Columbia University suspended two student organizations that have led protests calling for a cease-fire in Israel’s war on Hamas militants in Gaza, which has killed thousands of civilians, the university announced Friday.
University Vice President Gerald Rosberg cited campus safety in announcing that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) will be suspended through the end of the fall semester.
“This decision was made after the two groups repeatedly violated University policies related to holding campus events, culminating in an unauthorized event Thursday afternoon that proceeded despite warnings and included threatening rhetoric and intimidation,” he said.
On Thursday, hundreds of Columbia students walked out of their classes for a protest hosted by the two organizations urging the U.S. government to back a cease-fire in the conflict.
Both groups have a presence on dozens of college campuses nationwide and have led controversial protests against the Israeli and U.S. governments.
The war in Gaza began in early October after Hamas militants killed more than a thousand Israeli civilians in a surprise attack on border communities. Hamas is a designated terrorist organization by the U.S. government.
Israeli air strikes and a ground campaign in Gaza have since killed more than 10,000 Palestinians, including more than 4,000 children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Some SJP chapters have been accused of explicitly endorsing Hamas and using antisemitic slogans. Students protesting against Israel have drawn criticism from politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, who have threatened to deport foreign students for offending speech.
JVP describes itself as a Jewish “anti-Zionist” organization, a political position opposing the Israeli state, which some view as antisemitic.
“During this especially charged time on our campus, we are strongly committed to giving space to student groups to participate in debate, advocacy, and protest,” Rosberg said. “This relies on community members abiding by the rules and cooperating with University administrators who have a duty to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.”
Last month, the SJP chapter at George Washington University was sanctioned for projecting messages on a university building, which some viewed as antisemitic, such as “Divestment from Zionist genocide now” and “Free Palestine From the River to the Sea.”
“Glory to our martyrs” was also projected, with some arguing it referred to the Palestinians who have died in the Israel-Hamas war and others saying it is honoring Hamas militants who invaded Israel on Oct. 7.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) instructed public universities in the state to shut down chapters of SJP last month. Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., banned the group from its campus Monday, becoming the first private university to do so.
JVP led multiple protests in the Capitol Building in the last month, including a sit-in at the Cannon House Office Building. Both groups were among those affiliated with the pro-Palestine march in Washington on Saturday, which included tens of thousands of protesters.
Rival protests from pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli student groups have put extreme pressure on college campuses and administrators trying to balance free speech issues with concerns over safety.
The issue’s prevalence has also increased threats of both antisemitic and Islamophobic hate nationwide.
FBI Director Christopher Wray warned of “historic” levels of antisemitism late last month.
“The reality is that the Jewish community is uniquely targeted by pretty much every terrorist organization across the spectrum,” he said.
Arab and Muslim Americans are also facing increased discrimination, advocates said.
“The level of anti-Arab hate and rhetoric hasn’t been this high since the aftermath of 9/11. It is far worse than the Trump years,” Abed Ayoub, the national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said on X, formerly known as Twitter.