutional problem” that has been worsening for many years.
The problem became acute and first noticed by much of the public in September, when the school hosted an anti-Zionist festival that featured several speakers who called for violence against Israel and were accused of promoting antisemitic conspiracies. For weeks, the school would not condemn the event, and Magill recently apologized for not doing so — after it took place.
After Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, anti-Zionist protests at the university at times descended into demagoguery and intimidation of Jewish students, as speakers berated pro-Israel counter-protesters.
For roughly seven hours on Oct. 17, the protesters walked back and forth across Penn’s grounds chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a slogan widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. The demonstrators also chanted “Israel, Israel, you can’t hide, we caught you in genocide.”
However, according to court documents viewed by The Algemeiner concerning the recent lawsuit by two Jewish students, such incidents were hardly new.
In March, for example, the anti-Zionist group Penn Against the Occupation (POA) hosted Mohammed El-Kurd during its “Israeli Apartheid Week.” Currently a columnist for the left-wing magazine The Nation, the 25-year-old el-Kurd has trafficked in antisemitic tropes, demonized Zionism, and falsely accused Israelis of eating the organs of Palestinians. Over the past two years he has widely toured across American university campuses, heightening concerns about rising antisemitism and harassment against pro-Israel students.
On Oct. 7, as scenes of Hamas terrorists abducting children and desecrating dead bodies in Israel circulated worldwide, POA members held an “Emergency Solidarity Rally” where one of its members congratulated Hamas on a “job well done.” According to the complaint, the student said, “When they woke up in the morning, and they found the field hands in the house, with a knife, ready to cut their f—king throats. I was late to the news but when I heard it, I smiled. I don’t want to hear that bulls—t, 250, 250, innocent Israelis are dead. F—k ’em. Again, I swear, I salute Hamas.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Yemen’s Houthis Warn They Will Target All Ships Headed to Israel
Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Saturday they would target all ships heading to Israel, regardless of their nationality, and warned all international shipping companies against dealing with Israeli ports.
The Iran-aligned group is escalating the risks of a regional conflict amid a brutal war between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist Hamas.
The Houthis have attacked and seized several Israeli-linked ships in the Red Sea and its Bab al-Mandab strait, a sea lane through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and fired ballistic missiles and armed drones at Israel.
Houthi officials say their actions are a show of support for the Palestinians.
Israel said attacks on ships was an “Iranian act of terrorism” with consequences for international maritime security.
A Houthi military spokesperson said all ships sailing to Israeli ports are banned from the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.
“If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The threat has an immediate effect, the statement added.
The Houthis are one of several groups in the Iran-aligned “Axis of Resistance” which have been hitting Israeli and U.S. targets since Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked Israel.
In one of the latest incidents, three commercial vessels came under attack in international waters last week, prompting a U.S. Navy destroyer to intervene.
The Houthis, which rule much of Yemen and its Red Sea coast, also seized last month a British-owned cargo ship that had links with an Israeli company.
The United States and Britain have condemned the attacks on shipping, blaming Iran for its role in supporting the Houthis. Tehran says its allies make their decisions independently.
Saudi Arabia has asked the United States to show restraint in responding to the attacks.
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