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‘Target on my back,’ Fear grips Jewish students as hundreds protest Columbia suspending Palestinian groups

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Several Jewish students at Columbia University who felt so unsafe on campus they wanted to conceal their identity said they “can’t wait to graduate” as hundreds gathered to protest the school’s suspension of two pro-Palestinian student groups.

Things that are being chanted by hundreds and hundreds of students daily when we walk past the library — ‘From the river to the sea,’ ‘Globalize the intifada’ — these things are aggressive, violent statements,” one of the Jewish students who attends Columbia Law School said.

Students wearing keffiyehs have repeatedly harassed Jewish gatherings on campus, screaming “F**k the Jews” over and over, he said.  

“I was proud to be in Columbia. Now I just can’t wait to graduate,” he told Fox News. “I don’t care much to be here. I don’t feel like I want to be so involved and part of the community. It feels like there’s a lot of hate.”

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Columbia is one of several major universities that’s been criticized for its response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and for high-profile antisemitic incidents on campus. Earlier this month, the Ivy League said it was establishing an antisemitism task force to address the “terribly resilient” hatred Jewish students faced on campus.

Another Jewish student who requested anonymity out of safety concerns said she “has lost a lot of friends” since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

“As a Jewish student who has been advocating for Palestinian liberation for many years and who also identifies as a Zionist, I have felt very scared on this campus,” she told Fox News. 

“We’re definitely the minority on campus,” she added. “And it’s obvious that the student population here is in support of Palestine, which I understand. But the sentiments that they’ve been sharing have been incredibly scary and disappointing for Jewish students.”

Columbia University Faculty with list of demands

Columbia University faculty members stand in front of a campus building with a list of demands from the university administration on Nov. 15, 2023. (Teny Sahakian / Fox News)

A third Jewish student, who’s part of Columbia’s Tel Aviv University Dual Degree Program, said he feels “like I’m walking around with a target on my back.

I feel like when I’m walking around, people look at me as some sort of colonizer,” he told Fox News. 

AS ANTISEMITISM INFILTRATES COLLEGE CAMPUSES, THIS FREE SPEECH-FOCUSED SCHOOL EXPECTS A FLOOD OF APPLICANTS

Last week, Columbia University suspended Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) as official student groups for the remainder of the semester, saying they had “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event [Nov. 9] that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

A group of faculty members gathered Wednesday to protest the student groups’ suspension and stood with a list of demands for the university, including to affirm its commitment to the First Amendment, reinstate the suspended groups and roll back campus surveillance and policing. 

“Columbia University has an immense history of fighting for anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements, and the banning of SJP and JVP is a really dangerous precedent to set,” Lizzie, a student rally-goer, said. 

Columbia University students and faculty protest the removal of two pro-Palestinian groups groups

Columbia University students and faculty protest the removal of two pro-Palestinian groups. (Teny Sahakian / Fox News)

Michael, a Columbia senior, said he thinks the suspension was justified. 

“Just because it’s a very charged moment right now for JVP and SJP doesn’t mean that they can bypass the rules this campus has laid out to keep the student body safe,” he said.

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But another student attending the teachers’ protest said “it was entirely unjustified.” 

“I don’t know why we would support some voices and not others,” she told Fox News, adding that she didn’t care if the groups violated school policy. “I think this is more important.”

Following Wednesday’s faculty demonstration, hundreds of people gathered outside the school’s gates for an “All Out for Gaza at Columbia University” rally. 

An alumnus who attended the protest, Calvin, said the groups’ suspensions were “a blatant attack on free speech.”

“The protests they’ve been organizing have been peaceful, just protests and valid political speech,” he told Fox News. “It’s really upsetting to me that a school that taught me a lot of things that I was part of is doing this to students.”

“Aside from whatever stance one takes in the genocide that’s happening in Gaza right now, it’s a really chilling thing to happen in America that a student group would be disbanded just for planning a protest,” Calvin added.

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT PRAISES ‘PERSISTENCE’ OF STUDENTS ACCUSED OF ANTISEMITISM

The Jewish law student, who watched the protest from afar, said Columbia’s ruling was fair. 

“Aside from the violent rhetoric and a lot of the things that are being said that are, in my view, abhorrent … it seems pretty clear that there are rules. Rules are broken, and these are the consequences of those rules,” he said. “And it was a temporary suspension.” 

student groups hold pro-palestinian rally outside columbia

Jewish students said they have been repeatedly “terrorized” on campus by pro-Palestinian peers.  (Teny Sahakian/Fox News )

“I’m very confused about what this protest is,” the law student added. “For some reason, a lot of people don’t think that they should have to follow the rules.”

He said it was “disappointing and surprising” to see so many faculty members demonstrating in favor of the pro-Palestinian student groups and that Jewish students “feel very unsafe” on campus. 

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The dual degree program student said the school “hasn’t done a terrible job” of keeping campus safe for students. But he added that the students within SJP and JVP are still organizing and protesting in the same types of threatening manner, just in association with different groups. 

“They’re still doing their thing, still terrorizing Jewish students,” he said.


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