Pro-Palestinian Group Files Lawsuit Against Columbia University, Alleging Harassment

A pro-Palestinian group has filed a federal lawsuit against Columbia University, alleging that anti-Israel protesters affiliated with the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are facing harassment on campus.

The complaint, lodged by Palestine Legal with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, represents four pro-Palestinian students and the student group Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine.

It calls for an investigation into the university’s handling of discrimination and harassment against pro-Palestinian students under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The plaintiffs assert that they have been subjected to harassment, doxxing, and discrimination by fellow students, professors, and administrators due to their Palestinian identity and advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Maryam Alwan, one of the students represented in the suit, stated, “I’ve been harassed, doxxed, shouted down, and discriminated against simply because of my identity and my commitment to advocating for my own rights and freedoms.”

She criticized Columbia for failing to protect her from racism and abuse and accused the university of complicity by arresting and suspending her for peacefully protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza.

The lawsuit alleges that the pro-Palestinian students have faced extreme anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic harassment on campus, including death threats and derogatory epithets. Despite filing numerous complaints, the students claim that Columbia has failed to adequately address the harassment or take steps to prevent its recurrence.

Furthermore, the complaint points to Columbia President Minouche Shafik’s decision to involve the New York Police Department (NYPD) in clearing a campus anti-Israel encampment, leading to the arrest of over 100 protesters. This action, according to the plaintiffs, demonstrates differential treatment by high-ranking administrators.

The lawsuit comes amidst tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups on campus, with Jewish students expressing concerns about their safety in light of the ongoing protests. The encampment of pro-Palestine student protesters remained despite Columbia’s eviction deadline, prompting outrage from Jewish students.

Palestine Legal previously sued Columbia in partnership with the New York City Liberties Union for the alleged unlawful suspension of its SJP and Jewish Voice for Peace chapters. Columbia and Palestine Legal have yet to respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

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