On Wednesday, students at Columbia University staged a walkout and called for an end to the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The students have been accused of antisemitism by Jewish students at the school as well as the school’s community at large.
In an open letter on Saturday, members of the Columbia-Barnard faculty disputed that label and defended protesting students against the “egregious” harassment they’ve seen them endure.
The letter was shared by Columbia professor Katherine Franke, who tweeted, “Columbia/Barnard faculty have signed an open letter supporting our students, making the point that identifying with the suffering of Gazans and historically contextualizing the current war in Israel/Gaza is not antisemitic. Please read and share.”
Faculty members from Columbia and Barnard College expressed that the attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 caused “very disturbing reverberations on our campus” and that they have “grave concerns about how some of our students are being viciously targeted with doxing, public shaming, surveillance by members of our community, including other students, and reprisals from employers.”
Columbia/Barnard faculty have signed an open letter supporting our students, making the point that identifying with the suffering of Gazans and historically contextualizing the current war in Israel/Gaza is not anti-Semitic. Please read and share. https://t.co/IXMCs2PxhN
— Katherine Franke (@ProfKFranke) October 28, 2023
“These egregious forms of harassment and efforts to chill otherwise protected speech on campus are unacceptable,” the letter continued, “and we implore every person in the Columbia University community — faculty, administrators, students, alums, public safety — to do more to protect all of our students while preserving Columbia University as a beacon for ‘fostering critical thinking and opening minds to different points of view,’ as President Shafik wrote to the community in her Oct. 18 message about upholding our collective values.”
The faculty wrote that their concern is about students being considered antisemitic if they “express empathy for the lives and dignity of Palestinians, and/or if they signed on to a student-written statement that situated the military action begun on Oct. 7 within the larger context of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.”
While the professors and faculty noted that they don’t all agree with the statements expressed in the student-written statement, they all agree on one point: “Making such claims cannot and should not be considered antisemitic.”
“Their merits are being debated by governmental and non-governmental agencies at the highest level, and constitute a terrain of completely legitimate political and legal debate,” they added.
Read the letter, as shared and signed by dozens of the schools’ faculty, here.