‘Murderous Crackpots’: Columbia Alumni Spar Over Gaza Protests

Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images
Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Columbia Journalism School alumni descended into a heated row last week after a film director and producer who graduated from the school referred to some campus demonstrators as “murderous crackpots” and “pro-terror wack jobs,” prompting fierce backlash from other alumni in a Facebook thread.

Norman Green, a 67-year-old Brooklyn-based producer and director who worked on TV shows including True Life and Paranormal State, came under fire Thursday after responding to a message condemning the arrests of some 100 demonstrators protesting against the war in Gaza last week.

“These protesters are unhinged. Nihilistic, pro-terror wack jobs. I’ll post a link,” Green wrote on a Columbia alumni Facebook thread reviewed by The Daily Beast, linking to several videos from the campus protests. “Maybe murderous, genocidal narcissists merit a response”

One of the videos shared by Green features clashes between the Gaza Solidarity Encampment protesters and pro-Israel demonstrators. Another shows some protesters shouting at NYPD officers as arrests were underway.

“As we see, the coverage is extensive wall to wall, on every network and in every newspaper,” Green, who graduated from the journalism school in 1996, added on the thread. “At some point, murderous crackpots attacking Jews need to be held accountable. Our students deserve to be protected from them.”

Columbia’s Protest Crackdown Is Another Free Speech Blunder

Another Columbia alumnus, Boston-based digital communications consultant Bessie King, confronted Green in the thread, calling his perspective “hateful” and “delusional.” Other graduates of the school chimed in as well, some critical and others supportive of Green’s comments. Eventually, the arguments grew so heated that an administrator of the thread intervened, imploring others to keep the conversation civil and watch their language.

In a phone call with The Daily Beast, Green said that his comments were “referring to people who want to kill us [Jewish people].”

“A global intifada, I think, is an unmistakable call for a worldwide uprising or attack against Jews as it was in the past. And that's the context and the meaning of what I see going on, and in conclusion what I see some—not all—protesters are calling for,” he said.

When asked about the outrage fellow alumni had expressed in reaction to his comments, Green said: “It’s uncomfortable for people to hear an honest description, an honest and accurate description of a harsh reality. To me, people calling for the genocide of Jews are murderous, nihilistic, wack jobs. That’s how I take it.”

The pro-Palestine encampment—the purpose of which is to urge the university to divest in Israel-linked companies that back a ceasefire in Gaza—was ongoing on Monday. After the tents were dismantled last week, students propped up new tents in another location on campus.

Columbia U. Newspaper Kids Working ‘Overtime’ to Get Protests Right

In an interview with The Daily Beast, 39-year-old Columbia alumnus King said the NYPD crackdown was “incredibly disheartening and incredibly heartbreaking.”

“It cost me $75,000 to attend Columbia Journalism School for one year. And it took me 10 years to pay off my degree and be able to pick it up last year at university offices. And now I am ashamed. I am embarrassed,” she told The Daily Beast, adding that she took issue with what she viewed as Green “immediately jumping to the conclusion that a pro-Palestine peaceful protest equals: ‘Kill all Jews.’”

“It's terrifying that among us journalists who studied and decry ourselves as chasers and tellers of the truth, there is still a debate on the facts. If you can report the facts on this, please do tell the truth, not some religious political propaganda,” King, who had been collecting signatures for an open letter to Columbia University condemning the arrests, told The Daily Beast.

University President Minouche Shafik—who testified about the protests before Congress last week—released a statement on Monday announcing that the school was in need of a “reset.” She announced in the statement that all classes will be held virtually for the day in order to “deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps.”

“There is a terrible conflict raging in the Middle East with devastating human consequences. I understand that many are experiencing deep moral distress and want Columbia to help alleviate this by taking action,” she said. “But we cannot have one group dictate terms and attempt to disrupt important milestones like graduation to advance their point of view. Let’s sit down and talk and argue and find ways to compromise on solutions.”

Outspoken Israeli Prof Denied Campus Entry as Columbia Tries to Avoid Protest Clashes

Bayan Alabsy, a Palestinian alumnus of Columbia’s Journalism school, told The Daily Beast she “unfollowed most of the other [Columbia alumni] I was connected to on Instagram because they were carrying on with life as normal while I was having mental breakdowns and screaming into a pillow until my throat was raw.”

“The Jschool hosted Motaz Azaiza like a week before the encampment started. The emails I received about alumni weekend mentioned something about tighter restrictions but there was zero mention of the protests or why they were happening. It’s disgusting. I will never in my life allow any of my four children to attend that school and they will continue to never see a dime from me.”

The White House, for its part, condemned college protests on Sunday, with deputy press secretary Andrew Bates saying that “while every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable and dangerous.”

As of Monday, there was no sign that the college protests were slowing down. In fact, similar encampments have cropped up in U.S. colleges across the country, including the University of Michigan and Yale University, where 40 pro-Palestine demonstrators were recently arrested.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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