House Speaker Addresses Columbia Antisemitism

Amid rising tensions at Columbia University, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) delivered a strong message on Wednesday during his visit to the school’s Manhattan campus to meet with Jewish leaders. Johnson criticized the university’s handling of ongoing protests. As one possible remedy, he noted that the House of Representatives could cut federal funding to the school if the administration failed to address what he described as “violent antisemitic incidents” on campus.

The protests, ignited by Columbia’s perceived ties to Israel during its conflict with Hamas, have escalated to the point where classes were moved online. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators have established a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the main lawn, demanding divestment from companies that collaborate with Israel.

“As Speaker of the House, I am committing today that Congress will not be silent as Jewish students are forced to run for their lives, hiding in fear,” Johnson told the crowd.

During his speech, met with sporadic chants of “free Palestine,” Johnson took a firm line against the university’s leadership, echoing his threat of withdrawing federal support: “The House has been investigating a number of these campuses,” he declared. “There is a nexus to federal funding. If these campuses cannot get control of this problem, they do not deserve taxpayer dollars.”

Columbia President Minouche Shafik, facing growing pressure, has yet to respond to Johnson’s remarks directly. Meanwhile, students involved in the encampment argue they are exercising their right to protest peacefully. However, some Jewish students report feeling increasingly unsafe on campus.

In his concluding remarks, Johnson was unequivocal in his demand that order be restored to Columbia’s campus. “If this is not contained quickly, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard,” he said. The clear implication is Republican leadership is considering demanding Joe Biden take appropriate executive action as commander-in-chief to bring peace in the absence of proper law enforcement by local authorities.

The clash at Columbia is part of the broader protests and tensions affecting elite U.S. universities involving the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Speaker Johnson’s assertive stance at Columbia could signal a shift in how the U.S. government might intervene in academic settings perceived as hotbeds for political unrest and open hostility toward Jewish students and staff.