'With determination the masses can accomplish great feats'

Columbia students hold canceled ‘teach-in’ to publicly praise Hamas’s Oct. 7 atrocities

Hiding behind masks and umbrellas, a number of students took over the School of Social Work lobby for nearly an hour on Dec. 6, despite the administration scrapping the event

Reporter at The Times of Israel

Students take over Columbia University's School of Social Work lobby for a 'teach-in' praising Hamas's October 7 atrocities, on December 6, 2023. (Screenshot/TikTok)
Students take over Columbia University's School of Social Work lobby for a 'teach-in' praising Hamas's October 7 atrocities, on December 6, 2023. (Screenshot/TikTok)

NEW YORK — Hiding their faces behind umbrellas, balaclavas and surgical masks, several students crowded into the lobby of the Columbia University’s School of Social Work on December 6, praising and justifying Hamas’s October 7 massacre in Israel.

Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine, the student group that organized the event and labeled it as a “teach-in and discussion,” originally intended to hold it in a third-floor conference room. But after the school’s administration canceled it, in part because it officially hadn’t been approved, the group moved it to the school’s lobby.

There, students spent the better part of an hour defending the terror onslaught — in which Hamas gunmen mutilated, raped, burned, and murdered 1,200 people in a rampage through southern Israel, over 1,000 of them civilians, and seized 240 hostages — as a justified response to policies of the Israeli government, Jewish students who attended the event told The Times of Israel.

“On October 7, the Palestinian liberation fighters demonstrated their refusal to be dominated. They showed the world that the Palestinian people will fight for freedom instead of quietly adapting to subjugation,” said a student speaking at the event.

“They showed us that with creativity, determination, and combined strength the masses can accomplish great feats, a fact we have seen in every heroic struggle for liberation from Vietnam to Afghanistan. As Mao says, ‘Dare to struggle, dare to win,’” she said.

A university official confirmed that a complaint about the event has been filed through the school’s reporting system and that the university is “reviewing the complaint to determine the appropriate venue for review and adjudication.” The specifics of the complaint, the official said, are confidential.

They showed us that with creativity, determination, and combined strength the masses can accomplish great feats

Ariana Pinsker-Leher, an Israeli graduate student of social work, told The Times of Israel she attended the event so “these students were forced to hear the Jewish and Israeli voice yesterday.”


The world needs to hear this. Columbia, your Jewish students are not ok.

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“For you to characterize the events of October 7 as a counteroffensive where my people were killed and maimed and yes, raped, whether you like it or not, whether it fits your narrative to characterize that as anything else than terrorism and a massacre is unacceptable from people who are studying to be social workers,” she told the students gathered there.

Additionally, Pinsker-Leher told the organizers she would welcome a discussion about the Israeli government’s policies, but that has so far proved impossible.

“I would love to have a genuine and real conversation with any of you, but I cannot do that when in these hallways you call for violence against me, against my children. When you write messages that say ‘By Any Means Necessary,’ is my life a ‘means necessary?’ Are my children’s lives a means that is necessary for liberation?” she said.

Although the school’s dean, Melissa Begg, announced on December 4 that the event was canceled, it was allegedly members of the administration who handed pro-Palestinian students umbrellas to hide behind to prevent doxxing — the publishing of private and identifying information about an individual on the internet with malicious intent — according to several students who were there.

Whether the students who organized the event will be disciplined is under review, according to the School of Social Work.

“Despite clear direction that the event was not permitted, a group of students moved to host the event in the public lobby of our school. School and University administrators informed the students of the possibility of disciplinary action and urged them to disperse, which they did,” said the school in a statement.

Melissa Saidak, a graduate student at the Columbia University School of Social Work. (Cathryn J. Prince)

Several Jewish students who attended the teach-in said they hadn’t supported the event’s cancellation in the first place. They wanted it to take place so the administration could see what Jewish students have faced on campus these past nine weeks.

“I think Columbia needs to better understand what they’re dealing with, and the truth came out. Some in [Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine] don’t agree with what was said, but the more vocal members of that group do. Hamas is on our campus and Columbia needs to take serious action,” said social work student Melissa Saidak.

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