Columbia University suspends two student groups over Israel-Palestine protests

Students with a variety of different perspectives on the Israel-Palestine crisis say campus debate has gone off the rails

Columbia University has suspended two student activist groups for violating rules while holding protests regarding the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel.

According to a news release, the university made the decision after the organisations — Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace — “repeatedly violated university policies related to holding campus events.”

The transgressions, Ms Scully Kromm said, resulted in an “unauthorised event on Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation.”

The Independent has reached out to both organisations for comment.

The groups will be inactive throughout the remainder of the fall term and will not receive university funding. Furthermore, the organisations will not be able to hold events on campus.

“Lifting the suspension will be contingent on the two groups demonstrating a commitment to compliance with University policies and engaging in consultations at a group leadership level with University officials”, the statement, written by Gerald Rosberg, vice president of the university and chair of the special committee on campus safety, continued.

“During this especially charged time on our campus, we are strongly committed to giving space to student groups to participate in debate, advocacy, and protest.”

Students for Justice in Palestine says on its Columbia University website that it is ”organizing around human rights for Palestinians. It follows the Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel”.

Jewish Voice for Peace describes itself as “the largest progressive Jewish anti-Zionist organization in the world. We’re organizing a grassroots, multiracial, cross-class, intergenerational movement of U.S. Jews into solidarity with the Palestinian freedom struggle, guided by a vision of justice, equality, and dignity for all people.”

The war has become a hot-button issue on campuses across the country.

Early last month, David Polk, a top law firm, rescinded job offers made to three students at Columbia and Harvard universities for their alleged participation in open letters blaming Israel for the ongoing conflict.

The letter published in The Harvard Crimson held Israel “entirely responsible” for the unfolding violence that left 1,400 dead. Over 30 groups at the university signed the letter.

After the statement was released, CEOs and business leaders called on officials to identify the individuals responsible to ensure that they were never hired by their companies.

Rachel Himes, an art history and archeology instructor at Columbia University, said she was “beyond disgusted by this suppression of student political expression and blatant attempt at intimidation,” she wrote in a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Every opportunity that Columbia could have shown leadership they failed utterly.”