Jewish students endangered not because of anti-Israel protests, but because of police involvement and third-party doxing of participants
05/16/2024 // Belle Carter // Views

Contrary to mainstream media, the government and other Israeli violence sympathizers' narrative that the Gaza solidarity protests are antisemitic, unnecessary and disruptive, a Columbia University sociology PhD student said that the claims are dangerous distractions from real threats to safety, especially to Jewish students like him.

"As a Jewish student at Columbia, it depresses me that I have to correct the record and explain what the real risk to our safety looks like," Jonathan Ben-Menachem wrote in his Substack newsletter titled "Zeteo." "I still can't quite believe how the events on campus over the past few days have been so cynically and hysterically misrepresented by the media and by our elected representatives."

The anti-Israel rallies started at his university a few weeks ago. The first peaceful campus protest was organized by the Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) coalition, which represents more than 100 student organizations, including Jewish groups, who vowed not to leave the grounds until the university divests from companies that profit from their ties to Israel. They prayed, chanted, ate pizza and condemned the university's complicity in Israel's attacks on Gaza.

However, the campus' response to the encampments was an "imposition of a miniature police state," Ben-Menachem said. Just over a day after the encampment was formed, university President Minouche Shafik authorized the New York Police Department (NYPD) to clear the lawn and load 108 students, which included Jews, onto Department of Corrections buses to be held at NYPD headquarters.

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"One Jewish student told me that she and her fellow protesters were restrained in zip-tie handcuffs for eight hours and held in cells where they shared a toilet without privacy," Ben-Menachem said. There were also reports of various arrests where violence was implied. However, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell later told the Columbia Spectator that "the students that were arrested were peaceful, offered no resistance whatsoever, and were saying what they wanted to say peacefully."

Suppression did not stop when the protesters were arrested with force as dozens of undergraduates who were nabbed have been locked out of their dorms without notice. Barnard College, an affiliate of Columbia, gave students just 15 minutes to retrieve their belongings after returning from lockup and finding themselves evicted. Also, suspended students are still not able to return to campus and struggling to access food or medical care.

"This crackdown was the most violence inflicted on our student body in decades. I implore you, as our Jewish Voice for Peace chapter does, to consider whether arresting Jewish students keeps us and Columbia safe," he said. Smears from the press and pro-Israel influencers, who have levied charges of antisemitism and violence against Jewish students, are a dangerous distraction from real threats to our safety. The real danger started when the Columbia administration invited police onto campus. Also, third-party organizations dox undergraduates while some politicians compare student organizers to neo-Nazis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration even called for a National Guard deployment at the university rallies.

"I am wary of a hysterical campus discourse – gleefully amplified by many of the same charlatans who have turned “DEI” into a slur – that draws attention away from the ongoing slaughter in the Gaza Strip and settler violence in the occupied West Bank. We should be focusing on the material reality of war: the munitions our government is sending to Israel, which kill Palestinians by the thousands, and the Americans participating in the violence," Ben-Menachem appealed. "Forget the fringe folks and outside agitators: the CUAD organizers behind the campus protests have rightfully insisted on divestment as their most important demand of the Columbia administration, and on sustained attention to the situation in Palestine." (Related: NYC Mayor Eric Adams wrongly accuses Columbia University “visitor” of being an “outside agitator” during Gaza solidarity protest.)

Pro-Palestine graduates hold "silent walkout" during commencement exercises

Demonstrations continued and new encampments were erected at universities across the country during the weekend of commencement ceremonies. In fact, during the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) graduation, dozens of students silently walked out as Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivered the commencement address.

Before the event, VCU said on its website ahead of commencement that disruptions at the ceremony were strictly prohibited. But student groups, including the VCU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, left the ceremony to protest Youngkin’s policies and his role in the arrests of pro-Palestinian student protesters in April.

On Saturday, students dressed in caps and gowns quietly marched toward the back of the Greater Richmond Convention Center, prompting some people in the crowd to erupt in cheers. The Commonwealth Times, the university's student newspaper, said in a post on X that the walkout was "in protest of Gov. Glenn Youngkin appearing as the keynote speaker." Other footage posted on X showed a group of people, including some graduates, outside the convention center chanting and holding signs, including one that read, "No graduation as usual."

Attendees who left the convention center after the ceremony began would not be allowed to re-enter, the school said.

Head over to for more updates on the ongoing pro-Palestinian protests across the United States and even overseas.

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