Demonstrators gather with signs near the Butler Library on the Columbia University campus in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City on Sunday, October 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey) (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)
Columbia University, antisemitism

The students ‘assaulted a Community Service Officer.’

By Dion J. Pierre, Algemeiner

An extremist anti-Zionist group on Thursday was prevented by local police from marching to the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential House at Florida International University (FIU), which is the home of school president Kenneth A. Jessell.

According to the campus newspaper Panther Now, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) planned the action as part of “Palestinian Prisoner Day,” an event held by the group to honor terrorists who are detained in Israel. As the demonstrators approached Jessell’s home, a blockade of police formed to obstruct their path.

Despite the aggression displayed in marching a mob to someone’s residence, the students complained that the police’s response was disproportionate to any threat they may have posed.

“Take a look over there. Do you know how many cop cars are there? All these cops for a bunch of students who are just chanting,” SJP co-president Zuhra Alchtar was quoted by Panther Now as saying when the police arrived on the scene. “The ivory tower gets so shaken when a bunch of people speak. They can’t stand it. They have to call the big guns; they have to call the priority response team.”

The demonstration came as anti-Zionist students across the US have been recently crossing the line from peaceful expressions of free speech to riotous behavior, flagrantly violating school rules, disrupting business, and even exposing Jewish students to racist and antisemitic rhetoric unlike any uttered publicly in the US since the 1950s.

Earlier this month, Vanderbilt University suspended and expelled several protesters who occupied an administrative building and proceeded to relieve themselves and perform other private functions inside. To infiltrate the building, the students “assaulted a Community Service Officer” and “pushed” officials who suggested having a discussion about their concerns, according to school officials.

At Columbia University, students were reportedly suspended — although it has recently been alleged that the university reduced their penalties to probation — for inviting to campus a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that has committed airliner hijackings and mass shootings. This week, two days of protest convulsed the campus and resulted in the arrest and suspension from school of US Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN) daughter.

In several documented cases, anti-Israel protesters resorted to verbally abusing Black officials with racial epithets and violated their personal space. The Vanderbilt protesters told a Black police officer that his racial identity demanded his being an accessory to their machinations, according to video of the scene, and at Pomona College earlier this month, the school’s president reported that protesters called a Black administrator a racial slur.

A similar incident took place at George Washington University when US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield visited the campus last week. An SJP spinoff, formed after the school’s chapter was suspended, distributed pamphlets describing the ambassador as a “puppet” and a “Black body” who is “used … to carry out repression and dissent.” After the event concluded, a protester approached GW dean Colette Coleman and clapped her hands in the official’s face.

Such incidents have occurred alongside an unprecedented surge in antisemitic incidents and extreme anti-Israel activity on US college campuses that have upended the lives of many Jewish students.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) new annual audit, there were 922 antisemitic incidents on college campuses in 2023, a “staggering” 321 percent increase from the previous year. Across the nation, 8,873 incidents added up to the most ever counted by the ADL since it began tracking such data in 1979. Most of the outrages occurred after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and amid the ensuing war in Gaza.

In California, an elderly Jewish man was killed when an anti-Israel professor employed by a local community college allegedly pushed him during an argument. At Cornell University in upstate New York, a student threatened to rape and kill Jewish female students and “shoot up” the campus’ Hillel center. In a suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio, a group of vandals desecrated graves at a Jewish cemetery. At Harvard University, America’s oldest and, arguably, most prestigious university, a faculty group shared an antisemitic cartoon depicting a left-hand tattooed with a Star of David dangling two men of color from a noose.

Other outrages were expressive but subtle. In November, large numbers of people traveling to attend the “March for Israel” in Washington, DC either could not show up or were forced to scramble last second and final alternative transportation because numerous bus drivers allegedly refused to transport them there. Hundreds of American Jews from Detroit, for example, were left stranded at Dulles Airport, according to multiple reports. At Yale University, a campus newspaper came under fire for removing from a student’s column what it called “unsubstantiated claims” of Hamas raping Israeli women, marking a rare occasion in which the publication openly doubted reports of sexual assault.

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