Israeli Student at Columbia University: ‘I’m Worried About My Personal Safety’

Human Rights Council
RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – The daughter of the Israeli consul-general in New York, who is a student at Columbia University, says she does not feel safe on campus amid threats from pro-Palestinian students. 

24-year-old Ofir Dayan, the daughter of Dani Dayan, told the New York Post that despite having served as an officer in the Israeli military in very hostile environments, including Gaza and Lebanon, nothing prepared her for what she would encounter from her fellow students.

“SJP is violent,” she told the paper, referring to the anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine. “I’m worried about my personal safety.”

On one occasion, she was heard speaking in Hebrew on the phone when another student accosted her.

“A girl heard me and started screaming, ‘Stop killing Muslim ­babies! … You’re a murderer!’ ” Dayan said. “Then she screamed, ‘Zionist, get out!’ A nearby public-safety ­administrator did nothing.”

Another occasion saw Dayan and four members of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) leaving an campus event for Israeli beauty queen Titi Aynaw. “The ­moment [members of SJP] saw us, they started screaming their slogans with a microphone to intimidate us. There were at least 50 SJP members blocking the walkway,” Dayan said.

“They were really angry and it was scary,” stated Dayan, who also serves as the vice-president of SSI’s Columbia chapter. “I believed it would escalate to physical violence.”

A complaint filed by SSI to the Student Governing Board (SGB) in January described how “horrified and terrified Jewish students huddled together while surrounded by a raging mob … [exhibiting] physically threatening behavior.” Dayan also backed up her claims with footage filmed on a cellphone of the protesters’ hostile behavior.

“I thought the university would protect me, but they didn’t do anything when [protesters] called me a terrorist.”

Earlier this year, her father delivered a speech on campus. A few dozen SJP protesters set up mock checkpoints aimed at intimidating attendees, the report said. When Ofir Dayan was handed a flier about the “war criminal” consul general, she revealed that the speaker was her father.

During Hebrew Liberation Week in March, SJP members screamed “terrorist” at her and others while they were handing out literature.

The head of SGB told SSI that complaints should be filed with the school’s newly formed adjudication board, a student-run group which aims to settle disputes between campus groups by meeting with representatives from both parties.

However, the SSI student president was later told by a university administrator who is an adviser to the adjudication board that the complaint was too complicated for the student-run board to deal with. The complaint was subsequently dismissed.

“They were blowing us off,” Dayan said.

“I thought the university would protect me, but they didn’t do anything when [protesters] called me a terrorist,” she stated. “The school stands by as I’m harassed.”

“There’s no difference between being anti-Israel and anti-Semitic [at Columbia].”

Professor Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for university life, said in a statement: “The safety and well-being of all of our students is fundamentally important. … We will always work with students who have concerns about their physical safety, allow debate on contentious questions where our students hold strong views, and provide essential personal and group support.”

However, Dayan said that Goldberg refused to grant her protection from SJP, telling her only to store the school’s public-safety number on speed dial.

“[She] said that unless SJP gets ­violent, they can’t do anything,” stated Dayan. “We have to wait until we’re beaten to call you? [The school] can protect me, but they choose not to.”

She said however, that the treatment she has received from her fellow students won’t bully her into seclusion. “You can’t make a difference if you hide who you are.”

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