A letter signed by over 75 professors at Columbia University in New York City defended the claim that the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7 can be viewed as a "military action" that must be put "within the larger context of the occupation of Palestine by Israel."
The new letter, titled "Grave Concerns About the Well-Being of Our Students," sought to defend an earlier statement from students that said "if every political avenue available to Palestinians is blocked, we should not be surprised when resistance and violence break out."
The letter expressed concern that pro-Palestinian students at Columbia have been "viciously targeted with doxing, public shaming, surveillance by members of our community, including other students, and reprisals from employers."
"In our view, the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of Oct. 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," the professors' statement continued. "One could regard the events of Oct. 7 as just one salvo in an ongoing war between an occupying state and the people it occupies, or as an occupied people exercising a right to resist violent and illegal occupation."
The statement also appeared to defend the students' calls for Columbia to cancel all academic partnerships with Israeli institutions and the false description of Israel as an "apartheid state." The professors also noted that the student letter demanded "the university cease issuing statements that favor the suffering and death of Israelis or Jews over the suffering and death of Palestinians, and/or that fail to recognize how challenging this time has been for all students, not just some."
The letter was signed by well known academics such as Rashid Khalidi, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Mahmood Mamdani, and Nadia Abu El-Haj, among others.
The statement came two weeks after an Israeli student at Columbia University was beaten with a stick on the school campus by another student in an apparent hate crime. The incident was not mentioned in the letter.
Following Hamas' invasion, a large rally was held on Columbia's campus in which demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted "From the river to the sea" — a slogan commonly used to refer to the erasure of Israel from the map — and "Palestine is here and proud."
Prominent American universities such as Columbia and Harvard, among others, have faced widespread backlash from students, alumni, and donors in the wake of what many argue were insufficient responses to antisemitism on campus since Oct. 7.
Hamas' Oct. 7 onslaught was the deadliest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.