Columbia suspends ‘Zionists must die’ video student encampment leader

Khymani James, who declared ‘I fight to kill’, has been placed under an interim suspension, it is understood


Khymani James has said he 'misspoke' and was 'feeling unusually upset' when he made the series of incendiary remarks

Columbia University has suspended a student leader of the anti-Israel encampment after a video emerged in which he declared “Zionists don’t deserve to live”, it is understood.

Khymani James was banned from the New York campus last week after remarks he made in January resurfaced online along with a proclamation he made that he “fight[s] to kill”, though it was not clear if this bar was temporary or permanent.

James, 20, who has acted as a spokesman for the anti-Israel movement at Columbia, made the comments before, during and after a disciplinary hearing with university administrators that he recorded and posted on Instagram.

The hearing focussed on a comment James had shared online, in which he discussed fighting a Zionist: “I don’t fight to injure or for there to be a winner or a loser, I fight to kill,” he said.

Asked by a university administrator if he could see why such a statement was “problematic in any way”, James responded: “No”.

Likening Zionists to white supremacists and Nazis he claimed they are “all the same people”, adding: “The existence of them and the projects they have built, i.e. Israel, it’s all antithetical to peace. It’s all antithetical to peace. And so, yes, I feel very comfortable, very comfortable, calling for those people to die.”

Last week, as it came under mounting pressure to act against antisemitism Columbia announced that it had barred James from campus, though it did not specify if this ban comprised a suspension or permanent expulsion.

Now, it appears James has been suspended. A notification sent from Columbia to James shows the student has been placed under an “interim suspension”, according to the New York Times.

On Friday, after the video drew widespread attention, James posted a statement on X/Twitter, admitting that “what I said was wrong”, adding he had been “feeling unusually upset” at the time.

He also said that he had made the comments prior to his involvement with Columbia University Apartheid Divest coalition and the encampment.

The statement, which focused on the racist and homophobic abuse to which he said he had been subjected reiterated his belief that “Zionism is an ideology that necessitates the genocide of the Palestinian people”.

James also said he was “frustrated that words I said in an Instagram Live video have become a distraction for the movement for Palestinian people”, adding: “I misspoke in the moment, for which I apologise.”

A spokesman for the Ivy League university said on Friday: “Calls of violence and statements targeted at individuals based on their religious, ethnic or national identity are unacceptable and violate university policy.”

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