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Columbia University Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Amid Raging Pro-Hamas Demonstrations

Pro-Hamas protesters outside Hamilton Hall barricading students inside the building at Columbia University, despite an order to disband the protest encampment supporting Palestinians or face suspension, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in New York City, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Columbia University on Monday announced the cancellation of its main commencement ceremony, continuing a trend of universities declining to hold graduation events in light of a recent explosion of anti-Israel demonstrations on college campuses.

The ceremony was scheduled to take place on May 15 on its New York City campus, where students, faculty, and other activists set up a pro-Hamas encampment that was taken down by police last week.

Columbia said in a statement that it will still hold smaller commencement ceremonies for its different schools, such as nursing and journalism. Smaller ceremonies that were supposed to be held outside on the university’s campus will be moved indoors. Meanwhile, replacement “class-day” events will take place primarily off-campus at the Baker Athletic Complex, roughly five miles north of Columbia University’s main campus.

The university cited its desire to “keep students safe” as the motive for cancelling the school’s main commencement event.

For nearly three weeks, university students have been amassing in the hundreds at a growing number of schools, taking over sections of campuses by setting up “Gaza Solidarity Encampments” and refusing to leave unless administrators condemn and boycott Israel. Footage of the protests has shown demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. In many cases, activists have also lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

The protests initially erupted across the US but have since spread to university campuses around the world, primarily in the West.

Amid the disruptions, several schools have canceled their spring-time graduation ceremonies, fearing the demonstrations could fuel unrest at large gatherings.

Still, New York politicians have encouraged universities to continue with regularly scheduled graduations.

“We will do our job, and if the institutions decide to graduate their students and celebrate a beautiful experience with their families, we’ll make sure it’s done in a peaceful manner,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a recent interview before Columbia’s decision.

In a public letter to university presidents, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wrote, “It is my expectation that every college and university in New York will celebrate commencement safely in person.”

Columbia has been the center of the recent wave of anti-Israel protests on campus, with activists setting up an encampment last month. As a result of the demonstrations, Columbia closed its main campus during the Jewish holiday of Passover, holding only virtual classes. Meanwhile, a prominent Orthodox rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus and “return home as soon as possible” for their safety.

On April 30, protestors occupied Hamilton Hall, an administrative building on campus, leading to a standoff between protestors and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Eventually, hundreds of NYPD officers swept the building, arresting dozens of protesters including university students and professors. NYPD officials said they found signs that read “death to America” and “death to Israel” in the building.

Columbia was hardly the first school to decide to cancel its commencement ceremony amid the ongoing protests. Last month, University of Southern California (USC) provost Andrew Guzman announced that commencement had been cancelled there, after a string of pro-Hamas protests and the formation of encampments. The university said that “tradition must give way to safety” in its rationale for the cancellation. USC instead opted for smaller graduation events by school like Columbia, with a strict policy for bringing bags and a limited number of non-transferable tickets available to each graduate.

Washington University in St. Louis, similarly rocked by anti-Israel protests on campus, decided to stick with the regular commencement schedule. On April 27, over a hundred protesters including professors and former presidential candidate Jill Stein were arrested while protesting on campus. In response, the university placed fences around the borders of campus in the hopes of deterring future protests and to protect graduation festivities. The university issued guidelines for its commencement on May 13, including that graduates are forbidden from bringing bags, tickets are required, and guests are only permitted to bring a clear plastic bag.

“We’re hopeful that everyone in the WashU community will do their part to help ensure that these students in particular are able to have at least one graduation that is memorable for the right reasons,” Chancellor Andrew Martin wrote in an email to students.

Columbia’s cancellation came only days after commencement events at the University of Michigan were interrupted by pro-Hamas protesters waving Palestinian flags and chanting slogans about the university supporting genocide. Police prevented the protesters from reaching the main podium to the applause of most in attendance.

Demonstrators across the US and Europe have called for universities to condemn Israel’s ongoing war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza and to divest from any entities linked to the Jewish state.

The post Columbia University Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Amid Raging Pro-Hamas Demonstrations first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a televised speech in Tehran, Iran. Photo: Official Khamenei Website/Handout via REUTERS

Iran’s so-called “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, applauded the anti-Israel protesters who have thrown university campuses across the US into chaos over the past several weeks, declaring them part of a new “branch of the Resistance Front” against the Jewish state.

“Dear university students in the United States of America, this message is an expression of our empathy and solidarity with you,” Khamenei wrote in an open letter published on Thursday. “As the page of history is turning, you are standing on the right side of it.”

Rehashing antisemitic conspiracies of Jewish control, he derided “the global Zionist elite” for speaking against the campus demonstrations.

“The global Zionist elite — who owns most US and European media corporations or influences them through funding and bribery — has labeled this courageous, humane resistance movement as ‘terrorism,’” Khamenei wrote. “You have now formed a branch of the Resistance Front and have begun an honorable struggle in the face of your government’s ruthless pressure — a government which openly supports the usurper and brutal Zionist regime.”

Khamenei also praised students in other countries who have launched anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, noting the leading role that faculty have played in fostering and supporting the unrest.

“Besides you students from dozens of American universities, there have also been uprisings in others countries among academics and the general public,” he wrote. “The support and solidarity of your professors is a significant and consequential development. This can offer some measure of comfort in the face of your government’s police brutality and the pressures it is exerting on you. I too am among those who empathize with you young people, and value your perseverance.”

Khamenei’s letter came amid an outpouring of praise for the anti-Zionist students by Islamist terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

“While we support the assassination of the infidel Zionists and the beheading of them, we also appreciate and value the movement of Western demonstrators and sit-in students from Western universities, who through their sit-ins and protests expressed their rejection of the genocide taking place in Gaza,” al-Qaeda leadership wrote in a recent communique

Hamas and Hezbollah, both backed by Iran, have also cheered the protests.

“Today’s students are the leaders of the future, and their suppression today means an expensive electoral bill that the Biden administration will pay sooner or later,” Hamas official Izzat Al-Risheq said in a statement last month.

Naim Qassem, the deputy head of Hezbollah, also praised the protesters during an interview with Al-Manar TV earlier this month.

“We appreciate and value this very much. Perhaps in the future, there will be cooperation among the youth of the world — in America, France, Britain, Germany, and all the activists,” he said. “The [campus protests] are important, especially because they will have an impact on US elections. They will have an impact on the American position.”

Earlier this month, when some universities suspended students who had occupied sections of campus and refused to leave unless school officials agreed to condemn and boycott Israel, the Iran-backed Houthi militia, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly violated freedom of the seas by attacking international shipping vessels passing through the Red Sea, offered to admit the disciplined students as transfers to Sanaa University, an institution it administers.

Some anti-Zionist student groups have reciprocated the admiration.

Last week, Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) endorsed Hamas, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace Islamic extremism and antisemitism.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has re-formed under multiple names since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, was central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The anti-Zionist student movement’s support for terrorism and anti-American ideologies has been expressed before.

Footage of the protests which erupted on college campuses at the end of spring semester showed demonstrators chanting in support of Hamas and calling for the destruction of Israel. In many cases, they lambasted the US and Western civilization more broadly.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas at Columbia University, 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, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader’ Welcomes Anti-Israel Campus Protesters to ‘Resistance Front’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats

US President Joe Biden addresses rising levels of antisemitism, during a speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, US, May 7, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

A pro-Israel advocacy group is attempting to quell fears among US Democratic politicians that expressing support for the Jewish state amid the ongoing war in Gaza will lead to electoral defeat in November. 

Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a group that advocates for pro-Israel policies within the Democratic Party, circulated a memo this week explaining that the war in Gaza is simply not a top priority for most of the electorate. The memo, first acquired by Axios news website, asserts that “it just isn’t true” that Democratic support for Israel will come at an electoral cost. 

The group argues that a series of misleading polls has caused Democratic elected officials to become more tepid in their support for the Jewish state. 

To bolster its claims, DMFI points to a poll conducted by the New York Times in May which revealed that only 2 percent of voters cite Israel, Palestinians, Hamas, or Gaza as their most important issue. Nonetheless, the Times tried to exaggerate the extent to which voters care about the Israel-Hamas war by highlighting the 5 percent of voters who cite foreign policy as their biggest issue, according to DMFI. However, these 5 percent of voters did not identify if the war in Gaza is their major foreign policy concern.

The group also points out a Harvard-Harris poll from April which showed that Americans overwhelmingly side with Israel in its ongoing war effort. Eighty percent of Americans support Israel and only 20 percent back Hamas, the poll revealed.

DMFI also suggests that Israel’s ongoing military offensive against Hamas has not had a noticeable impact on President Joe Biden’s national standing. According to polling data aggregated by FiveThirtyEight, the president’s approval rating on Oct. 7of last year stood at 39.6 percent, and on April 23 last month, his approval stood at 40 percent. The same poll reveals that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden did not grow over the same time period. 

DMFI president Mark Mellman told Axios that anti-Israel activists represent a small fringe of the American electorate. 

“People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn’t make them the majority. … It doesn’t even make them a substantial minority,” Mellman said.

The group’s efforts to reach out to Democrats come on the heels of a high-pressure effort by left-wing groups to force the Democratic establishment to stop supporting Israel. Anti-Israel organizations have organized efforts to encourage voters in Democratic primaries to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of voting for Biden. Moreover, nearly every appearance by Biden in recent months has been marked by the presence of scores of angry anti-Israel protesters

The relationship between Democratic politicians and the Jewish state has significantly soured in the months following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people in southern Israel. High-profile Democrats such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) have suggested that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinian civilians.

Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (CA) signed onto a letter urging Biden to pause weapons shipments to Israel. Biden vowed to stop arms deliveries to Israel if the Israeli army attempts to dismantle the remaining Hamas battalions within the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, expressing concern about the prospect of civilian casualties during such an offensive.

The post Advocacy Group Attempts to Shore Up Support for Israel Among US Democrats first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander

Antisemitic hate crimes continue to account for more than any other category of reported hate crimes in Toronto, according to the head of Toronto police intelligence. Superintendent Katherine Stephenson of Toronto Police Service (TPS) confirmed the ongoing spike in hate occurrences during a presentation at Holy Blossom Temple on May 29, where she addressed 350 […]

The post Hate crimes in Toronto are predominantly antisemitic—and the numbers continue to rise: TPS security and intelligence commander appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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