Q+A: Professor says Columbia University does 'nothing' to keep Jews safe on campus

'Imagine that a professor at Columbia University...praised the horrific murder of George Floyd or the brutal shooting of LGBTQ individuals in the Orlando nightclub shooting as 'awesome'. '

Earlier this week, Shai Davidai, an assistant professor at Columbia University’s business school, publicly blasted his employer for its refusal to denounce student organizations supporting the terrorist group Hamas. 

Campus Reform Student Reporter William Biagini recently conducted a written question-and-answer interview with Professor Davidai to get his thoughts on Jewish and Israeli safety concerns in universities around the country. 

WB: Columbia University reportedly refused to condemn a faculty member who described the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel as “awesome” despite the fact that a petition demanding his ouster gained more than 45,000 signatures. Additionally, a 24-year-old Israeli student was physically assaulted at Columbia after confronting a woman who was tearing down posters of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas. What do you think these incidents say about antisemitic sentiments that seem to be rampant at Columbia University, which you criticized last Wednesday?

SD: This is a great question. I think that we need to consider this question in the broader sense. Imagine that a professor at Columbia University - or any university in the United States for that matter - praised the horrific murder of George Floyd or the brutal shooting of LGBTQ individuals in the Orlando nightclub shooting as “awesome”. Or, imagine that in the aftermath of Dylan Roof’s horrible shooting of African Americans at a bible study, an African American student was physically assaulted merely for raising awareness for the issue. How would have universities around the country reacted? How would the media have reacted? It’s clear to all of us that such brutality - verbal and physical - would have been immediately stamped out from any decent institution around the country. So, we should forward your question to the leadership of every university around the U.S. - why is this any different? Why are your treating Jewish victims of rape, murder, and kidnapping differently than any other victim?” 

WB: Campus Reform has been regularly covering pro-Palestinian and pro-Hamas student rallies and related situations across the country. In one instance, a Students for Justice in Palestine leader at Youngstown State University even said ”why should I condemn anything?” when questioned about the terrorist attacks. While some universities have publicly supported Israel and denounced the terrorist, many are choosing to remain silent. In your opinion as a professor, why do you think that is? 

SD: We have to make a clear distinction here between the tens of thousands of decent students all around the country who really want to stand up for what’s right and the extremists terror-sympathizers who have taken over these organizations and use them to disseminate hate and celebrate crimes against humanity. These tens of thousands of decent  students want to stand up for Palestinians’ right for a sovereign nation. And let me be clear: I stand with them. 

Yet, the pro-terror extremists who have taken over these organizations use vacuous slogans and academic whitewashing to promote hate and violence. You can be both pro-Palestine AND anti-terror. I know, because I am. In fact, if you truly believe in social justice you should stand up against rape and the murdering of babies in their cribs no matter the identity of the victim. You can say I support the Palestinian cause but I wholeheartedly denounce the Hamas. And every student should ask themself this very simple question: is this what you truly stand for? Do you stand for rape as a legitimate act? Do you stand for burning babies alive as a legitimate act?

WB: You reportedly said that you fear for your safety and were shivering at your place of employment which, in your words, is supposed to keep you safe. Since the start of the assault on Israel began on Oct. 7, has Columbia University done anything (either by internal or external communication) to at least acknowledge what its Israeli and Jewish communities might be going through right now?  

SD: I’ll be as clear as I can. Columbia has done NOTHING. Millions of people around the world has watched the video of me pleading with the university to protect me. Thousands have reached out personally with their own stories of fear on their college campuses. Yet, not even a single person from Columbia’s administration has had the human decency of even reaching out and seeing how I’m doing. Not a single person from the university has reached out to ask if there’s any way they can help me - their employee - to feel safer. I haven’t felt safe going into my very own office for the past two weeks, and the university has done NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

WB: What would you tell other Jewish and Israeli students and faculty who might also be fearing for their physical safety due to the rise in pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses today? 

SD: First of all - please make a clear distinction between pro-Hamas and pro-Palestinian. They are not the same thing. Hamas is an internationally recognized terror organization. They and their supporters should be eradicated from all U.S. campuses. Just like we wouldn’t accept pro-Isis, pro-Al Qaeda, or pro-KKK student organizations to roam freely on campus, we shouldn’t allow any terror-sympathizing organizations to operate on campus. You can - and should - be pro-Palestinian and still denounce the Hamas. I consider myself pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, because the two are not mutually exclusive. Hamas does not stand for the peaceful and decent values of millions of Palestinians. 

So, I encourage students and faculty all over the country - not just Israeli or Jewish students and faculty, but anyone who has the decency to say that rape is NEVER ok - to speak up. To raise their voices. To write to their administration and demand a clear stance against on-campus terror-sympathizer. To call your city council member, your mayor, your governor, your senator, and ask them to eradicate terror-supporting organizations from campus. To stop giving money to universities that allow pro-terror organizations to roam freely on campus. To call you local police force and file a complaint against organizations that support terror on your campus. It might feel like an uphill battle, but if history has taught us anything, it’s that we can win this because we are on the right side of history. This is not new - it’s a continuation of America’s war on terror, and right now the war on terror is happening all across the country on U.S. campuses.