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GW alumni in House pen letter demanding investigation after anti-Israel demonstration

File photo by Allison Robbert | Staff Photographer

Updated: Oct. 25, 2023, at 7:20 p.m.

Seven GW alumni who are members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter to University President Ellen Granberg on Wednesday calling for a strong condemnation and immediate investigation of students’ anti-Israel projections on Gelman Library on Tuesday.

Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), William Timmons (R-SC), Jill Tokuda (D-HI), Erin Houchin (R-IN), Darren Soto (D-FL) and Neal Dunn (R-FL), wrote the letter “in total disgust” of the projections on the library, which they characterized as glorifying Hamas and calling for the “vile and antisemitic” destruction of Israel.  The letter calls for officials to take “immediate steps” to protect its Jewish students and said the projections represent a pattern of increasing antisemitism at GW.

“Nearly a quarter of undergraduate students at GW are Jewish,” the letter reads. “These students fear for their lives and do not feel safe. GW must make clear to its student body that this despicable behavior won’t be tolerated, and an investigation must be launched without delay.”

On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after they penned the letter, Granberg issued a statement condemning the demonstration, calling it antisemitic and in violation of University policies.

The letter states that Students for Justice in Palestine’s vigil honoring the lives of Palestinians who have been killed by Israel in the ongoing war earlier this month hailed people who attacked and killed Israeli civilians. The statement also includes mentions to Jewish and Israeli students’ complaint against Lara Sheehi earlier this year — a former GW professor accused of “alarming discriminatory” behavior against Israeli and Jewish students — the desecration of a torah in the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house in 2021 and a student’s report of swastika graffiti in their residence hall room in 2020.

Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman first reported on the letter.

Courtesy of Jake Sherman via X.

Other members of Congress and presidential candidates have condemned SJP’s projections on the library, with calls to remove federal funding from the University if officials fail to do so. 

The nonprofit organization StopAntisemitism posted images on X, formerly known as Twitter, of a demonstration Tuesday night where SJP members projected messages criticizing Israel, GW and University President Ellen Granberg for their response to the conflict. As of Wednesday evening, at least two presidential candidates, five U.S. senators and three U.S. representatives have condemned the demonstration, calling for officials to punish members for their demonstration. 

StopAntisemitism’s tweet, which has garnered more than 8.5 million views as of Wednesday night — urged Granberg to “immediately expel” the students involved and asked viewers to send them footage of the student demonstrators.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday stating that GW projected “antisemitic” messages onto the side of a campus building and called for President Joe Biden’s administration to recognize the demonstration as antisemitic.     

“Last night, at George Washington University here in the nation’s capital, student activists projected antisemitic messages on the side of a campus building named for a pair of Jewish benefactors,” McConnell said in his speech. “They issued a call to free Palestine from the river to the sea. For anyone unfamiliar with Israel’s geography, that is a call for the destruction of the Jewish state.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a contender for the GOP presidential nomination, called for the deportation of the demonstrators if they were foreign nationals and demanded the federal government remove funding from the University “if the college coddles them” in an X statement Wednesday. Scott introduced the Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act, which Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) introduced in the House of Representatives in May. The act would prohibit higher education institutions that authorize antisemitic “events on campus from participating in the student loan and grant programs.” 

GW made a statement Wednesday stating that GW intervened in the demonstration to remove the “unauthorized” projections, which they said were in violation of GW policy and did not reflect the views of the University. Granberg will communicate with community members about the demonstration, and officials are reviewing the incident and will take “appropriate steps” in response, per the release.

“We recognize the distress, hurt, and pain this has caused for many members of our community,” the statement reads. “The University will continue to communicate with all members of its community about support resources available during this difficult time.”

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R), another presidential candidate, said in a Twitter statement that “the students responsible should be held accountable,” also saying GW should lose federal funding if it fails to punish the students.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) quoted StopAntisemitism’s post, asking if GW leadership would condemn the demonstration. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) posted a similar message, calling for the students involved to be “severely punished.” 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called the demonstration “reprehensible” in a post, while Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) called it “despicable and unacceptable.” Britt co-sponsored Scott’s legislation.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said in a post that “GW must investigate” the demonstration. Reps. Mark Green (R-TN) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) — one of the few Democrats who publicly condemned the demonstration — also posted, saying demonstrators were “glorifying terrorism.” 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called the demonstration “despicable” in a tweet calling for GW to condemn the demonstration.

Erika Filter contributed reporting.

This is a developing story.

This post has been updated to correct the following:

Due to an editing error, a prior version of this article incorrectly labeled Rep. Jill Tokuda as a Republican. She is a Democrat. We regret this error.

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Grace Chinowsky, Editor in Chief
Grace Chinowsky, a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication from Seattle, Washington, is the 2024-25 editor in chief of The Hatchet. She previously served as The Hatchet's senior news editor and the assistant news editor for the Metro beat.
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