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House committee asks Columbia for records of foreign donations, DEI and more in antisemitism probe

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., sent a letter to Columbia University on Monday asking for documents and information relevant to Congress’ investigation into soaring antisemitism at American college campuses that reached a fever pitch in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. 

The 16-page letter, addressed to Columbia University President Dr. Minouche Shafik, Columbia Trustees Co-Chairs David Greenwald and Claire Shipman, Barnard College President Dr. Laura Rosenbury, and Barnard College Board of Trustees Chair Cheryl Glicker Milstein, provided examples of how, as Foxx categorized it, “an environment of pervasive antisemitism has been documented at Columbia for more than two decades before the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack.” 

The documents and information requested are said to relate to “Columbia University’s response to antisemitism on its campus and its failure to protect Jewish students, faculty, and staff.”

“Columbia has consistently allowed anti-Israel groups to violate university policies and shown its commitments on antisemitism to be hollow,” Foxx wrote. 

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The committee is seeking all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents and related documents and communications made to Columbia administration since Jan. 1, 2021, as well as information about the university’s own policies and procedures about how the prestigious New York City institution is supposed to deal with discrimination and harassment. 

Included on the list of 25 specific items sought by the committee were all documents and communications “relating to or reflecting sources of funding for Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, Columbia-Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Law Students for Palestine, Columbia Social Workers 4 Palestine, and Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, including, but not limited to university, departmental, faculty, and student organization funds, as well as foreign donations.” 

Foxx is also seeking documents showing the annual total amount of foreign donations and funding (including but not limited to governmental bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and private individuals) to Columbia since Jan. 1, 2021, by country; documents sufficient to show all foreign donations and funding to Columbia of $50,000 or more since Jan. 1, 2021; and documents sufficient to show all donations and funding to Columbia from Qatari sources (including but not limited to the Qatar Foundation, governmental bodies, nongovernmental organizations whether incorporated in Qatar or elsewhere, and private individuals) since Jan. 1, 2021.

Besides information on foreign funding of anti-Israel protests, Foxx is also seeking communications related to any efforts by Columbia students, faculty and staff to engage in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel since Jan. 1, 2021, as well as Columbia’s budget mandates for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. 

In her letter, Foxx cited “numerous incidents of antisemitic assaults, harassment, and vandalism at Columbia,” over the past several months, including incidents of Jewish students being beaten or targeted by demonstrators who tore down posters of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas militants. 

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The letter asks the university to provide communications related to a list of specific incidents aimed at Columbia students, faculty, staff and any other affiliates since Oct. 7, including, but not limited to those directed at an Israeli student outside Columbia’s library on Oct. 11, a Jewish Columbia Law student on Oct. 19, an Israeli Columbia student on Oct. 24, and a Jewish student in a campus dining hall on Nov. 9. 

Chants have called for death to Jews and student email threads have similarly wished for death to Israel Defense Forces veterans on campus. The letter also noted how “numerous Columbia faculty have made antisemitic remarks and statements of support for Palestinian terrorism both prior to and after the October 7, 2023, terrorist attack.” 

Some of the most egregious examples, the letter said, included professor of modern Arab politics Joseph Massad penning an article after the Oct. 7 attack comparing the “Palestinian resistance” to “Europeans resisting the Nazi occupation” and also referring to Israel as “cruel colonizers” and the Palestinian Authority as “the collaborator PA.”

Massad is also accused of espousing antisemitic tropes, including calling the Israeli military “baby-killing Zionist Jewish volunteers for Israeli Jewish supremacy,” labeling Israelis “cruel and bloodthirsty colonizers,” and saying Zionism is a “genocidal cult.” The letter also cited how another university employee, Hamid Dabashi, Columbia’s Hagop Kevorkian professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature, had made numerous virulently antisemitic statements dating back years, including deeming Israel “a racist, apartheid state.” 

While Columbia suspended its campus chapters of the anti-Israel groups Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) on Nov. 10, 2023, the letter asserted that “the university has repeatedly failed to enforce this decision and has allowed these groups and others to hold unauthorized antisemitic, anti-Israel events without consequence,” the letter said.

Foxx said that stands at odds with Shafik’s Oct. 9, 2023, commitment that “our first priority has been to make sure everyone connected to Columbia is safe” and Columbia’s statement that “President Shafik has repeatedly said that we will not tolerate antisemitic actions and are moving forcefully against antisemitic threats, images, and other violations as they are reported.”

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