Columbia University’s campus is being rocked by another incident of anti-Semitism after a student sent out an email saying that “THE HOLOCAUST WASN’T SPECIAL” with the words “F*CK ISRAEL” at the bottom.
The email was sent on Saturday, October 21 by Lionlez founder Lizzy George-Griffin in promotion of a film event. The flyer for the event, a showing of a 2018 film called The Shakedown under the banner of “Black Lesbian Films,” was presented with the addendum “It’s FREE PALESTINE over here. Zionists aren’t welcome.”
The event was originally scheduled for Friday, October 27. Samantha Slater, Columbia University Director of Media Relations, told us via email that “The event organized by Lionlez is not proceeding on Friday and is being reviewed.” When prompted for more details, Slater wrote that “the event is no longer proceeding because of action Columbia took.” We received this email from Slater at 11:48 a.m. on Wednesday.
“As we have reiterated many times over the past few weeks, antisemitism or any other form of hate will never be tolerated in our community,” Slater wrote in a statement.
On Wednesday afternoon, after we were told the event would not be taking place, a flyer for the same event – rescheduled for November 10, this time without the words “Zionists aren’t invited” – was shared on the LionLez Instagram page.
View this post on Instagram
“Due to many threats from a genocidal group of people, LionLez is adding security to our next event. To give us time to [do] this, we have postponed our event 2 weeks. FREE PALESTINE,” the group wrote in its caption.
We’ve reached back out to Slater for an explanation. On Thursday morning, Slater said “the event has not been rescheduled,” and on Thursday evening, she clarified that “University leadership has demanded that LionLez leadership remove their post about the event being rescheduled.”
George-Griffin’s email is full of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas statements including:
- “Hamas only exists because of Zionist’s cruelty.”
- “Israelites are the Nazis.” (We assume she meant “Israelis.”)
- “The only people who support ‘Israel’ are very stupid or very racist.”
It’s also full of misinformation, beginning with a modified version of the famous “At first they came” quote by Pastor Martin Niemöller, which is on display at many Holocaust museums and memorials including the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and Yad Vashem in Israel.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
In George-Griffin’s version, the groups in the first three lines are replaced with racial groups, and the “me” in the final line is replaced with Jews. George-Griffin tells the recipients of her email to “read between the lines” of the poem, which she does not clarify has been modified. She argues that it makes the case that “White Jewish People are today and always have been the oppressors of all brown people.”
The email goes on to say that “Only white Jews are allowed to live in Israel,” specifically adding that if someone has both a Black parent and Jewish grandparents, they would not be allowed to live in Israel. Neither of these statements are remotely true.
There are no religious or racial requirements to live in Israel. Furthermore, it is estimated that nearly 45% of Israel’s Jewish population is Mizrahi, meaning they have grandparents who were born in North Africa or Asia, as compared to ~30% Ashkenazi, meaning they have a grandparent born in Europe, the Americas, Oceania or South Africa. Israel also has non-Jewish citizens of nearly all races, ethnicities and religions, including Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, and Druze.
George-Griffin has drawn controversy for, among other things, her views on mixed race adoption and a heated discussion she had with Dominican President Luis Abinader when he came to speak on campus. The discussion, during which George-Griffin repeatedly interrupted President Abinader as he responded to her questions on racism, colorism, and homophobia in the Dominican Republic, ended when she walked away from the microphone midway through his answer.
Tensions have been on the rise at Columbia since the latest conflict in Israel and Gaza began. Earlier this month, an Israeli student was assaulted at Columbia University after he confronted his attacker ripping posters of Israelis being held hostage down outside the main campus library, and a petition has been circulating for the removal of Professor Joseph Massad after he wrote an article calling the initial Hamas terrorist attack “astounding,” “awesome,” and “incredible.” On Wednesday, the school announced it would be postponing its annual Giving Day Fundraiser amidst the conflict.
We have reached out to Lizzy George-Griffin via Instagram (@lizzygeorgegriffin) for a comment but have not gotten a response. However, when @IsraelWarRoom reposted the original flyer with the words, “founder of LionLez says 95% of Jews are not welcome in Columbia’s Lesbian Club,” George-Griffin reposted the image with the number 95% crossed out.