Columbia University Suspends 2 Pro-Palestinian Student Groups

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
November 10, 2023US News
Columbia University Suspends 2 Pro-Palestinian Student Groups
Columbia students participate in a rally in support of Palestine at the university in New York City, on Oct. 12, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Columbia University has suspended two student organizations, citing repeated violations of university policies related to campus protests calling for a cease-fire in the Israel–Hamas conflict in Gaza.

The university’s vice president, Gerald Rosberg, who is also chair of the Special Committee on Campus Safety, announced the suspension of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which described itself as a progressive anti-Zionist group, through the end of the fall semester.

The decision to suspend SJP and JVP comes after the two groups allegedly violated university policies multiple times, culminating in an unauthorized event on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Rosberg stated that despite warnings, the event proceeded and included “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

The suspension means that the two groups are no longer eligible to hold events on campus or receive funding from the university.

The statement indicated that the suspension could be lifted if SJP and JVP demonstrate a commitment to compliance with university policies and engage in consultations with university officials at the leadership level.

“Like all student groups, SJP and JVP are required to abide by university policies and procedures,” Mr. Rosberg said in a statement. “This ensures both the safety of our community and that core university activities can be conducted without disruption.

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Columbia students participate in a rally in support of Israel in response to a neighboring student rally in support of Palestine at the university on October 12, 2023 (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The decision comes amid heightened tensions related to the ongoing Israel–Hamas conflict, which has sparked protests and debates on college campuses across the country.

The conflict in Gaza erupted on Oct. 7 after Hamas terrorists initiated an unprecedented attack on Israeli border communities, resulting in 1,200 civilian casualties. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs revised the death toll down from 1,400 on Thursday.

Following the attack, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have struck Hamas targets in Gaza, where terrorists often take shelter in civilian buildings, such as hospitals and schools, and in underground tunnels in residential areas.

The suspension of the two student groups follows a large-scale walkout on Thursday, where hundreds of Columbia students protested, urging the U.S. government to support a cease-fire in the Israel–Hamas conflict.

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Columbia students participate in a rally in support of Palestine at the university in New York City, on Oct. 12, 2023. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

SJP and JVP, both active on numerous campuses nationwide, have been known for leading controversial protests against the Israeli and U.S. governments. JVP states on its website that it stands against “the political ideology of Zionism,” which it attributes to “the expulsion of 750,000 Indigenous Palestinians from their land and homes.”

“During this especially charged time on our campus, we are strongly committed to giving space to student groups to participate in debate, advocacy, and protest,” said Mr. Rosberg. “This relies on community members abiding by the rules and cooperating with University administrators who have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.”

Hamas-controlled Gaza health officials have said that IDF strikes against Hamas targets have resulted in more than 10,000 Palestinian casualties, including over 4,000 children.

On Tuesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby expressed skepticism about these numbers but noted that the United States couldn’t provide an alternative figure.

“We still don’t believe that taking the Ministry of Health’s numbers at face value is wise,” he said at a press briefing.

However, Mr. Kirby said that the United States doesn’t dispute that “many, many thousands of innocent people in Gaza … have been killed, injured, displaced.”

Speaking in India on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “far too many Palestinian civilians have been killed” and that more efforts would be needed to protect the civilian population going forward. He also credited Israel for a plan to pause military operations for four hours daily and for opening a second corridor for civilians to leave the Gaza Strip.

“We want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them,” Mr. Blinken added.

On Friday, the IDF shared a post showing a compilation of footage showing Gaza civilians decrying Hamas for the current conflict. The Epoch Times cannot independently verify these claims.

In the days after Hamas’s initial attack, the IDF urged Palestinians in northern Gaza to flee south for their safety ahead of planned ground operations.

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IDF artillery soldiers prepare their armored vehicles in Netivot, Israel, on Oct. 10, 2023. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

In an operational update on Friday, the IDF said that the 401st Brigade “has eliminated approximately 150 terrorists and gained control over Hamas terrorist strongholds in northern Gaza.”

Some chapters of SJP have faced accusations of endorsing Hamas explicitly and employing antisemitic slogans, drawing criticism from politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates. JVP identifies itself as a Jewish “anti-Zionist” organization, a political stance viewed by some as antisemitic.

Recent incidents at other universities, such as George Washington University and Brandeis University, reflect the broader tensions surrounding the Israel–Hamas conflict. SJP chapters have faced sanctions, with accusations of projecting antisemitic messages.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Brandeis University, one of the nation’s most prominent Jewish-founded institutions, have taken measures against SJP.

Florida State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said the National SJP had released a toolkit that refers to Hamas’s attack as “resistance” and claims “Palestinian students in exile are part of this movement, not in solidarity with this movement.”

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Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 12, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

In an Oct. 24 memo, Mr. Rodrigues said the national SJP “has affirmatively identified it is part of the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood—a terrorist-led attack.”

The National SJP’s support for Hamas’s attack is a felony under Florida law, which prohibits “providing material support to a designated terrorist organization,” according to the memo.

On Monday, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Brandeis University revoked the group’s recognition status, meaning that it will no longer receive university funding.

“This decision was not made lightly, as Brandeis is dedicated to upholding free speech principles,” Brandeis University said in a letter to the pro-Palestinian group. “However, those principles note that the freedom to debate and discuss ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish … or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university.”

JVP, meanwhile, has been involved in protests in the Capitol Building and staged sit-ins at various iconic locations, including The New York Times’s headquarters, Grand Central Station, and the Statue of Liberty.

The ongoing rival protests from pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli student groups have placed considerable pressure on college campuses and administrators, who are grappling with balancing free speech concerns and safety considerations.

The heightened tensions have not been limited to campuses alone. FBI Director Christopher Wray recently warned of “historic” levels of antisemitism, emphasizing that the Jewish community is uniquely targeted by various terrorist organizations.

Amid the tensions, Arab and Muslim Americans are also experiencing increased discrimination, according to advocates. Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, highlighted the surge in anti-Arab hate and rhetoric, stating that it surpasses levels seen in the aftermath of 9/11.

Aldgra Fredly and Bill Pan contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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