Fact Check: Columbia Professor Says Student Protesters Have Not Called for Violence Against Civilians

'They have not shouted out slogans … in support of Hamas or the wanton destruction of civilian lives,' says Bruce Robbins

April 29, 2024

Columbia University humanities professor Bruce Robbins said student protesters at the school have not called for the "destruction of civilian lives"—just two days after a video surfaced showing a student protest leader calling for the death of "Zionists."

"The people in the encampment, what we call the encampment—that's the protesters at Columbia—they have not shouted out slogans, chanted slogans, in support of Hamas or the wanton destruction of civilian lives," Robbins said during a Sunday CNN appearance.

"I have not heard anything even remotely like that."

Just two days earlier, on Thursday, a resurfaced video showed Columbia student protest leader Khymani James saying Zionists "don't deserve to live." James also likened Zionists to white supremacists and Nazis, saying, "These are all the same people."

"The existence of them and the projects they have built, i.e. Israel, it's all antithetical to peace," he said in a video he posted to Instagram. "And so, yes, I feel very comfortable, very comfortable, calling for those people to die."

"Be grateful that I'm not just going out and murdering Zionists."

James was a regular presence in the encampment before Columbia barred him from campus on Friday, addressing reporters during student press conferences. At one point, he mobilized students in the encampment to remove "Zionists" who he said entered the space.

"Repeat after me! We have Zionists! Who have entered the camp!" James chanted. He went on to lead students to form a "human chain" and slowly push the "Zionists" out of the area.

Robbins did not respond to a request for comment.

The declaration from James that he was "comfortable" calling for Zionists "to die" came "during and after a disciplinary hearing with Columbia administrators that he recorded and then posted on Instagram," according to the New York Times. Columbia only barred James from campus after the video went viral online.

In addition to James, one keffiyeh-clad student protester was photographed holding a sign pointing at a group of Jewish students with the caption "Al-Qassam's Next Targets," a reference to the Hamas military wing that carried out the terror attacks in Israel on Oct. 7. Another live streamed a speech that called for "escalation" and glorified the attacks.

Verdict: We rate this claim 5 Clintons.
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