Columbia University President Says Calling for Annihilation of Jews Violates School’s Code of Conduct

In a congressional hearing, lawmakers grill school officials over their response to anti-Semitism.
Columbia University President Says Calling for Annihilation of Jews Violates School’s Code of Conduct
Students participate in a protest in support of Palestine and for free speech outside of the Columbia University campus in New York City on Nov. 15, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/Tribune Content Agency)
Jackson Richman
4/17/2024
Updated:
4/17/2024
0:00

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said in a congressional hearing on April 17 that calling for the annihilation of Jews violates the Ivy League school’s code of conduct, as she came under fire over the university’s response to growing on-campus anti-Semitism since Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

In the attack, Hamas killed and raped Israelis and took Israeli hostages, resulting in the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.

At the House Education and Workforce Committee hearing, in response to the question by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) of whether “calling for the genocide of Jews violates Columbia’s code of conduct,” Ms. Shafik—along with Columbia Law School professor David Schizer and Board of Trustees Co-Chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman—said, “Yes, it does.”

This was in contrast to a hearing held by that committee on Dec. 6, 2023, when then-University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill, then-Harvard President Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth refused to unequivocally say that calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment or bullying, instead saying the issue is a “context-dependent decision.”

The question—whether calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment or bullying—came from House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).

On April 16, Ms. Bonamici was one of 44 lawmakers to vote against a House resolution stating that the Palestinian rallying cry of “from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” is anti-Semitic and condemnable.
That slogan is a call for ”the eradication of the State of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea“ that ”seeks to deny Jewish people the right to self-determination and calls for the removal of the Jewish people from their ancestral homeland,” the resolution stated.

However, despite saying that calling for the genocide of Jews is harassment, Ms. Shafik sidestepped when asked whether mobs of people shouting “from the river to the sea” or “long live the Intifada” are being anti-Semitic. She said that she finds those phrases to be “upsetting” and that “it’s a difficult issue.”

Incidents at the 270-year-old university have included an unauthorized protest on April 4 of pro-Palestine students with signs bearing messages such as “Globalize the Intifada”—a reference to the periods of Palestinian terrorism against Israel during 1987–1993 and 2000–2005. Jewish students have complained of anti-Semitic graffiti and anti-Jewish verbal and physical abuse.

Other signs on campus have included the messages “Zionist Donors and Trustees Hands Off Our University” and “Zionism is Terrorism.”

The university suspended four pro-Palestine students for putting forth an unauthorized anti-Israel event in March titled “Resistance 101” that Ms. Shafik called “an abhorrent breach” of the university’s values. However, those students were still allowed to attend the April 4 demonstration.

A pro-Israel student was suspended after spraying “fart spray” toward pro-Palestine demonstrators. He has since sued the school.
Two Columbia professors—Joseph Massad, chair of the school’s Academic Review Committee, and Katherine Franke—are under investigation by the university, while Mohamed Abdou will no longer be a faculty member there, Ms. Shafik said. However, members of the House committee blasted the university over what they called its insufficient response to anti-Semitism.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) gave the university a “D” when it came to dealing with hatred toward Jews and Israel. Columbia has a history of anti-Semitism, including faculty members such as the late Edward Said.

In November 2023, the university suspended the school’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

The decision to suspend SJP and JVP came after the two groups allegedly violated university policies multiple times, culminating in an unauthorized event on Nov. 9, 2023. The university’s vice president, Gerald Rosberg, who also chairs the university’s Special Committee on Campus Safety, said the event proceeded, despite warnings, and included “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”
SJP, according to the ADL, “is a network of pro-Palestinian student groups across the US which disseminate anti-Israel propaganda often laced with inflammatory and at times combative rhetoric” and is “a leading campus organizer of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel.”
JVP, according to the ADL, is “a radical anti-Israel activist group that advocates for a complete economic, cultural, and academic boycott of the state of Israel” and “rejects the view that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is a tragic dispute over land which has been perpetuated by a cycle of violence, fear, and distrust on both sides; in favor of the belief that Israeli policies and actions are motivated by deeply rooted Jewish racial chauvinism and religious supremacism.”

The Department of Education has been investigating Columbia University since Nov. 16, 2023, for alleged Title VI violations.

Columbia University spokesperson Ben Chang told The Epoch Times at the time, “We have received the notification letter from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and will cooperate with any investigation.”

Title VI under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits institutions that get federal funding from discriminating against people based on skin color or ethnicity.
Caden Pearson contributed to this article.
Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
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