House Democrats, Republicans condemn anti-Israel Columbia University protests: an 'attack on democracy'

Protesters at the Ivy League campus have voiced anger at Israel while school administrators have promised to crack down on antisemitism

Several congressional lawmakers decried antisemitism on college campuses, particularly Columbia University, this weekend as anti-Israel protesters briefly took over a part of the Ivy League school campus, resulting in hundreds of arrests. 

Amid the demonstrations that began last week, Columbia University President Dr. Nemat "Minouche" Shafik said in a statement posted Monday that she was "deeply saddened" by certain actions of agitators, who have formed an "encampment" on the campus and have riled students and faculty with anti-Jewish slogans and chants.

"I am deeply saddened by what is happening on our campus," Shafik wrote. "Our bonds as a community have been severely tested in ways that will take a great deal of time and effort to reaffirm. Students across an array of communities have conveyed fears for their safety and we have announced additional actions we are taking to address security concerns. The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days. These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas."

Anti-Israel agitators construct an encampment on Columbia University’s campus

Anti-Israel agitators construct an encampment on Columbia University’s campus in New York City on Monday, April 22, 2024.  The university announced that all classes would be held virtually today in response to the ongoing demonstrations on campus. (Peter Gerber)


U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., visited the university over the weekend to stand with Jewish students, some of whom have said they don't feel safe on campus. 

"Collectively, not just the folks here, but on a bipartisan basis, we in Congress are going to do something about it," he said in a video posted to X. 

Rep. Rep Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. condemned the Columbia protests in which demonstrators briefly set up an encampment on campus. 

"The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, not freedom to harass and intimidate students just for being Jewish," he wrote. 

Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., said Columbia must educate its students and faculty about antisemitism while ensuring professors are not spreading hatred. 

"It is critical that the Department of Education and the Department of Justice work with the White House to ensure that universities take steps necessary to keep Jewish students and faculty safe," she said in a statement. 


Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. called out protests in which pro-Palestinian supporters were heard chanting "death to America" and "Death to Israel."

"This is truly an attack on democracy. It's an attack on our values," he said. "It's not a Republican thing. It's not a Democrat (sic) thing. It's the right thing. To stand behind Israel. Stand behind its people and do the right thing."

Rep. Mike Lawler, also a New York Republican, said he was proud to co-sponsor a resolution introduced by D’Esposito that condemns the "River to the sea chant," which many Jews have described as supporting the eradication of Israel. 

He noted that 44 members of the House opposed the measure in a vote. 

"It denies Israel's right to exist," Lawler said the popular pro-Palestinian saying. "There is nothing aspirational about that. And the fact that 44 of my colleagues can't bring themselves to condemn it is appalling."

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