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Columbia student describes campus fear, anti-Israel signs supporting terrorists who 'put babies in an oven'


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As Columbia University officials continue to negotiate with a group of anti-Israel agitators who set up tents on a lawn at the heart of campus, Jewish and Israeli students say the presence and the aggression of the protesters has them afraid to walk through the area after sundown.

"I've had a friend who was beaten up," said Itai Driefuss, a third-year Columbia undergrad and Israeli military veteran from Tel Aviv. "It's scary. It's violent."

He pointed to a confrontation over the weekend where he said anti-Israel agitators confronted a group of counter-demonstrators who support the alliance between the U.S. and Israel.

"You had Jewish people holding up the American and Israeli flag, and people were holding up a sign that says, ‘Al-Quds next target,'" he said, referring to the militant Al-Quds Brigades, a Palestinian terror group aligned with Hamas. "It's the same people who do bus bombings and rape women and put babies in an oven."


On Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas launched a surprise attack that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and saw more than 200 kidnapped and held hostage. Israel's military response is still underway, and protesters at a number of large U.S. universities, including Columbia, USC, UT Austin and Yale have seen dozens of anti-Israel agitators arrested.

At Columbia, a group of protesters who set up tents on school grounds were kicked out last week, only to return with more tents and occupy the West Lawn instead. 

"It’s loud, and it’s scary, and a lot of Jewish and Israeli people don’t walk around on campus after the sun goes down," Driefuss said.

WATCH: Columbia student describes tense, scary situation on campus amid anti-Israel protests


Jewish students have told Fox News Digital they face harassment, antisemitic rhetoric and even violence in confrontations with the demonstrators. Multiple students who said they could comment on behalf of the encampment declined to speak with Fox News Digital.

Driefuss told Fox News Digital his girlfriend, also Jewish, had been followed home. He said he had been told to kill himself, spit on and shouted at. 

"I don't think that's any way to have any campus, where you have a big part of your student body just scared for their lives," he said.

Driefuss, speaking in front of a wall covered in missing person fliers dedicated to the remaining Israel hostages, said he believed the demonstrators' refusal to even speak with Jewish students or Israel supporters left them in an echo chamber to become "even more radicalized".


"I think, a lot of the narrative, especially inside the camp, is not to engage in to anyone who looks like Zionist or Jewish," he said. 

School leaders have been negotiating with the occupiers for days but have so far declined to ask police to clear them out a second time.

"I very much hope these discussions are successful," Columbia President Minouche Shafik said in a statement Thursday. "If they are not, we will have to consider alternative options for clearing the West Lawn and restoring calm to campus so that students can complete the term and graduate."

She also said the school planned to take action against students who violated the school's codes of conduct.

"We are working to identify protesters who violated our policies against discrimination and harassment, and they will be put through appropriate disciplinary processes," she said. "The right to protest is essential and protected at Columbia, but harassment and discrimination is antithetical to our values and an affront to our commitment to be a community of mutual respect and kindness."

House Speaker Mike Johnson appeared on campus Wednesday to call on Shafik to resign if the protests aren't reined in.

Some Jewish students and critics of the university's actions so far have accused the administration of antisemitic discrimination as well.

Earlier this month, another Israeli military veteran who attends Columbia filed a lawsuit accusing the school of harshly punishing him for using "fart spray" on anti-Israel activists while turning a blind eye to their antisemitic rhetoric.

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