Columbia Professor Behind Pro-Hamas Letter Served as 'Academic Mentor' At Palestinian University That Holds Hamas Rallies

Students at Al-Quds University honored Hamas’s 35th anniversary on campus in December

Pro-Palestinian rally at Columbia University (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
November 3, 2023

The Columbia University law professor behind an open letter defending Hamas's terrorist assault on Israel as a "military response" served as a mentor to faculty at Al-Quds University, a Palestinian school that has hosted Hamas militants at campus rallies honoring the terror group.

Katherine Franke, a "gender and sexuality" law professor at the university who serves on the executive committee of Columbia's "Center for Palestine Studies," initiated the Oct. 28 letter, which defended Hamas and expressed support for anti-Israel students. Omitted from the letter is Franke's association with Al-Quds University, where the professor served as an "academic mentor for the human rights faculty," according to her Columbia bio.

Al-Quds University is known for its close relationship with Hamas, having hosted numerous Hamas rallies over the years, including a December 2022 event that honored the terror group's 35th anniversary. A Hamas spokesman at that rally said the young "generation of the resistance is coming like a raging torrent" to "liberate Palestine from the river to the sea," and masked fighters later marched through campus carrying Hamas flags. Following Hamas's attack, meanwhile, the Palestinian school released a statement mourning the "martyrs of the nation who died yesterday in the West Bank and Gaza" as a result of Israeli "aggression." The State Department has also acknowledged the anti-Semitic extremism seen at Al-Quds University—in a 2021 report, it quoted a university professor who questioned "why the world 'weeps' over the 'so-called Holocaust.'"

Franke's willingness to advise Al-Quds professors reflects the proliferation of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activism seen among faculty at America's top universities. Fellow Columbia professor Joseph Massad, for example, called Hamas's Oct. 7 attack "awesome" and "stunning," while Cornell University professor Russell Rickford during a campus protest said the slaughtering of more than 1,400 Israelis was "energizing" and "exhilarating."

Franke did not return a request for comment, and the specifics of her role at Al-Quds university are unclear. At least one U.S. college, however, has cut ties with Al-Quds over the school's support for terrorism.

Brandeis University in 2013 ended its relationship with the Palestinian school following an Al-Quds campus rally in which "demonstrators wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons … marched while waving flags and raising the traditional Nazi salute."  Al-Quds's president responded with a statement blaming "Jewish extremists" for drawing attention to the event, a response that Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence called "unacceptable and inflammatory." Syracuse University also cut ties with Al-Quds shortly after the ordeal.

Franke's letter—which more than 100 Columbia faculty members signed—came in support of a student statement that blamed Hamas's attack on Israeli "aggression" and "apartheid" and called the Jewish state's government "fascist, racist, and colonial."

"In our view," Franke's letter says, "the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of October 7, 2023, pointing out that military operations and state violence did not begin that day, but rather it represented a military response by a people who had endured crushing and unrelenting state violence from an occupying power over many years."

In addition to her affiliation with Al-Quds, Franke—a Yale Law graduate who joined Columbia's faculty in 2000—sits on the steering committee of the Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Advisory Council, a group of "tenured professors" and other faculty that help guide the organization's anti-Israel activism.

Jewish Voice for Peace in 2019 defended anti-Semitic congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) after Omar wrote a tweet saying, "Israel has hypnotized the world." The group also organized the Oct. 18 raid on a congressional office building, which resulted in the arrests of over 300 anti-Israel demonstrators. Days later, Jewish Voice for Peace joined the Democratic Socialists of America at a "Ceasefire Now Rally for Gaza" in New York City.