By Jordan Coll
Scores of protestors marched outside the gates of Columbia University on Wednesday, denouncing the Ivy League institution’s recent suspension of two student-led groups — a move seen by the pro-Palestinian protestors as “outright shameful” and “oppressive.”
The crowd at the rally included some Columbia faculty, students, and staff, as well as protestors not affiliated with the university.
The protest ended in front of the university’s main entrance. The rally, under the name “All Out for Gaza,” was organized by Within our Lifetime, a New York City-based pro-Palestinian activist group, and the Jewish Law Students Association of the City University of New York.
The rally comes after a recent series of letters and announcements of new task forces at the school. Columbia administrators have also sought to respond to incidents of doxxing and other harassment of students on or near campus. But the university’s announcement last week suspending two pro-Palestinian student groups set off fresh protests this week.
The groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, were both suspended on November 10 for at least the rest of the fall semester.
Gerald Rosberg, senior executive vice president of Columbia University and chair of the Special committee on Campus Safety, said in a statement on Friday that both organizations “repeatedly violated University policies related to holding campus events.” Rosberg’s statement cited a walkout organized by the groups on November 9 was not authorized and “proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”
Following the suspension, the two groups put out a statement on Instagram, accusing the university of “selective censorship.” The suspension, they said, was “an attack on free speech to distract from and enable Israel’s genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people.”
Also this week, over 40 student organizations at the university announced a coalition and signed onto a petition urging the university to divest all economic and academic interests in Israel, according to an op-ed published in the Columbia Spectator.
A petition also put out by Columbia and Barnard alumni condemned the institution for the suspension of student chapters, calling the actions “a repression of freedom of speech.”
Wednesday’s protest was the latest sign of tensions at Columbia sparked by the Israel-Hamas war, after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack in which some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed and more than 240 were taken hostage. According to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, which does not distinguish between civilian and militant deaths, Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.
Jewish Rabbis from Neturei Karta, an international ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist group who attended the rally, held banners that read “Authentic Rabbis always opposed Zionism and the State of Israel” and “State of ‘Israel’ does not represent world Jewry.”
“The university is a place where you are learning how to critique the world around you and learning how to have a critical lens on the world,” said Ilana Silverstein, a Jewish American, who is a staff administrator at the university’s school of nursing. “Learning that in the classroom and having the university tell you that it cannot be put to practice is simply two-faced.”
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