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Anti-Israel agitators occupy Columbia campus as university president faces grilling from Congress

Dozens of anti-Israel agitators took over Columbia University's campus on Wednesday, demanding divestment from companies connected to Israel.

Anti-Israel agitators occupied Columbia University’s south lawn for hours on Wednesday as university president Minouche Shafik testified before Congress.

Dozens of protesters camped out in tents on school grounds, calling on the university to divest itself from companies that have ties to Israel. Shafik is on Capitol Hill to testify regarding antisemitism on Columbia’s campus alongside co-chairs of the university’s board of trustees.

“The presence of tents on South Lawn is a safety concern and a violation of university policies,” a University spokesperson told the student newspaper, the Spectator. “We are informing the students they are in violation of university policies and for their own safety and for the operation of the university they need to leave.”


The protesters pitched their tents earlier Wednesday morning as the university locked down its campus to ID holders only in anticipation of unrest relating to Shafik’s testimony.

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“The anti-apartheid movement and student organizing struggle at Columbia has been alive and well for over 60 years, and we carry all of those organizers with us as we come here today,” Catherine Elias, one of the student protesters, told the Spectator.

Shafik and her colleagues were summoned to testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce regarding their efforts to combat campus antisemitism, which has skyrocketed in the U.S. following Oct. 7.

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CALIFORNIA SCHOOL DISTRICT WARNS TEACHERS ABOUT PLANNED PRO-PALESTINIAN ‘TEACH-IN’

Columbia banned two anti-Israel student groups as protests reached a fever pitch late last year. Both Students for Justice in Palestine and the Jewish Voice for Peace violated university policies against harassment of other students.

Shafik gave a preview of her testimony in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday, saying she and other administrators did their best to weigh the safety of students against free speech rights.

“A more complicated issue was the conflict between the free-speech rights of pro-Palestinian protesters and the impact that these protests were having on our Jewish students and their supporters. Some things that were said at those protests and on social media were profoundly unsettling and frightening,” Shafik wrote. “Trying to reconcile the speech rights of one part of our community with the rights of another part of our community to live in a supportive environment or at least an environment free of fear, harassment and discrimination, has been the central challenge at our university and on campuses across the country.”

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Columbia is only the latest prominent school to face congressional scrutiny since Oct. 7. The leaders of MIT, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania also testified in December. The presidents of Harvard and UPenn have since resigned.

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In March, students from campuses across the country testified about their experience of rising antisemitism at their universities.

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The students described vicious antisemitic incidents happening at Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley and several other universities.

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