Outspoken Israeli Prof Denied Campus Entry as Columbia Tries to Avoid Protest Clashes

David Dee Delgado/Getty Images
David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

A Jewish Israeli professor at Columbia found his access to campus denied on Monday morning as he attempted to join a planned counter protest, exacerbating tensions over competing pro-Israel and Palestine demonstrations even as the university tries to keep the pressure from spilling over.

Video of the incident shows Prof. Shai Davidai, who organized the counter-protest in support of Israel, attempting to access campus only to find his ID card deactivated.

“I am a professor here, I have every right to be everywhere on campus. You cannot let people that support Hamas on campus, and me, a professor, not go on campus,” he says in the video, addressing Columbia’s Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway.

Holloway can be seen quietly offering to escort Davidai and the counter protesters to the Math Lawn, an area separate from the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” pro-Israel protesters have taken issue with.

In an email exchange between the administration and Davidai on Monday morning, obtained by The Daily Beast, Holloway informed Davidai that the Math Lawn had been designated as the counter protest area in a last-ditch attempt to keep the two groups from clashing.

According to the email, Davidai was not permitted to access the West Lawn, where pro-Palestinian protesters set up their encampment. Holloway said this was done to maintain the safety of the Columbia community and to minimize the risk to students and faculty, protesters and counter protesters alike.

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Davidai, an outspoken supporter of Israel and vocal critic of pro-Palestine protesters, is also under investigation by the university for allegedly harassing Columbia students. President Minouche Shafik testified in a congressional hearing last week that the university had received more than 50 formal complaints about him from students and had subsequently launched a probe into his conduct.

But real concerns about the on-campus safety of Columbia’s Jewish students remain.

Over the weekend, planned pro-Palestine protests veered into antisemitic attacks, a fact which was acknowledged and condemned by Columbia Law Students for Palestine, a pro-Palestine organizing group.

Billionaire Robert Kraft, an alumnus who leads the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, also signaled Monday that he will pause donations to the school over concerns that it can’t keep Jewish students and faculty safe.

Earlier in the day, the university shifted to remote classes in order to “deescalate the rancor” over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

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As of Monday, all Republican U.S. representatives from New York have called for Shafik to step down over her handling of the protests—a group led by Rep. Elise Stefanik, who also led successful ouster campaigns against the presidents of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been a frequent target of pro-Palestinian protests, added her concern for Columbia’s Jewish community as well.

“I’m deeply disturbed by the appalling antisemitism being displayed on Columbia University’s campus. Threats of violence against Jewish students are absolutely despicable, and this appalling rhetoric must end now,” she wrote on X.

“Our Jewish friends and neighbors deserve the right to live and worship in safety — here in New York, and all across America.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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