White House Condemns ‘Antisemitic, Unconscionable and Dangerous’ Hate Speech at Columbia University

Pro-Palestine protesters have continued to demonstrate for a fifth day following the arrests of more than 100 students

Leonardo Munoz / AFP) (Photo by LEONARDO MUNOZ/AFP via Getty Images

The White House issued a statement on Sunday from Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates that decries instances of targeted hate speech during ongoing protests at Columbia University as “antisemitic” and “dangerous.” Meanwhile, pro-Palestine activists continued their protest for a fifth straight day, creating a student encampment on-campus.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, 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,” the statement began.

“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,” Bates continued.

More than 100 students at Columbia and its sister college Barnard, including the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar, were arrested after they refused to leave a pro-Palestine event on Thursday. The school has since said that the IDs of those students will stop working, and they may not be allowed to finish the remainder of the semester.

Each of the students has been suspended. They were also barred from attending campus events and were escorted from their dorms.

Following the arrests, NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban told the press, “The students that were arrested were peaceful, offered no resistance whatsoever, and were saying what they wanted to say.”

The arrests did little to deter many students — protests at the school continued on Sunday.

The university’s president wrote in an email that the encampment “severely disrupts campus life, and creates a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students.”

Shafik had testified before Congress this past week at a House Education subcommittee hearing titled, “Columbia in Crisis: Columbia University’s Response to Antisemitism.”

Others have disputed reports that the protests are violent. NBC News Correspondent Antonia Hylton insisted, “I didn’t see a single instance of violence or aggression on the lawn or at the student encampment.” She added that the student-led protest was peaceful and that students were able to walk through without harassment.

However, the same couldn’t be said for those outside of campus.

“The only moments of conflict or aggression I witnessed took place beyond the gates, out on Broadway Ave.,” Hylton wrote. When she approached people in that group, the people she spoke with said they were not students at Columbia or Barnard.

“The public protests happening on the street are not the same as the encampment inside,” Hylton noted.

New York Gov. Kathy Holchul shared her own statement: “The First Amendment protects the right to protest but students also have a right to learn in an environment free from harassment or violence. At Columbia or on any campus, threatening Jewish students with violence or glorifying the terror of October 7 is antisemitism.”

The American Association of University Professors, Barnard and Columbia Chapters issued a joint letter in which they said they’ve “lost confidence” in the University’s president and administration.

“AAUP Barnard and Columbia pledge continued support for our students’ right to protest and to speak freely, and for our colleagues’ right to teach and to write freely within their domains of expertise,” the letter read. “We have lost confidence in our president and administration, and we pledge to fight to reclaim our university.”

One student protester who’d been arrested shared that a no-confidence vote in the university’s president isn’t what members of the Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition want.

“Faculty are well intentioned but have not been asking arrested students what we want,” the anonymous student said in a message shared by Columbia Ph.D. student Jon Ben-Menachem. “We have 3 demands: transparency, divestment, amnesty. That’s it.”

Ben-Menachem himself said in a post on X, “As a Jewish Columbia student, it is perfectly safe for Jews on campus — if we are talking about student protesters. As Jewish student protesters learned on Thursday, however, they may not be safe from CU admin calling the NYPD to arrest them.”

Rabbi Elie Buechler, a leader at Columbia University’s Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, issued a statement that encouraged Jewish students to go home. He explained that the events “have made it clear that Columbia University’s Public Safety and the NYPD cannot guarantee Jewish students’ safety.”

“It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” his message continued.

Buechler sent his message after video surfaced showing one protester intone, “Never forget the seventh of October” and “that will happen not one more time, not five more times, not 10 more times, not 100 more times, not 1,000 more times, but 10,000 times!”

On the same day, the Columbia/Barnard Hillel — the campus Jewish organization — told students to remain at school. The organization tweeted, “We do not believe that Jewish students should leave @Columbia. We do believe that the University and the City need to do more to ensure the safety of our students.”

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