Extremist rhetoric escalates among campus anti-Israel protesters

'Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists,' a Columbia protest leader recorded himself saying

As an attempt to shut down the anti-Israel encampment that has been on campus for more than a week, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik entered negotiations with student protestors. Among her interlocutors is Khymani James, a student quoted in national news outlets including CBS News who was described as a protest organizer in a recent interview with the Columbia Spectator.

Newly unearthed footage of James, posted on his public Instagram in January and published by The Daily Wire on Thursday, reveals a radical side of the Columbia junior. In the video, which James described as a recording of a conversation with a school official who called to discipline him after he posted a threat against Zionist students, the Columbia junior spoke at length about his hatred of Zionists and his belief that they should not be alive. (James was also recorded in a video at the encampment encouraging protestors to form a human chain to keep “Zionists” out of the camp.)

“Zionists don’t deserve to live,” James said in the January video. “Zionists, along with all white supremacists, need to not exist.”

“Be grateful,” he said, “that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists. I’ve never murdered anyone in my life and I hope to keep it that way.” A Columbia spokesperson told Jewish Insider on Thursday that such statements are “unacceptable, full stop,” but declined to comment specifically on James’ case and whether he will face disciplinary action. (At 1:30 a.m. on Friday morning, James released a statement expressing “regret” for the comments in the Instagram video. “Every member of our community deserves to feel safe without qualification,” wrote James, who added that Zionism “necessitates the genocide of the Palestinian people” and “I oppose that in the strongest terms.”)

As similar encampments have spread to dozens of universities around the country, James isn’t the only student protestor promoting violence against Zionists. A growing number of campus activists have veered into extremism — including demanding the expulsion of Zionists from their campuses, calling for the destruction of the state of Israel and promoting their messages in terrorist-aligned social media channels. At Columbia, some protestors called on Jewish students who walked by to “go back to Belarus” and “go back to Poland.”

Student organizers of campus anti-Israel encampments at several universities have taken to Telegram, a messaging app, to spread their message and elicit support, donations and advocacy from other students and outside supporters. 

A channel run by the organizers of the encampment at New York University, which was shut down by the university on Monday, posted a message on Wednesday encouraging supporters to follow another Telegram channel called “Resistance News Network,” where organizers said people could stay informed about updates on the situation in Gaza. (It is not known who sent the message, as Telegram allows users to remain anonymous.)

“Resistance News Network” is a channel that is closely associated with Hamas and other terrorist groups. Its pinned post — the post to which it directs all new members of the channel — is a message posted early on Oct. 7 with a video from Hamas’ military chief, praising the group’s terror attack in Israel and calling on supporter to take up arms. Several times a day, the Telegram channel posts messages praising Hamas attacks on the “Zionist enemy” in Gaza and quoting propaganda from other terror groups like Hezbollah and the Houthis. 

NYU spokesperson John Beckman told JI that the “matter has been referred to our Bias Response Line for investigation.” 

“NYU takes very seriously instances and allegations of antisemitism, exhortations of violence, and our responsibility to create a safe and welcoming environment for all NYU students,” Beckman said.

The “Resistance News Network” channel has cheered the anti-Israel encampments, and on Thursday it posted a message from Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a U.S.-designated terrorist organization — calling on Arab students to “follow … the example of American universities.” 

Members of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at The Ohio State University shared a message with the “Resistance News Network” channel on Thursday asking members of the Hamas-aligned Telegram channel to support them and to stand with other SJP chapters. 

“We ask for you all to pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Gaza, and to support your local SJP as they combat the controlling powers that have stripped the world of any decency,” the message said. 

An Ohio State spokesperson said “there is no ongoing encampment or continuous demonstration at Ohio State,” noting that the gathering had been broken up by campus officials earlier on Thursday. But the spokesperson declined to comment on the SJP chapter seeking support in a Hamas-aligned forum.

At Princeton, a university staff member posted a photo to the social media platform X of a person at the encampment — where at least one professor has held their classes this week — holding a Hezbollah flag.

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