Hunter Investigates Pro-Palestinian Student Groups Following Recent On-Campus Protest

College students across New York City gathered in front of Hunter’s West Building on Feb. 28 for a pro-Palestinian protest. (Photo Credit: CUNY NION Jewish Antizionist Collective)

Hunter College said they were conducting an investigation into pro-Palestinian student groups on alleged accounts of physical intimidation and hate speech against Jewish students during a protest held on Feb. 28.

In an interview with diasporic magazine New York Jewish Weekly, a Hunter spokesperson reprimanded the language used during the protest, which included protestors chanting for Jewish students to “pick a side.”  The spokesperson, whose identity was not explicitly named, said it was “neither constructive nor civil,” and that the college opened an investigation regarding the protest and plans to take “appropriate action.” 

A Hunter College spokesperson did not reply to requests for comment to the Athenian. 

Tensions between Palestinian, Muslim, Israeli and Jewish students on campus have increased following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, incited by what some say is a 76-year long apartheid of Palestine. Several protests, mainly organized by the Hunter student group Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA), have since demanded CUNY divest from companies that manufacture Israeli weaponry and act in solidarity with its Muslim and Arab populations.

The protest on Feb. 28, endorsed by PSA, was hosted by a coalition of several NYC Jewish student organizations such as the CUNY “Not in Our Name” (NION) Jewish Antizionist Collective and Columbia University’s chapter of the Jewish Voice for Peace, the latter of which is currently suing Columbia for suspending them from organizing on their campus. 

Keffiyehs and Stars of David either clashed or stood united as protestors called Hillel complicit in the Israel-Hamas war, and urged Jewish students to “pick a side” in a video that has spread online. 

“For too long, Hillel International has forced Jewish students to contend with an ultimatum: accept Hillel chapters’ mandatory pro-Israel programming or go without Jewish community,” said PSA in their statement. “Hillel International has played a critical role in indoctrinating Jewish youths into Zionism and distorting values of Jewish community— not only forcing surveillance agencies onto campus, but recruiting students themselves to act as surveillance agents.”



In an interview with The Athenian, Sara (who declined to give her last name for privacy purposes), the president of the PSA,  said their Jewish ally from NION chanted “Pick a side,” “because they believe in “Judaism on their own terms, [which] includes building alternative spaces for the Jewish community on our campuses that are free of racist violence.” 

The Feb. 28 protest advocated for a separation between Judaism and Zionism, and a ceasefire in Gaza. Faces were blurred by NION for privacy. (Photo Credit: CUNY NION Jewish Antizionist Collective)

The Hillel at Hunter chapter publicly condemned the protest, posting a statement to their Instagram that referred to the protest chants as “deeply hateful” and said that calling Hillel complicit “plays on age-old antisemitic tropes.” 

In an online letter to the CUNY Community released on Mar. 13, NION and PSA claimed that Hillel sent a letter to Hunter administration alleging that protesters physically intimidated students and engaged with hate speech. 

“We will continue hard in partnership with Hunter and CUNY to make clear that the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students will not be tolerated, and then take real steps to, once again, make Hunter a welcome place for Jewish students,” said Hillel in the statement.

Interim President Ann Kirschner released a statement on Mar. 7 to the Hunter community, where she calls the speech used as one that “many found offensive, hurtful, and replete with accusations against members of Hunter College’s Jewish community, including staff and students who are associated with the organization Hillel.”

Sara called the accusations of intimidation and harassment wrongful and false.

The Feb. 28 protest advocated for a separation between Judaism and Zionism, and a ceasefire in Gaza. Faces were blurred by NION for privacy. (Photo Credit: CUNY NION Jewish Antizionist Collective)

Their [Hillel] members were evidently proven to be seen at our rallies, as always, taking pictures of our members as they laughed and yelled,” said Sara, who later specified  in an Mar. 5 Instagram post that two Hillel members and a Hunter professor allegedly were behind such behavior.

“It is deeply ironic that the administration is only now deciding to investigate the incident and take appropriate actions against false accusations, despite our students seeking an intervention since October 7th,” said the post.

A CUNY spokesperson also told the New York Jewish Weekly that the university distributed $1.3 million in funding to its campuses to combat antisemitism and anti-hate. During this academic year, CUNY has partnered with Hillel’s International Campus Climate Initiative and the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism in order to foster safe spaces for Jewish CUNY students. 

Sara said that administrative decisions such as the investigation, and social media have created “an extremely unsafe space for our members.”

“We have been recently receiving threats online of people saying that Hunter should be ‘9/11’ and others saying ‘This post brings out the ‘hunter’ in me! Bow or rifle, I am proficient with either,’” said Sara. “We experienced doxxing outside Hunter and our members were posted on Canary Mission [a website listing college students and faculty on accounts of anti-semitism] and wrongfully arrested, but our college refused to take any steps to protect us. We stand by our anti-zionist Jewish brothers and sisters as we are one in this movement.”

In her statement, Kirschner referred to the social media comments made by zionists and anti-Palestinian supporters against PSA (though didn’t mention the organization explicitly), calling them “disturbing.”

Hillel at Hunter did not respond to The Athenian’s request for comment. 

Samuel S., a junior and Jewish student on campus who declined to give his full last name for security purposes, said while he believes asking students to pick a side is a complex statement and such antagonism is “the last thing our campus needs,” he doesn’t consider it as antisemitic as “there definitely needs to be a clear and understandable division between zionism and Judaism.”

“MSA [Muslim Student Association] and PSA voices should always take priority, especially in the wake of this conflict, and no one Jew speaks for all of us, regardless of political ideation,” said Samuel. “While I might agree with the intent of the protest, that Jewish students should have a space free of zionism, I disagree with stoking any kind of tension between groups on campus.”

However, he also chooses to refrain from being a part of Hillel as it “likes to think it’s the end all be all of Jewish spaces on campus, but the reality is that it remains a space where zionists can congregate and spread violent rhetoric.” 

“I’m all for freedom of speech on campus, it’s one of the most important things a campus can provide!” Samuel said. “But when one group has significantly more of an advantage over another group, it needs to be addressed.” 

 As of Jan. 7, there have been 3,283 antisemitic incidents since the Israeli-Hamas war started, according to data from Jewish advocacy group Anti-Defamation League. A similar surge has occurred in anti-Muslim and Palestinian incidents, of which there are estimated to be around 3,578 as of December, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We ask the administration to put their political allegiances aside and prioritize the safety and inclusivity of our campus community,” said PSA in a Mar. 5 Instagram post.

In spite of ongoing investigations, the group hosted another protest in front of Hunter’s Kaye Playhouse on Mar. 14. In the promotional flier for the event, their message is simple, but rings clear:

“The more you try to silence us, the louder we will be.”





















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