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Columbia University Faces Backlash Over Handling of Anti-Semitic Poster Incident

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Columbia University Faces Backlash Over Handling of Anti-Semitic Poster Incident

Edited by: Fern Sidman

Columbia University’s campus has been rocked by controversy following the emergence of an anti-Semitic flier depicting a skunk adorned with the Israeli flag’s white and blue colors along with a Star of David, as was reported by the New York Post on Wednesday. The imagery, reminiscent of Nazi propaganda tactics, has elicited widespread condemnation and sparked outrage within the Jewish community.

The Anti-Defamation League for New York and New Jersey swiftly condemned the poster, denouncing it as an attempt to vilify Jewish and Israeli students on campus while fostering an increasingly hostile environment, according to the report in the Post. The organization criticized the Columbia administration for what it perceived as a failure to take prompt action to address the issue.

“The skunk poster evokes classic anti-Semitic tropes that are instantly familiar to anyone who has seen Nazi propaganda,” remarked Michelle Ahdoot, Director of Programming and Strategy at End Jew Hatred, highlighting the disturbing parallels between the flier and historical anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Post reported. Ahdoot emphasized the need for concrete measures to combat Jew-hatred on campus, including imposing consequences on individuals and organizations perpetuating discriminatory behavior.

The discovery of the poster was brought to public attention by Shai Davidai, an Assistant Professor at Columbia’s business school, who condemned the depiction of Israelis as skunks. As was noted in the Post report, Davidai raised concerns about the implications of such imagery, drawing attention to the university’s response—or lack thereof—to the incident.

“If any other group was depicted as animals, the school would have already called the FBI to investigate,” Davidai asserted, according to the report in the Post and questioned Columbia University’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism and ensuring the safety of its students.

“This poster seen today on campus depicts all Israelis as skunks. If any other group was depicted as animals, the school would have already called the FBI to investigate,” he wrote on X, according to the Post report. “What’s next? All Jews are vermin? Columbia University – what the f*** are you waiting for?”

 In response to inquiries, a Columbia University spokesperson acknowledged the posters’ presence on campus and condemned them as “abhorrent and anti-Semitic.” The report in the Post also said that the administration stated that the posters were promptly removed upon discovery, and a report was filed under the university’s anti-discrimination policies.

Despite calls for transparency regarding the origins of the flier and consequences for those responsible, Columbia University declined to provide further details, the Post report noted.  Instead, they referenced a previous announcement by University President Minouche Shafik regarding the formation of a task force to combat anti-Semitism.

“We want to reiterate that we will not tolerate such actions and are moving forcefully against anti-Semitic threats, images, and other violations as they are reported,” Shafik declared in a statement, reaffirming the university’s commitment to addressing anti-Semitism on campus.

Criticism has been directed at Columbia’s task force formed to combat anti-Semitism, with questions raised about its effectiveness and actions taken since its inception. The lack of clarity surrounding the task force’s initiatives and its intended course of action in addressing the offensive poster has drawn condemnation from various quarters.

The grotesque depiction featured on the poster has raised suspicions among online observers, with some speculating a possible connection to a recent incident at an anti-Israel demonstration held at Columbia University, the Post report said. During the protest, demonstrators alleged being sprayed with a noxious chemical, likened to “skunk water,” which led to symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and nausea.

Members of suspended university groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, recounted the encounter, alleging that unidentified individuals sprayed them with the chemical outside the Low Library, according to information provided in the Post report. Reports linking the incident to the use of “skunk water” by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have fueled speculation about the origins and motivations behind the anti-Semitic poster.

As Columbia grapples with the fallout from these troubling incidents, calls for greater accountability and proactive measures to ensure the safety of the Jewish community on campus have grown louder. The university’s response, or lack thereof, will undoubtedly shape perceptions of its commitment to fostering a campus environment free from discrimination and intolerance.



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