Lee Bollinger, President, Columbia University
Lee Bollinger has the distinction of being the longest-serving university president on this list. He began his tenure as president of Columbia University in 2002, and during that time has taken little to no action against the campus’s several extremist anti-Israel groups, including the Hamas-funded organization Students for Justice in Palestine, which have openly harassed Jewish students on campus, distributed Hamas propaganda, torn down fliers posted by pro-Israel groups and interrupted pro-Israel speakers and events. Several Columbia professors have also repeatedly been accused of anti-Semitism, including star professor Joseph Massad, yet they continue to teach on campus. President Bollinger also invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus, resulting in a speech during which Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and urged the audience to investigate “who was truly involved” in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Columbia is also home to the Center for Palestine Studies (CPS), a blatantly political organization embedded in the campus educational structure which has brought BDS movement founder Omar Barghouti to campus and has included a series of Hamas maps falsely showing the Jewish infiltration and colonization of Arab “Palestine” on its event posters. The Center was founded in 2010, during Bollinger’s tenure.
On April 10, 2018, Columbia Students Supporting Israel (SSI) released a statement concerning anti-Semitic actions and attacks on Jewish students on campus and the administration’s failure to address these violations of campus policy. The statement clarified the role of several anti-Israel campus organizations, including the Hamas-supported and funded Students for Justice in Palestine, in promoting a hostile environment for Jewish students on campus:
“In interrupting, silencing, harassing and intimidating Jewish and pro-Israel students at Columbia, the behavior of SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine], JVP [Jewish Voice for Peace] and CUAD [Columbia University Apartheid Divest] contributes to an unacceptably hostile environment for those who wish to exercise their constitutionally protected rights in ways that differ from the narratives of these groups… Since SSI [Students Supporting Israel] has started its activities on campus, SJP has continuously attacked SSI’s right to freedom of speech, expression and association in different ways and using a variety of inappropriate methods, as outlined below.”
Actions taken by these anti-Israel groups as documented in SSI’s statement include tearing down SSI’s event flyers, surrounding Jewish students in a threatening manner and chanting pro-Palestine slogans when randomly encountering them on campus, and interrupting or shouting-down pro-Israel speakers and events.
In April 2018, Students for Justice in Palestine at Columbia together with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a group supporting the Hamas-funded and supported BDS movement against Israel, held a “Gaza Solidarity Rally” on campus. Their rally was located opposite a booth sponsored by a pro-Israel organization for Holocaust Remembrance Day. The SJP members chanted slogans promoting the destruction of Israel and the terrorist Intifada against the Jewish state, including, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and, “From Gaza to the plaza, globalize the Intifada!”
In April 2018, Barnard, a sister college to Columbia, passed a resolution in support of divestment from Israel, part of the Hamas-supported and funded BDS campaign against the Jewish state. Columbia’s pro-Israel student group, Aryeh, put out a statement explaining all the ways in which supporters of Israel who opposed the resolution were not treated fairly during the political process:
“From the very beginning, this process was dishonest and opaque. The decision to initiate a referendum was made behind closed doors without hearing formally from any pro-Israel students—and in contradiction to repeated assurances that no decision or vote would be made during that session. There are measures in place to protect students from divisive and marginalizing referenda like this one; shockingly, however, SGA failed to invoke those measures by deciding that this referendum was not “contentious.” When Aryeh was finally able to speak at SGA, our one request—for a fair and unbiased referendum—was ignored, as SGA elected to put forward an unsourced text that included CUAD’s arguments and propaganda, in many cases word-for-word. This ensured that students voting with no prior knowledge of the conflict would be informed only by material specifically written to ensure one outcome. Finally, after securing CUAD an overwhelming advantage in the wording of the referendum, SGA Executive Board unilaterally imposed campaign rules on Aryeh, guaranteeing an unequal playing field.”
On March 29, 2018, the campus anti-Israel groups Columbia University Apartheid Divest, SJP and JVP held an event titled “Resisting Settler-Colonialism: A Talk by Steven Salaita.” During his address, Salaita stated that “racist violence is based into the ideology [of Zionism]” and promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the extent of Zionist power.
On March 26, 2018, as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week” on campus, three campus anti-Israel organizations, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia/Barnard JVP and Columbia SJP held an event titled “I is for Intifada.” The previous Palestinian Intifadas have signified violent terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. The event purported to include “a presentation on the political history of the Palestinian intifadas and their lasting significance.”
In December 2017, SJP initiated a petition to boycott a local bookstore, Book Culture, because the store denounced the genocidal and Hamas-supported BDS movement against Israel and refused to use a book titled “P is for Palestine” which contains a page endorsing Intifada, or violent uprising, against Israel, in an event for children.
In November 2017, Columbia and Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a pro-BDS group that is aligned with SJP, put out a statement falsely accusing Students Supporting Israel of racism and “brownwashing”:
“SSI’s blatant racism and utter ignorance of history should not be welcome on our campus. They consistently present twisted and misleading views of history, and do unforgivable violence to the sacred struggles of Native Americans and indigenous peoples. Their brown-washing and appropriation of indigeneity speak loudly for the racist political values they hold. SSI does not stand for anyone’s liberation. They stand for the occupation and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people in support of an ethno-nationalist state which has little to do with a just future for anyone.”
In September 2017, a swastika and the letters “WP” which stand for “White Power” were found written in black ink in a stairwell on campus.
On April 24, 2017, Columbia University Apartheid Divest held an event featuring Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Hamas-supported and funded BDS movement against Israel, along with BDS supporters Rebecca Vilkomerson and Premilla Nadasen. The event was titled “The Road to Freedom: The BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights and the Struggle Against Apartheid.” A large banner stating “Boycott Israel” was hung across the table where the panelists were sitting.
During his address, Barghouti called for the “return of refugees to their homes,” a policy which would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state. The event was supported and co-sponsored by numerous departments and organizations at Columbia including the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, Anthropology Department, Middle East Institute, Columbia Queer Alliance, Divest Barnard for a Just Transition, Student-Worker Solidarity, Mobilized African Diaspora, CU Turath: The Arab Students Association, No Red Tape, Barnard Columbia Socialists, Columbia University South Asian Feminisms Alliance, African Students Association, Columbia University, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.
In February 2017, Columbia’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) held an event with Danny Danon, Israeli ambassador and representative to the United Nations. Columbia’s chapter of Apartheid Divest responded with a protest demonizing Israel, and interrupted Danon at least seven times with genocidal chants such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free.” Signs at the protest contained similar slogans accusing Israel of occupation and racism and calling for the Palestinian right of return which would eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.
In December 2016, anti-Israel protestors held a walkout protest of a Students Supporting Israel (SSI) event just as a Jew was describing his feeling of connection to Israel. Signs held by protestors at the event demonized Israel and falsely accused it of “racism” and “land theft, displacement and ethnic cleansing.”
In December 2016, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, a pro-BDS campus organization, put out a statement vilifying the pro-Israel campus group Students Supporting Israel which demonized Israel and echoed Hamas propaganda lies claiming that Israel stole Palestinian land. The statement was co-signed by 24 additional Columbia campus organizations. It read in part:
“SSI supports Israel’s expansion of internationally-condemned settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, and theft of Palestinian resources such as water and agriculture, all in direct contradiction to indigenous rights. For SSI to claim that it uplifts indigenous struggles is not only ironic, but also deeply damaging. This event masks the catastrophic impact that the state of Israel, with its theft of Palestinian land and lives, has had and continues to have on the indigenous people of Palestine since 1948.”
In June 2015, Columbia hosted a workshop on “Readings on Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine: Structures of Identity, Difference and Democracy.” Among the suggested discussion questions for the workshop are, “In what ways might principles of democracy be undermined by a legal system that includes/recognizes its minority civilly but not nationally?” and “Is there a point at which the uniquely Jewish character of the state of Israel undermines its identity as a democratic state? “
On June 20, 2015, the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University in conjunction with the Middle East Institute hold a “Teachers’ Workshop” on “Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine.” The poster for the event displays the false and genocidal Hamas map which depicts the invasion and colonization of Arab “Palestine” by the Jews beginning in 1947.
On May 11, 2015, Columbia SJP hosted a panel titled “Existing and Resisting: Palestinian Women Tell Their Stories” which includes convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, now an associate director of the American-Arab Action Network, who was convicted by an Israeli military court in 1970 for her involvement in two fatal terrorist bombings. An article in the Columbia Chronicle stated that the event focused on “The struggles and tribulations Palestinian women face during the occupation of the Palestinian territories.” Odeh commented, “Yes, I am an American citizen, but also I am a Palestinian. I can’t close my eyes about my roots, about my pain that all my people go through. It’s part of my life. It’s part of my personality.”
During Israel Apartheid Week 2015, university administrators denied a request by the pro-Israel Columbia student organization Aryeh to reserve space opposite the mock “apartheid wall” constructed by SJP, where they have traditionally held a counter-protest against this event. Instead, an anti-Israel group, Jewish Voices for Peace, which promotes the BDS movement against Israel, is allowed to reserve the spot. Pro-Israel student Talia Lefkowitz writes in an op-ed in The Times of Israel: “Until now, Hillel’s pro-Israel groups have gathered together… in a counter-demonstration to stress the importance of conversation over confrontation. But without a place to park themselves this year, the pro-Israel groups are effectively being silenced.”
On its Facebook page for Israeli Apartheid Week 2015, Columbia SJP draws a direct connection between the “apartheid week” and the BDS Movement: “We are beyond ecstatic this year for the 10th annual International Israeli Apartheid Week. Since its establishment in 2005, IAW has sought to raise awareness about the unjust apartheid policies of Israel and to bolster support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.”
During March 23-27, 2015, Columbia SJP held Israeli Apartheid Week 2015 on campus. Events for the week include the erection of a mock “apartheid wall,” in front of Columbia’s famous Lowe Library, which displays the words “End Israeli Apartheid” in huge letters along with other anti-Israel propaganda including the claim that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is “separate and unequal.” SJP also hosts a panel on “Media, Solidarity, and Palestine” featuring a number of anti-Israel activists and writers including Hanine Hassan, a Columbia Ph.D. candidate whose work is described as examining “the long-term effects of humiliation as a tool of oppression by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” The claims that Israel is an apartheid state illegally occupying Arab Palestine are taken directly from Hamas propaganda.
On December 2, 2014, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement founder Omar Barghouti spoke to an “enormous and enthusiastic” crowd at Columbia University. Responding to a question about whether Jews have the right of self-determination, Barghouti responds, “One thing I do know– not at my expense... [They do not have] the right to expel us or to take our land.” An article about the event posted on the website Mondoweiss.net reports that “the audience broke into applause, the first time that any speaker had been interrupted by applause in two hours.” The talk was sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia.
On November 20, 2014, 1960s icon Angela Davis, a longtime leader of the American Communist Party and now a professor at UC Santa Cruz, spoke at Columbia on “Quotidian Carceralities [sic] in the U.S. and Occupied Palestine.” An online description of the lecture explained that it will discuss “the physical structures of incarceration, and the myriad connections between militarized policing of everyday life in the US—disproportionately affecting low-income African Americans, women, and trans populations—and Occupied Palestine today.” Davis is known for her extreme anti-Israel views and support of the BDS movement. She has said that the Palestinians “are transformed into immigrants, into undocumented immigrants, on their own land” and tells students that if they “support BDS, finally, Palestine will be free.”
On November 19, 2014, former U. Illinois professor Steven Salaita, who was fired by the University of Illinois for his bigoted tweets on Jews and Israelis, spoke at Columbia in an appearance sponsored by several university institutes including the Center for Palestine Studies, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and the Center for the Study of Law and Culture. The tweets that led to his dismissal at Illinois included claims such as: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say anti-Semitic shit in response to Israeli terror” and “Never has the courage of Palestinians and the cowardice of their occupiers been so obvious for the world to see. #48March #Gaza.”
On September 25, 2013, SJP at Columbia held a forum titled “Occupation 101.” The online banner for the forum includes the false series of maps circulated by Hamas portraying Arab “Palestine” being infiltrated by the Jews.
On March 10, 2014, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) hung a banner reading “Stand for Justice, Stand for Palestine” on Barnard Hall as part of its Israeli Apartheid Week. The banner, an advertisement for Israeli Apartheid Week, depicted Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip without any internal borders, buttressing SJP’s goal of destroying the Jewish state. After Jewish student groups complained about the banner, charging that its content was intrinsically anti-Semitic and that its placement directly in front of Barnard Hall implied university endorsement, it was ordered removed and a new banner policy for all groups was instituted.
During October 2010, Columbia officially opened the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia, the first American university to dedicate an institute to the study of Palestinian Arabs. Specifying that its mission is “supporting and defending the academic freedom of students, faculty and schools in the Occupied Territories,” the Center makes no pretense of intellectual objectivity and makes clear through its events and the faculty it hires that it supports the BDS movement which was designed to further the goals of terrorist groups like Hamas to delegitimize, weaken and destroy the Jewish State.
The co-directors of the Center are Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi and Barnard College professor Nadia Abu El-Haj. Khalidi is known for his extreme hostility to Israel which he has called “racist” and “basically an apartheid system in creation.” El Haj has condemned academic researchers in Israel, claiming that the work of archaeology in Palestine/Israel is a screen for the “ongoing practice of colonial nationhood” and that the assumption that ancient Israelite kingdoms were once located in the land that constitutes modern-day Israel is a “pure political fabrication.”
The official Center website states that it was created to honor “the specific scholarly legacy of Professor Edward Said at the university where he taught for forty years.” The late Edward Said was a Columbia professor who preached in his academic writing and his extra-academic activities that Israel was both illegitimate and also a colonialist state. He was a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Palestinian National Council until 1991 when he resigned because he thought Yasser Arafat’s policies were too moderate towards Israel.
Events hosted by the Center include a speech from BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti, who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany, on “Palestine’s South Africa Moment?” and a Teacher’s Workshop on “Citizenship and Nationality in Israel/Palestine” which included the false Hamas map—a form of cartographic genocide—which depicts the invasion and colonization of Arab “Palestine” by the Jews on its event poster.
On September 24, 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction and said that the Jewish homeland will be “wiped off the map,” spoke at Columbia at the invitation of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger. During his talk, Ahmadinejad claimed that there are no homosexuals in Iran, raised questions about the factuality of the Holocaust, and urged the audience to investigate “who was truly involved” in the September 11 terrorist attacks, implying that Jews were responsible
During 2004-2005, Columbia Professor Joseph Massad, who teaches in the department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), was accused by several Jewish students of making anti-Semitic remarks and treating them unfairly because they refused to criticize Israel. One Israeli student who had previously served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) stated that Massad asked him in class how many Palestinians he had killed. Massad reportedly told another student, “If you’re going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom.”
Massad has described Israel as a “Jewish supremacist and racist state” and stated that “[e]very racist state should be destroyed.” He has also said that “it is only by making the costs of Jewish supremacy too high that Israeli Jews will give it [Israel] up.”