Columbia suspends students over anti-Israel event featuring speaker linked to terrorist organization


Columbia has suspended several students over an anti-Israel event last month that featured a speaker “known to support terrorism,” the university president announced Friday. 

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik said in a statement that “a number of students have been suspended as the investigation continues” into a March 24 event that “took place at a campus residential facility” and “that the University had already barred, twice, from occurring.” 

“It featured speakers who are known to support terrorism and promote violence. I want to state for the record that this event is an abhorrent breach of our values,” Shafik said. 

The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, reported that at least four students face disciplinary action in connection to the March 24 panel titled, “Resistance 101,” which featured Khaled Barakat among its speakers. 

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anti-Israel protest b Columbia

Pro-Palestine protesters demonstrate near Columbia University on February 2, 2024, in New York City. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

An Israeli government document links Barakat to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization. 

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce on March 25 also called out Barakat’s link to the PFLP terrorist group, noting how he told Columbia students during a webinar that “friends at Hamas and Islamic Jihad” emphasized the importance of support on U.S. college campuses, adding that by contrast, “they don’t care what Biden says, what Kamala Harris says.” 

In the aftermath, Columbia also “notified law enforcement, and we hired an outside investigation firm to uncover all the facts,” Shafik said Friday. “With their help, we identified organizers and participants and required them to cooperate with the investigation or face immediate discipline. We are still in the process of interviewing students, faculty, and other members of the community and gathering facts.” 

“I realize that our campus has been deeply shaken by the war between Israel and Hamas, starting Oct. 7 with the horrific Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, and now unfolding as a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Shafik said. “I did not become a university president to punish students. At the same time, actions like this on our campus must have consequences. That I would ever have to declare the following is in itself surprising, but I want to make clear that it is absolutely unacceptable for any member of this community to promote the use of terror or violence.” 

It at least appears that Columbia University is increasingly laying down the law on antisemitism before Shafik is expected to testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 17 as part of the congressional probe into the surge of antisemitism at college campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks carried out by Hamas on southern Israel. The presidents of Harvard, MIT and UPenn failed to directly condemn calls for intifada or the genocide of Jews on their campuses when they testified before Congress in December. The Harvard and UPenn presidents stepped down amid the controversy, although now-former Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned amid a separate plagiarism scandal.

Columbia University protest

NYPD officers clash with pro-Palestine protestors demonstrating near Columbia University on February 2, 2024, in New York City. (Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Shai Davidai, a Jewish professor at Columbia who claims the university is investigating him as a form of retaliation for publicly condemning campus inaction on antisemitism in viral video, took to X on Monday to praise the four student suspensions following the event featuring Barakat. 

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“That’s a good start, but not enough,” he wrote. “The pro-terror umbrella group that organized the event constitutes 94 different official student groups. ALL 94 heads of the organization should be given 24 hours to either denounce the umbrella group or be suspended from campus.”

Davidai shared a TV clip flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute in which Barakat allegedly communicated that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement helps terrorists, that he openly supports terrorist organizations and that he receives money from terrorist organizations.

Shafik at Columbia graduation ceremony

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik is expected to testify before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 17.  (Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

One of the four students suspended and evicted from campus housing over the event featuring Barakat was the first speaker at a massive protest Thursday organized by the group Columbia University Apartheid Divest and Student Workers of Columbia–United Auto Workers, the Spectator reported. 

The protest drew more than 100 demonstrators, according to the student newspaper. 

The suspended student, who was not named in the report, complained about how she had lost her full-ride scholarship to Columbia to pursue a master’s in Middle Eastern studies.

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“I left everything behind, my community, my partner, my work, my entire life based on Columbia’s promise of a full scholarship to pursue Palestine study,” she reportedly said. “Ironically, my mom was so happy when I was moving to the U.S. to study at Columbia. She believed I would finally be safe outside of Palestine. Columbia is not only a complicit institution, it is a violent institution.”

The suspensions come after Shafik vowed to take action in a Friday statement.

“We are in the process of identifying participants and they will face discipline under our policies,” Shafik said. “This university will only thrive if we can build a strong foundation of respect – both for each other and for our rules.” 





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