Outspoken pro-Israel Columbia professor denied entry into ‘liberated zone’ encampment

An assistant business professor at Columbia University and Israel native, Shai Davidai, was dumbfounded Monday morning after he was barred from entry into the campus’s “liberated zone.” 

Davidai and other pro-Israel demonstrators were outside the campus gate, hoping to enter, video footage posted to X showed. The encampment was set up at the university in opposition to Israel and in support of Palestinians amid the conflict in Gaza.

Davidai claimed his identification card had been deactivated as school officials said they could not ensure his safety. An estimated 200 pro-Palestinian protesters were on the campus at the time, with the students likely needing to have their IDs to get in. 

Standing outside the gate to speak with Davidai was Columbia University Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway, who told Davidai he could gain access to the university from a different part of campus.

“I am a professor here; I have every right to be everywhere on campus; you can not let people that support Hamas on campus, and me, a professor, not go on campus. Let me in now,” Davidai shouted.

The pro-Israeli protesters surrounding Davidai started chanting “Let Shai in.”

Davidai has been a strong opponent of the university’s handling of the pro-Palestinian protests on campus. He went so far as to go on an Israeli news show and say the students protesting were engaging in “terrorism.”

“What we are seeing now at Columbia, and I don’t use this word lightly,” Davidai said. “We are seeing terrorism.”

Davidai’s characterization of the protesters comes after a Jewish student filed a hate crime, alleging he was hit in the head with rocks by pro-Palestinian protesters on Saturday night due to arriving on campus with Israeli flags. The New York Police Department and New York City Mayor Eric Adams have stated there is little police can do to quell the protests without the university’s approval since it is private property.

“As a general matter, and this goes back many years, Columbia does not want the NYPD on campus,” Mike Gerber, NYPD deputy commissioner of legal matters, said.

Davidai’s plea has gained sympathy with Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), who compared the move by the university to Nazi’s antisemitic policies. 

While some, such as Dividai, are announcing their opposition to the encampment protests, other faculty are showing their support. Nearly a hundred Columbia faculty members held a mass walk-out on Monday to protest the institution for calling the police last week on the students inside the pro-Palestinian encampment.

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Columbia University President Minouche Shafik was accused of “gross negligence” in testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee last week as the encampment began to be set up. All ten House Republicans from New York have called for her resignation.

In person classes on Monday were canceled, and last week a rabbi called for Jewish students to stay home.

The Washington Examiner reached out to Columbia University for comment.

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