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Columbia bans protest leader from campus

Columbia University banned Khymani James, a 20-year-old pro-Palestinian student protest organizer, from its campus on Friday after it was reported he previously made violent remarks toward Zionists.

“I want to make clear that calls of violence and statements targeted at individuals based on their religious, ethnic or national identity are unacceptable and violate university policy,” the university spokesperson said.

Earlier this week, it emerged that James, who is a student spokesman for the Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition, made anti-Zionist remarks during a disciplinary hearing in January. 

In the video recording, James said that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and people should “be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.”

James took to X to apologize for his violent words, but he also expressed he was “frustrated” that his words “have become a distraction from the movement of Palestine liberation.”

“I also want people to have more context for my words, which I regret,” James said in a statement shared on X. “Far right agitators went through months of my social media feed until they found a clip that they edited without context. When I recorded it, I had been unusually upset after an online mob targeted me because I am visibly black and Queer.”

The January disciplinary hearing was focused on a social media comment James made in which he insinuated that he would kill Zionists. 

“Zionists in my DMs wanting to meet up and fight,” James wrote. “I don’t fight to injure or for there to be a winner or loser. I fight to kill. See y’all in New York in January 2024.”

When questioned by university representatives regarding his comments, James stood by what he said, saying that “in certain case scenarios,” taking someone’s life is “better for the overall world.”

After the video call ended, James went on a rant explaining why Zionists needed to die.

“If we can agree as a society, as a collective, that people, that persons, some persons need to die if they have an ideology that that results in the death of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions — if there are people like that who exist, shouldn’t they die?” James said. “Why would we want people who are supporters of genocide to live? I’m confused! Zionists, along with all white supremacists, needs to not exist because they actively kill and harm vulnerable people.”

James’s comments were condemned by the White House.

“These dangerous, appalling statements turn the stomach and should serve as a wakeup call,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement. “It is hideous to advocate for the murder of Jews. President Biden has been clear that violent rhetoric, hate speech, and Antisemitic remarks have no place in America whatsoever, and he will always stand against them.” 

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik has garnered criticism from both pro-Palestinian protest supporters and members of the Jewish over her handling of the now over a weeklong protest.

On Friday, the university’s senate voted in favor of creating a task force to investigate the university leadership, alleging that by calling for police intervention on campus, the university violated shared governance principles.

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