In Protests

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Officials postponed the first part of GW’s annual Diversity Summit Wednesday, pointing to the “current climate” on campus following a national outcry over a campus demonstration criticizing Israel and GW Tuesday night.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement sent an email to registered attendees Wednesday afternoon, postponing the programming to place University resources in the “most appropriate” direction and ensure campus safety. The announcement comes after members of Students for Justice in Palestine projected messages criticizing Israel, GW and University President Ellen Granberg onto the wall of Gelman Library Tuesday night amid an escalating war between Israel and Hamas.

The University split GW’s ninth annual Diversity Summit, a series of workshops and discussions hosted by faculty and guest speakers highlighting prominent social issues, into two segments of programming — the first of which was slated for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the second taking place next semester. Officials will push the first part of programming to the second portion, held Feb. 20 through Feb. 24, per the statement.

“Proceeding with the schedule would be dismissive to the pain, loss of life, and impact that many members of our community are experiencing,” the email to registrants reads.

SJP members projected about 10 statements onto the library for more than two hours Tuesday night, including “GW is complicit in genocide in Gaza,” “Free Palestine from the river to the sea,” “Your tuition is funding genocide in Gaza,” “Glory to our martyrs,” and “President Granberg is complicit in genocide in Gaza.”

Some Jewish and Israeli students on campus said the demonstration made them feel unsafe on campus, calling for GW and Granberg to disavow the messages.

Many Palestinians view sentiments like “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” as a call for independence, while many Israeli and Jewish people consider it an antisemitic call for the elimination of the Israeli state. Some argue “Glory to our martyrs,” a phrase demonstrators said honors any Palestinian person killed by Israelis, wrongfully honors Hamas militants, a group the U.S. and European Union consider a terrorist organization.

Granberg was slated to participate in a Thursday discussion of GW’s goals for diversity, equity and inclusion, alongside Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Caroline Laguerre-Brown and Associate Vice Provost Jordan West, according to the summit’s schedule.

GW released a statement Wednesday afternoon — before the summit’s postponement — that said the “unauthorized” demonstration violated GW policy and did not reflect the views of the University.

Granberg made a statement earlier this month condemning any “celebration of terrorism” on campus. The statement followed a student vigil for Palestinians killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict hosted by SJP where demonstrators chanted sentiments about Palestinian independence that others view as threatening to Israel. Granberg’s message drew sharp criticism from SJP, which posted a 10-slide statement to their Instagram repudiating her condemnation.

The events have led to mounting national calls for GW to expel the SJP members involved in the projections and more harshly condemn their messaging. 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.”

Shortly after the Diversity Summit postponement, officials announced that an event with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) scheduled for Thursday, was postponed “due to unforeseen schedule change,” with a new date for the event to be determined, according to an email that went out to Elliott School students. Van Hollen blocked an effort by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) Thursday to pass a resolution condemning campus groups criticizing Israel and supporting Hamas as antisemitic.

A representative for Van Hollen’s office said the event was postponed because of a last-minute schedule change, citing activity on Capitol Hill.

Jennifer Igbonoba contributed reporting.

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