Last month, two civil rights complaints were filed against Columbia University in the wake of the Trump administration’s recent executive order on campus antisemitism.
The Lawfare Project launched the first complaint on behalf of Jonathan Karten, a Jewish Israeli-American student who claims he was a victim of “systematic discrimination” from professors and pro-Palestine groups such as Students for Justice for Palestine (SJP) and Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD). Days later, Jaimie Kreitman filed a complaint in regards to her time at the school as a graduate student in the 1980s. Krietman claims that she faced “hostility and toxicity” from students and professors during her studies.
On December 11, President Trump signed an executive order that effectively interprets Judaism as a race, thus allowing the Department of Education to crack down on alleged campus antisemitism via civil rights law. The order relies on an interpretation of antisemitism that includes some criticisms of Israel and many worry that it will be used as a tool to wield against pro-Palestine campus groups. If schools are found to be in violation of the order, they could have their federal funding cut.
The Lawfare Project leaves no question to whether or not its complaint was inspired by Trump’s move. “The culture of discrimination against Jewish students at Columbia University is untenable, as it is at so many colleges and universities in the United States,” declared its Executive Director Brooke Goldstein, “Now, thanks to President Trump’s recent Executive Order—which includes Jewish people among those protected under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act,—we have a legal avenue to stop this type of hatred from being perpetuated in our schools.”
“Israel proxy groups predictably fired off an egregious attack on campus free speech within a week of Trump’s anti-Palestinian executive order to chill advocacy for Palestinian rights,” said Palestine Legal senior staff attorney Radhika Sainath in a statement, “We expect Columbia to stand up to bullying attempts to censor critical discussion and scholarship and fully protect its students and professors from right-wing censorship attempts.”
The Lawfare Project complaint specifically references Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of campus events that are organized to educate students on the realities of the occupation. It also takes aim at the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, asserting that BDS is “hateful” and “unlawful.”