ADL accuses Rep. Omar of ‘blood libel’ for saying some Jewish students pro-genocide

Congresswoman visits Columbia University protest camp, which has galvanized similar rallies across country; over 200 arrested as some schools call in cops to clear sit-ins

Screen capture from video of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar (right) visiting an anti-Israel protest camp at Columbia University, April 26, 2023. (X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar (right) visiting an anti-Israel protest camp at Columbia University, April 26, 2023. (X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The head of the Anti-Defamation League on Saturday accused Democratic US Representative Ilhan Omar of spreading a blood libel after she implied Jewish students who support Israel amid its war against Hamas are “pro-genocide.”

Omar made the remarks as she visited anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University.

With the death toll mounting in the war in Gaza, anti-Israel protesters nationwide are demanding that schools cut financial ties to the country and divest from companies they say are enabling the conflict. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

What started at Columbia has turned into a nationwide showdown between students and administrators over anti-war protests and the limits of free speech. In the past 10 days, hundreds of students have been arrested, suspended, put on probation, and, in rare cases, expelled from colleges, including Yale University, the University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University and the University of Minnesota.

School leaders at several universities have responded by asking police to clear out camps and arrest those who refuse to leave. While saying they defend free speech rights to protest, the leaders say they will not abide activists infringing on campus policies against hate speech or camping out on university grounds.

Over 200 were arrested over the weekend as police moved in to clear protest camps at some campuses.

On Friday, Omar visited her daughter Isra Hirsi at the anti-Israel tent encampment set up by pro-Palestinian students at Columbia. Hirsi was one of several students suspended by Columbia after being arrested for setting up an initial encampment.

Asked how she thought her visit would be received by Jewish students facing antisemitism, Omar responded that she met Jewish students in the encampment.

“I think it is really unfortunate that people don’t care about the fact that all Jewish kids should be kept safe and that we should not have to tolerate antisemitism or bigotry for all Jewish students, whether they are pro-genocide or anti-genocide,” she said.

In a post on Saturday to the X platform, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt slammed Omar, saying “it’s patently false and a blood libel to suggest that ANY Jewish students are ‘pro-genocide.’”

“It is gaslighting to impute that Jewish people are somehow at fault for being harassed and menaced with signs and slogans literally calling for their own extermination,” he continued. “It is abhorrent that a sitting member of Congress would slander an entire group of young people in such a cold, calculated manner.”

“This is how people get killed.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks at the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, August 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Greenblatt called on Omar to apologize, adding “but I’m not holding my breath,” in an apparent reference to “the Squad” member’s history of remarks criticized as antisemitic.

Another clip of Omar’s visit showed the congresswoman and her daughter greeting protesters at the university. Unverified claims made on social media said Omar embraced student protester Khymani James, who was later that day banned from the campus by university administrators. The ban came after a video from January surfaced in which James said that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and people should be grateful James wasn’t killing them.

James’s ties to another member of the so-called “Squad” of progressive Democrat lawmakers also emerged over the weekend. In 2021, James posted images of himself with Rep. Ayanna Pressley describing her as “my mentor and friend.”

On Friday, fellow Squad member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also visited the Columbia protest encampment.

The day before, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell panned Ocasio-Cortez for saying units called in to disperse protesters at the campus the week before “have some of the most violent reputations in the force.”

In a post to X, Chell said the congresswoman’s remarks were “truly amazing.”

“Columbia decided to hold its students accountable to the laws of the school,” he wrote, noting that he was with the units that cleared the encampment. Over 100 were arrested.

“These ‘units’ removed students with great care and professionalism, not a single incident was reported,” he said. “The only incidents that day on campus were the student’s hateful anti-Semitic speech and vile language towards our cops.”

“You should rethink your comments to a simple thank you to the NYPD and hate has no place in our society,” Chell wrote.

Student protesters say they are drawing attention to the war in Gaza, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack into Israel, in which terrorists killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took another 253 people hostage. An Israeli offensive to remove the group from power in the enclave has killed over 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. The figure cannot be independently verified. Israel says its forces have killed over 13,000 terror operatives.

The war has displaced about 80 percent of Gaza’s population and pushed hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of famine, according to international aid groups.

Israel and its supporters have branded the protests as antisemitic, while critics of Israel say it uses such allegations to silence opponents. Organizers of the protests, some of whom are Jewish, argue they are part of a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and protesting the war.

However, some protesters have been caught on camera making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, and banners displayed at some campuses are openly antisemitic or deny the Jewish state’s right to exist.

As students protesting the Israel-Hamas war at college campuses across the United States dug in Saturday and dozens of demonstrators were arrested, some universities moved to take action against students or shut down encampments amid reports of antisemitic activity.

Cornell University said that it had suspended several students for breaking school rules and for antisemitic chants at the rallies.

“We have issued immediate temporary suspensions for several student participants in the encampment, and are preparing to issue additional suspensions, as well as referrals to HR for employee participants,” university vice president Joel M. Malina said in a statement.

The statement said the school is “deeply distressed by chants made at some of the rallies near the encampment, particularly the phrase, ‘There is only one solution: Intifada Revolution.’ The protesting group has repeatedly stated that their protest is political and not antisemitic, but these chants belie that claim.”

It noted that protesters had “repeatedly rejected” an offer to move their encampment to a location that would not cause as much disruption for other students, and instead had “called for its expansion.”

The statement did not say how many students were suspended, but student newspaper The Cornell Daily Sun reported Friday that the move was taken against four people. One of the suspended students, Nick Wilson, wrote an opinion piece published Saturday in the newspaper. He wrote that along with three others, he had been “withdrawn from all of our current courses, for which we may not receive credit, and we are not permitted to be on our campus.

Wilson noted that, in some ways, his suspension “gives me hope. Institutions like Cornell do not engage in conduct this severe and disorganized — arbitrarily selecting a handful of students for suspension on unclear and baseless charges — unless they truly fear our movement may succeed.”

Meanwhile, a photograph purportedly from the George Washington University campus showed banners declaring that student protests would continue until the Jewish state was dismantled.

Banners read “Students will leave when Israelis leave” and “Students will go back home when Israelis go back to Europe, US, etc. (their real homes.)”

The president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology put out a statement Saturday saying the encampment there had become a “potential magnet for disruptive outside protesters” and was taking hundreds of staff hours to keep safe.

“We have a responsibility to the entire MIT community — and it is not possible to safely sustain this level of effort,” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said. “We are open to further discussion about the means of ending the encampment. But this particular form of expression needs to end soon.”

Indiana University campus officers and state police arrested 23 people Saturday at an encampment on the school’s Bloomington campus. Tents and canopies had been erected Friday night at Dunn Meadow in violation of school policy, university police said in a release. Members of the group were detained after refusing to remove the structures, police said. Charges ranged from criminal trespass to resisting law enforcement.

At Emerson College, Boston Police officers arrested 118 people who refused to move and had formed a barricade, The New York Times reported.

At Arizona State University, campus police arrested 69 protesters early Saturday, the school said in a statement.

The university said “a group of people – most of whom were not ASU students, faculty or staff – created an encampment and demonstration” and were arrested and charged with criminal trespass after refusing to disperse.

Pro-Palestinian protests against Israel have spread to college campuses across the US, stoked by the mass arrest of over 100 people on Columbia University’s campus on April 18. In total, over 700 students have been arrested, according to a New York Times tally.

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