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Columbia backs off as Trump blames Biden for antisemitic protests

College campuses are the new southern border.

The way in which so many university presidents have surrendered to a small subset of Israel-hating protesters is the hottest issue in America.

It signals, without question, the breakdown of order in this country, especially at our elite institutions that once commanded respect and now are paragons of cowardice.

The tide is turning with hundreds of arrests – from NYU to Yale, from USC to the University of Texas – just as much of the public is fed up with students and outside agitators paralyzing one campus after another.


At the epicenter, Columbia University, one day of arrests 10 days ago was followed by endless negotiations with demonstrators – including a few faculty members – who have effectively shut down the campus, with the school switching to hybrid classes and most Jewish students having fled the place. That impasse dragged on yesterday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, knowing he’d been heckled, created a moment by visiting Jewish students at Columbia and then addressing the media mob, calling for the resignation of the school’s leader, Minouche Shafik. President Biden should have gone there first.

The White House keeps saying Biden has denounced campus antisemitism, but he hasn’t in a meaningful way; these are mostly statements from a deputy press secretary. The only time the president has said something on camera was with a couple of hard-to-hear sentences in response to a question shouted by a reporter.

I get that the politics of the Israel-Hamas war are treacherous for Biden, but he knows how to get in front of the cameras when he wants to, such as claiming victory for the foreign aid bill for Israel and Ukraine (with crucial help from Speaker Johnson).

Police zip tie a protester who is face-down on the ground

Biden could have had a Sister Souljah moment for his candidacy. During the 1992 campaign, the activist said after the L.A. riots: “If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill White people?”

Bill Clinton, speaking to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, denounced her: “If you took the words ‘White’ and ‘Black,’ and you reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”

(Some Democratic lawmakers visited Columbia and denounced the demonstrators before Johnson did.)

Fast-forward to last January, when a Columbia student and protest leader, Khymani James, met with university officials and said this, capturing it on video: “Zionists don’t deserve to live,” just like Nazis and White supremacists. “And so, yes, I feel very comfortable, very comfortable calling for those people to die.”


What did the university do? Absolutely nothing. It wasn’t till last week, when the Daily Wire resurfaced the video, that the school put out a statement decrying the comments as unacceptable and barring James from the campus. Why no whisper of outrage earlier? Because Columbia was comfortable covering it up. And now it’s reported that the school gave James an “interim suspension.”

What do you have to say to get kicked out of Columbia? Calling for millions of Jews to die isn’t enough? Does anyone believe that if a student called for Blacks to be killed or gays to be killed, he or she would be gone in an instant? The double standard could not be more blatant.

(Khymani later issued a non-apology, saying he respects life but accusing Israel of genocide.)

Look, I’m a free speech guy. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right, no matter how odious the message, but setting up tent encampments in the middle of a quad is a violation of the rules. So is harassing law-abiding students with chants such as “Burn Tel Aviv to the ground” and that the Oct. 7 atrocities will happen “not 10 more times, not 100 more times, not 1,000 more times, but 10,000 times.” 

A protester holds a sign during a march on Columbia University campus in support of a protest encampment supporting Palestinians

And there are consequences. USC has canceled its graduation. Jewish students have now essentially evacuated some of these campuses. I went to Columbia Journalism School, and I’m now a bit embarrassed by that. 

Some of this is Orwellian. Two months after the 9/11 attacks, Shafik said she could understand how terrorism is protest. But terrorism is the furthest thing from protest. It’s the murder of innocent civilians.

Columbia is infamous for the protests of 1968, when extremist elements of the anti-Vietnam War movement engaged in violence. But there are echoes today, and a Democratic convention heading for Chicago.

The political fallout can be measured in a pair of stories yesterday.


The Washington Post says Donald Trump and other Republicans are “seizing on the eruption of campus protests across the country to depict the United States as out of control under President Biden.”

Beyond the “disruption,” the paper says, “top Republicans have highlighted the anti-Semitic chants that have occurred at some of the protests. The issue is complicated by a debate over what constitutes anti-Semitism — and when criticism of Israel crosses that line — while some student organizers have denounced the chants or said they are coming from outside activists.”

Let me stop right there. The issue is not complicated. These are not just “chants.” It’s perfectly clear what antisemitism is, what the virulent harassment of Jewish students is, what  

Trump “has cited the protests to accuse Biden and Democrats of being unable to maintain order or quash lawlessness.” And that’s a fair political argument. Of course the former president, whose criminal hush money trial resumes today, has his own baggage on the law-and-order front. 

The New York Times looks at Biden’s party, saying the protests “are exposing fresh tensions within the Democratic Party over how to balance free speech protections and support for Gazans with concerns that some Jewish Americans are raising about anti-Semitism.”

Okay, gotta throw a flag here too. “Support for Gazans” is really support for Hamas, the terrorist group that launched the war, especially among those who engage in “from the river to the sea” rhetoric. This isn’t to say there can’t be sympathy, which I share, for the rising death toll in Gaza, especially among civilian families, and the growing hunger crisis.

A protester holds a sign during a march on Columbia University campus in support of a protest encampment supporting Palestinians

But this phrase about “some Jewish Americans” raising concerns about antisemitism is insulting. Most Americans share their anxiety about this spreading poison. You don’t have to be Jewish to reject Hamas and the unspeakable tactics that caused the largest one-day death toll of Jews since the Holocaust.

“To some lawmakers who have visited encampments and attended demonstrations, the students are part of a long tradition of campus activism, and their free speech rights are at risk. Incidents of anti-Semitism, they say, do not reflect a broader movement that includes many young progressive Jews.”

That’s right, it’s a “long tradition of campus activism,” not “Zionists don’t deserve to live,” as Khymani James put it. And the war has definitely damaged Biden because of the anti-Israel stance of many younger Democrats.

Free speech is indeed crucial, but when you look at the tent encampment that has choked off an entire section of Columbia’s Upper Manhattan campus, it is an invasion.

After more than a week of dawdling, Columbia set a 2 p.m. deadline yesterday for these protestors to leave or face immediate suspension. The deadline came and went with no movement by the NYPD or campus security. Late yesterday, Columbia said it had started imposing suspensions. 

The defiant protesters are telling reporters they feel emboldened that the demonstrations are spreading and are sticking with their goal of forcing Columbia to divest investment funds from any firms profiting from Israel.

But keep in mind, these suspensions tend to be temporary.

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