Amid Controversy, Columbia Professors Rally Behind Students Who Endorsed Hamas

Over 100 Columbia University professors defended students supporting Hamas' actions and called for protection from backlash.

Amid Controversy, Columbia Professors Rally Behind Students Who Endorsed Hamas

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war has set off tensions at some US universities.

Over 100 professors at Columbia University have expressed support for American students who faced criticism from academics and industry leaders due to their endorsement of Hamas' actions in Israel on October 7. The professors signed a letter Monday defending students and called on administrators to protect those students from “disturbing reverberations” on the Manhattan campus.

“As scholars who are committed to robust inquiry about the most challenging matters of our time, we feel compelled to respond to those who label our students antisemitic if they express empathy for the lives and dignity of Palestinians and/or if they signed a student-written statement that situated the military action begun on Oct. 7 within the larger context of the occupation of Palestine by Israel,” the letter, which was titled "An Open Letter from Columbia University and Barnard College Faculty in Defense of Robust Debate About the History and Meaning of the War in Israel/Gaza," reads.

“In our view, the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of October 7, 2023, pointing out that military operations and state violence did not begin that day but rather represented a military response by a people who had endured crushing and unrelenting state violence from an occupying power over many years,” they wrote of the brutal terror attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians.

The professors' statement concludes with a demand that Columbia University reverse its decision to establish curricular and research programs in Israel, a demand that over 100 Columbia faculty made last year. They also demand that the university stop issuing statements that show a preference for the suffering and death of Israelis or Jews over the suffering and death of Palestinians and/or fail to recognize the challenges that all students have faced during this time, not just some.

"It is worth noting that not all of us agree with every one of the claims made in the students' statement, but we do agree that making such claims cannot and should not be considered anti-Semitic. Their merits are being debated by governmental and non-governmental agencies at the highest level and constitute a terrain of completely legitimate political and legal debate," the open letter said.