Pressure builds for colleges to close or shut down anti-Israel encampments amid death threats toward Jews

Calls are mounting to temporarily shutter schools plagued by anti-Israel unrest as most colleges continue to pursue a hands-off approach to the encampments — even as the vitriol increasingly includes explicit threats of violence against Jews and others who don’t support the metastasizing movement.

“Columbia should shut down campus entirely, take all learning remote, but also padlock the campus and arrest all trespassers,” said Brooke Goldstein, a human rights attorney and founder of the End Jew Hatred movement who serves as the executive director of The Lawfare Project. “So should other campuses dealing with this problem. No American school should reopen for in-person learning until the safety of all students can be assured, and there is a plan in place to temper the aggression of radical protesters.”

Among other high-profile incidents, Salma Hamamy, a University of Michigan student who leads one of the school’s “Palestinian advocacy” groups, called for “death and worse” for “every single individual who supports the Zionist state” in a post on Instagram last month.

Hamamy, who remains on campus and is deeply involved in the ongoing unrest there, serves as the president of the school’s Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) group, the university’s Students for Justice in Palestine chapter.


University of Michigan anti-Israel encampment

The anti-Israel encampment is seen on the University of Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Monday. (Josh Brown)

Urging “immediate action” against those who violate the school’s code of conduct, the Anti-Defamation League last month sent a letter to University of Michigan President Santa Ono highlighting Hamamy’s comments. The school has declined to state what, if any, action it has taken in response.

“The University of Michigan is committed to combating antisemitism, which is antithetical to everything we stand for as a community,” a spokesperson for the University of Michigan told Fox News Digital. “Earlier this year, a message was posted on Instagram that caused fear and pain across our community. We unequivocally condemned the message in a note to the campus community. 

“The message does not represent who we are or who we hope to be. Given privacy concerns, we cannot share any information on student disciplinary actions.”

Similarly, a student at Columbia University — where one of the largest anti-Israel encampments persists — apologized Friday after a newly-resurfaced video showed the student declaring that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.”

Khymani James’ remarks were made during a January meeting with university officials, which James livestreamed and shared on social media.

“Zionists don’t deserve to live comfortably, let alone Zionists don’t deserve to live,” James said in the clip that recently spread on social media. “The same way we are very comfortable accepting Nazis don’t deserve to live, fascists don’t deserve to live, racists don’t deserve to live, Zionists, they shouldn’t live in this world.”

But the statement issued in the early morning hours on Friday insists that James “misspoke in the heat of the moment” and “was wrong.”

“Every member of our community deserves to feel safe without qualification,” James wrote in the statement, which also blamed “far right agitators” who “went through months of [his] social media feed until they found a clip that they edited without context.”

A Columbia University spokesperson declined to say whether James would face disciplinary action, but noted in a statement to Fox News Digital that “calls of violence and statements targeted at individuals based on their religious, ethnic, or national identity are unacceptable and violate university policy.”

“While we do not comment on individual cases, when there are violations of student conduct policies, they are reviewed and disciplinary measures are applied,” the spokesperson added.

three-way split montage of anti-israel encampments on campuses

Anti-Israel protests have quickly spread in recent weeks as most schools refuse to take action, even when there are threats made against members of the Jewish community. (Getty Images)

But as statements similar to those made by students at Columbia and Michigan become increasingly commonplace, legal experts such as Goldstein have begun arguing that National Guard deployments to college campuses are becoming a necessity. 

“Since late October 2023, when mobs of pro-Hamas radicals began spreading their aggressive protests from college campuses to city streets, menacing and even physically attacking Jews, the #EndJewHatred civil rights movement has been calling for the deployment of the National Guard to keep us safe,” Goldstein said.


Goldstein said the decision to send in the National Guard would not be “an escalation,” but instead argued that it’s a necessary and “appropriate response to keep Americans safe” because most schools dealing with the protests have refused to enforce their own rules.

“Since colleges have been unwilling to enforce their rules and policies, they have forsaken their duties not just to their students, but also to their communities,” she said. “Violence has spread far and wide as a result, and half-hearted occasional arrests of perpetrators has done nothing to end or discourage this lawlessness. It’s time to bring in the National Guard. … Pro-terrorist supporters should not be allowed to expand the violence in the Middle East to middle America.”

Goldstein also suggested the schools dealing with large anti-Israel protests that cannot maintain safety for students on their respective campuses should consider closing their campuses “entirely.”

Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, noted that the schools dealing with encampments already have rules in place to deal with the unrest — administrators just have to be willing to enforce them.

“All schools, certainly the ones that have been in the news with these encampments — or potential encampments and protests — have rules that regulate protests,” Shapiro said. “That is, you have broad latitude to express your opinion and give out pamphlets and do all sorts of things, as long as it doesn’t disrupt the educational institution’s mission and programs.

There are rules against camping and other kinds of obstructions to people going about their business. There are rules against chanting that disrupts classes and other educational programs. So all of those rules simply need to be enforced as they have been in some places, but not others.”

UT anti-Israel protesters

Anti-Israel agitators march at the University of Texas on Wednesday. (Jay Janner/American-Statesman)

He added: “We’re not dealing with thorny issues of public policy that are hard to figure out. The tools are all there, and the problem is, leadership at places like Columbia simply refuses to enforce the rules that are already in place.”

Earlier this week, Shapiro told Fox that a request by a state governor — or the Biden administration — to use the National Guard in dealing with the protests would be a justified measure to restore “public order.”


“And the justification would be Title VI, which ensures equal educational opportunity,” Shapiro said at the time. “And the argument is that Jewish students are being denied that, and that Columbia is failing of its obligation to enforce it.”

Title VI, part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “provides that no person” in the U.S. “shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

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