Students at Cornell University have demanded that the schools administration take some action against one professor who recently said the Hamas attack “exhilarated” him.
That terror attack, carried out on October 7, resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis. Thousands of people were also injured, while hundreds were taken hostage.
Plus, in the response attacks Israel has launched against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and other territories, thousands more have died and been injured.
On Sunday, Russell Rickford, an associate professor of history at the school, made the comments while attending a rally that was held off campus and connected to the Students for Justice in Palestine group at the school.
A 21-year-old student at the school, Netanel Shapira – who holds dual Israeli citizenship – filmed the clip of the rally, which has since gone viral. He said that he decided to attend that event so that he could “hear both sides” of the issue and get a pulse on what the liberal student base in Ithaca, New York, was thinking.
Shapira has said that many other students told him about how Rickford wasn’t “shy about his extremism” while giving classes, but he was still not prepared for what the associate professor said at the rally.
As Shapira described:
“This guy essentially outright said that he was happy, exhilarated, excited, energized, right, by the murder of innocent civilians. The massacre of civilians and the raping of women.
“There’s no place for that anywhere for any group of people. Then of course in that video at the end of it the crowd starts chanting ‘From the River to the Sea.’ … itself an antisemitic and genocidal chant.”
Following those comments, Shapira said that the crowd started to call for Israel to be eradicated, at which time he and his friend decided it was time to leave. As he said:
“How can you possibly feel safe? That’s like textbook, the first steps to the incitement of violence.”
The video of what Rickford said eventually made its way through Jewish community groups at the school. When 21-year-old Amanda Silberstein saw it, she told The New York Post she was “deeply disgusted.”
“Seeing that video, my initial reaction was, ‘this is a professor. This is an educator. Students are supposed to internalize and respect the words their professor says.’
“It was really, really shocking and his words have meaning. This isn’t some far-away idea; we’ve been seeing it all happen on Columbia’s campus, at Harvard, at NYU. If your professor is commending a group for doing something, you might look up to that group and think it’s the right course of action.”
On Monday, Rickford spoke with The Cornell Daily Sun about his comments, but he didn’t walk back what he said. He explained:
“What I was referring to is in those first few hours, when they broke through the apartheid wall, that it seemed to be a symbol of resistance, and indeed a new phase of resistance in the Palestinian struggle.”