Leader of Columbia Gaza tent protest: ‘Zionists don’t deserve to live’

Columbia University student Khymani James said during a livestream in January: ‘Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists’


Khymani James, a junior at Columbia University and leading organiser of Columbia's Gaza Solidarity Encampment, said during a livestream in January that "Zionists don't deserve to live." (Photo: Screenshot via X)

One of the student leaders of Columbia University’s Gaza Solidarity Encampment has been criticised after saying during a livestream in January that “Zionists don’t deserve to live.”

James – who uses he/she/they pronouns – filmed himself during an official university inquiry into a social media post in which the Columbia third-year student warned Zionists who may want to “meet up and fight” and that he “fights to kill.”

“Do you see why that’s problematic in any way?" the representative from Columbia’s Center for Student Success and Intervention asks James, 20, during the hearing, to which he replied: “No.”

Questioned about the “weight of taking someone else’s life,” James said that “taking someone’s life in certain case scenarios is necessary and better for the overall world. And so, I personally have never killed anyone – thank the Lord that no one has put me in that position.”

James then invokes the example of Hitler’s death as a time when “the world rejoiced,” and added that, similarly, “Haitian slaves had to kill their masters in order to gain independence.”

“These were masters who were white supremacists. What is a Zionist? A white supremacist,” James said.

“I’m not saying I’m going to go out and start killing Zionists. What I'm saying is that if an individual who identifies as a Zionist threatens my physical safety in person, i.e. puts their hands on me, I am going to defend myself and in that case scenario, it may come to a point where I don’t know when to stop.”

Doubling down on the post that sparked his hearing with the university’s case management team, James said: “There should not be Zionists anywhere. Zionists are Nazis.”

During a break from the hearing, James addresses the camera directly, calling the meeting a “joke.”

“They definitely were hoping that I was going to walk back the ‘I fight to kill,’” he said, laughing.

It is unclear what the result of the proceeding was, and Columbia’s Center for Student Success and Intervention has not responded to requests for comment.

James continued to speak to the camera after the conclusion of the meeting, saying: “Zionists, along with all white supremacists, need to not exist because they actively kill and harm vulnerable people.

“And so, be glad. Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists. I’ve never murdered anyone in my life and I hope to keep it that way.”

“Zionists, they don’t deserve to live comfortably,” James added. “Zionists don’t deserve to live. The same way we’re very comfortable accepting that Nazis don’t deserve to live, fascists don’t deserve to live, racists don’t deserve to live – Zionists, they shouldn’t live in this world.

James also called Nazis, white supremacists and Zionists “all the same people” and said their existence is “antithetical to peace.”

A spokesperson of the Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD) group, James has been a highly visible organiser of the school’s ongoing Gaza Solidarity Encampment. He went viral earlier this week for leading a human chain of protesters to push pro-Israel students out of the encampment, prompting the crowd of protesters to repeat after him in unison: “We have Zionists who have entered the camp,” before verbally repeating, in unison, his instructions to block the unwelcome students from advancing.

On Friday, James issued a statement on X in which he apologised for his comments in January’s livestream, admitting that “what I said was wrong” while going on to provide “more context for my words, which I regret.”

“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 feeling unusually upset after an online mob targeted me because I am visibly queer and Black.

“CUAD and the Gaza Solidarity Encampment have made clear that my words in January, prior to my involvement in CUAD, are not in line with the CUAD guidelines. I agree with their assessment.”

“I misspoke in the heat of the moment, for which I apologise,” James said.

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