Columbia Law School Dean Gives Both Sides Treatment to Hamas's Terrorist Rampage in Israel

(Reuters/Amir Cohen and
October 9, 2023

The dean of Columbia Law School, Gillian Lester, released a statement on Monday whitewashing the worst terrorist attack in Israeli history, lamenting the "violence that erupted in Israel and Gaza" without making any reference to the massacre that started it.

The statement did not mention Hamas's role in the attack, which left over 900 Israelis dead, or note that the Iranian-backed group had targeted civilians, some of whom were gang-raped.

"The violence that erupted in Israel and Gaza this past weekend is nothing short of tragic," Lester wrote in an email to students. "I know many in our community have been affected, both directly and indirectly, by the sudden escalation of conflict and the fear and uncertainty that have followed as the situation on the ground continues to evolve."

Lester's statement—which made no mention of anti-Semitism or the Jewish people—was much less aggressive than the one she made in March after a swastika was found in a law school bathroom. That "antisemitic symbol," she wrote at the time, is "starkly antithetical to our core values."

Jewish students say the contrast between the two statements is disturbing.

"It reflects an inability to fully support the Jewish people when it's hard," said Zach Becker, the president of Columbia's Jewish Law Students Association. Lester's Monday message, another student said, "suggests that she feels more upset by a swastika in the law school than the massacre of nearly 1,000 (or more) Jews."

Lester did not respond to a request for comment.

The email comes as student groups at Columbia University, including the Muslim Students Association and Columbia Law Students for Palestine, are rallying in support of Hamas. Led by Columbia's National Lawyers Guild, which did not respond to a request for comment, 15 student groups on Monday released a statement blaming the weekend's atrocities on Israel and condemning the Jewish state for fighting back.

"Israel does not have the right to defend its occupation, its apartheid state or its siege of Gaza," the statement read. "The weight of responsibility for the war and casualties undeniably lies with the Israeli extremist government and other Western governments, including the U.S. government, which fund and staunchly support Israeli aggression, apartheid and settler-colonization."

The statement's signatories also included the Conflict Resolution Collective, the Restorative Justice Collective, and the Columbia Law Students Human Rights Association.

Other Ivy League schools have seen similar outpourings of pro-Hamas sentiment. A statement by 33 student groups at Harvard University blamed Israel for the attacks on its own citizens—the university has yet to release an official statement of its own—while the dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Bridget Terry Long, appeared to draw an equivalence between Hamas and the Jewish state.

"More than 1,100 people," Long said Sunday, "have been killed and hundreds more wounded by the actions taken by Hamas and the Israeli government."

At Yale, meanwhile, a group called "Yalies4Palestine" hosted an "Indigenous Peoples' Day" rally on Monday to "uplift the calls of the resistance." In an Instagram post announcing the event, the group blamed Hamas's massacre on the "Zionist regime."

"Breaking out of a prison requires force, not desperate appeals to the colonizer," the group said of the weekend attacks, in which women were reportedly raped next to their friends' dead bodies. "Yalies4Palestine stands in unwavering support of the Palestinian people's right to resist colonial oppression."

Yalies4Palestine did not respond to a request for comment.