Students at Columbia U protest harassment from Pro-Palestinian activists

Despite video evidence supplied by SSI, the Columbia University administration dismissed evidence-backed complaints of harassment which seemingly violate university rules.

October 5, 2018 15:01
2 minute read.
CONNECT WITH them. Students walk outside the Library of Columbia University in New York.

CONNECT WITH them. Students walk outside the Library of Columbia University in New York.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Several dozen students and activists at Columbia University in New York staged a demonstration on Thursday afternoon outside the university’s main gates against what they describe as the dismissive and disinterested attitude of the university administration towards the complaints of harassment by pro-Palestinian groups against Jewish and pro-Israel students.

The Columbia chapters of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and Alums for Campus Fairness staged the protest following concerted efforts to get the university administration to act against alleged serial harassment by anti-Zionist groups.

In January this year, Students Supporting Israel submitted a detailed complaint, providing evidence of how such groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Columbia University Apartheid Divest have “systematically maligned, harassed and silenced” SSI and other pro-Israel groups and individuals.

In one incident in the Autumn semester of 2017 recorded in SSI’s complaint, “SJP members started a hostile, anti-Israel and antisemitic chant simply because they recognized SSI members walking by” outside an event unrelated to Israel.

The pro-Palestinian activists reportedly surrounded the Jewish students “while surrounded by a raging mob of around 50 angry activists encroaching on them in a physically threatening and intimidating way.”

Despite video evidence supplied by SSI, the Columbia University administration dismissed this and other evidence-backed complaints of harassment which seemingly violate university rules.

“Our goal was to show the Columbia University administration that Students Supporting Israel, its members and supporters, are not going to sit back while Columbia ignores our multiple harassment complaints,” SSI said following the demonstration on Thursday.

During the event, three members of the Jewish Defense League organization turned up to protest as well and engaged in provocative behavior, including swearing at pro-Palestinian counter demonstrators.

SSI distanced itself from JDL, saying it “strongly condemn[s] the beliefs and actions of those who associate with JDL in any capacity,” apologized for their behavior, and asked them to leave the demonstration, something the JDL activists refused to do.

Dalia Zahger, president of SSI, said at the event that she has been trying repeatedly through various channels at the university to solve the problem but has been repeatedly ignored.

“We feel like we don’t want to be silenced and we don’t want to give up, so we’re trying,” said Zahger, but that she didn’t know why the university administration was not responsive to their complaints.

“I want them to help me not just because I’m pro-Israel or a Zionist but because every student should have this right, and every student should be defended when there are violations of rules against them.”

In response to an article about Columbia’s failure to act on the complaints of pro-Israel students last week in the New York Post, Prof. Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for university life, said in a statement: “The safety and well-being of all of our students is fundamentally important... We will always work with students who have concerns about their physical safety, allow debate on contentious questions where our students hold strong views, and provide essential personal and group support.”

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