Home » White House condemns ‘despicable antisemitism’ and ‘terrorist’ rhetoric at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

White House condemns ‘despicable antisemitism’ and ‘terrorist’ rhetoric at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

by John Jefferson
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The White House denounced alleged antisemitism at Columbia University ahead of Passover as protests against the war in Gaza persist.

Student demonstrators have demanded that the university divest from “companies complicit in genocide” as the country engages in war for the seventh month since the October 7 attacks. The protests have continued into a fifth day on Sunday, but accounts of antisemitism and violent rhetoric have cropped up.

The White House condemned any hate-filled, targeted speech. “While every American has the right to peaceful protect, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly Antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous – they have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

“And echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organizations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable. We condemn these statements in the strongest terms,” he added.

The statement comes hours after a rabbi at Columbia/Barnard Hillel advised roughly 300 mostly Orthodox Jewish Students to stay home, given the “terrible and tragic” situation on the Ivy League campus.

Rabbi Elie Buechler wrote in a WhatsApp message, shared with CNN’s Jake Tapper, that he “strongly” recommends they “return home as soon as possible and re home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved.”

“The events of the last few days, especially last night, have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety in the face of extreme antisemitism and anarchy,” Rabbi Buechler wrote.

A Jewish student told CNN: “Columbia students organizing in solidarity with Palestine – including Jewish students – have faced harassment, doxxing, and now arrest by the NYPD. These are the threats to the safety of Jewish Columbia students.”

“On the other hand, student protesters have led interfaith joint prayers for several days now, and Passover Seder will be held at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment tomorrow,” he continued. “Saying that student protesters are a threat to Jewish students is a dangerous smear.”

The rabbi sent the message ahead of Passover, which begins on Monday.

The university’s president was questioned by Congress this week over antisemitism on college campuses. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar pressed Dr Minouche Shafik about the targeting of pro-Palestinian protesters.

Dr Shafik sparked outrage among some students when she suggested to the House that some of the chants often heard at pro-Palestinian protests were antisemitic.

One day later, arrests and suspensions on campus began. Dr Shafik sent a letter to the Columbia community saying she “had to make a decision that I hoped would never be necessary”.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” the school president added.

“The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies,” she wrote.

On that same day, Rep Omar’s daughter was one of a wave of students suspended from school this week for taking part in the protest encampment.

The protests are underway as more than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of Israel’s counteroffensive to the Hamas 7 October 2023 attacks in which 1,200 people were killed in Israel and around 250 taken hostage.

On Saturday, the House passed a massive aid package to Israel and Gaza. The bill breaks down to giving roughly $4bn toward Israel’s defence and about $9bn toward humanitarian assistance in Gaza. The measure still has to pass the Senate, which it’s expected to do next week.

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