Hundreds call for intifada, hail Houthis at Columbia University anti-Israel protest

Marchers chant support for deadly uprising, Iran-backed group hitting Red Sea shipping; antisemitic sticker states: ‘Zionist donors and trustees, hands off our universities’

Pro-Palestinian students rally at Columbia University in New York on January 19, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Pro-Palestinian students rally at Columbia University in New York on January 19, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Hundreds rallied throughout Columbia University’s campus in New York on Friday, chanting anti-Israel slogans.

The protest was said to have been organized by Students for Justice in Palestine, which is supposed to have been suspended from campus for the rest of the academic year unless it complies with conditions set by Columbia.

Marchers chanted “there is only one solution, intifada revolution,” referring to deadly Palestinian uprisings that included terrorists carrying out deadly suicide attacks against Israelis.

Another chant repeated was, “Yemen, Yemen make us proud, turn another ship around” — a message in support of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, which the US deems to be a terror organization and has been attacking Red Sea shipping in recent weeks.

Protesters also chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which critics say is a call for the removal of the state of Israel.

A sticker photographed on a university trashcan featured an antisemitic message: “Zionist donors and trustees, hands off our universities.”

Another clip showed students shouting, “NYPD, KKK, IDF, they’re all the same,” at police officers securing the demonstration.

It was unclear if all of the participants in the rally were students at Columbia University.

At least one rally was held inside a building, apparently without action taken by campus authorities or security.

Columbia University suspended its chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in November, and said they could be reinstated in the spring semester if they show “a commitment to compliance with university policies.”

A university official said that the groups have not yet agreed to adhere to university rules that would allow their reinstatement. The official said administration staff had met with representatives from the groups to discuss steps toward ending the suspension.

The suspensions mean the groups cannot receive university funding or hold authorized events on campus.

The two clubs were suspended as pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel activities roiled the campus and universities nationwide, following the October 7 Hamas onslaught on Israel and the subsequent war in Gaza.

The university said the two clubs had violated university policies and expressed “threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

Columbia was a focal point for controversy in the weeks after October 7, amid dueling protests for and against Israel and the reported assault of an Israeli student.

But the campus has received less attention since the presidents of three other elite universities — Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — gave testimony to Congress last month that drew the ire of Jewish and other critics. Those university presidents told lawmakers that calling for the genocide of Jews did not necessarily violate university policy, provoking a firestorm of controversy that preceded Penn’s and Harvard’s presidents stepping down.

Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, was invited to appear before Congress at the same hearing, but declined, citing a scheduling conflict. Shafik attended a United Nations climate change conference in Dubai that day.

SJP, whose national umbrella celebrated Hamas’s October 7 massacre of 1,200 people in Israel, most of them civilians, and the kidnapping of 240 more to the Gaza Strip amid shocking acts of brutality and sexual assault, has been suspended at several schools, including Florida’s public universities, George Washington University and Brandeis University.

People gather to protest the banning of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) at Columbia University on November 20, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Meanwhile, a conservative news site flagged on Friday that Harvard professor Derek Penslar, who was tapped as a co-chair of the new antisemitism task force announced by the university, signed an open letter in august that denounced Israel for imposing an “apartheid regime” on the Palestinians.

The open letter, which is titled “The Elephant in the Room” and has nearly 2,900 signatories, also denounced the controversial judicial overhaul advanced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government and asserted it had a “direct link” to Israel’s “illegal occupation of millions of Palestinians.”

“American Jews have long been at the forefront of social justice causes, from racial equality to abortion rights, but have paid insufficient attention to the elephant in the room: Israel’s long-standing occupation that, we repeat, has yielded a regime of apartheid,” stated the letter, which was flagged by the Washington Free Beacon.

The letter also stated that “as Israel has grown more right-wing and come under the spell of the current government’s messianic, homophobic, and misogynistic agenda, young American Jews have grown more and more alienated from it. Meanwhile, American Jewish billionaire funders help support the Israeli far right.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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