(New York Jewish Week) — A 19-year-old is facing hate crimes charges for attacking an Israeli student during a confrontation related to Hamas’ attack on Israel.
The suspect, Maxwell Friedman, who police said is from Brooklyn, was charged with four counts for allegedly striking a student with a stick. The altercation happened after that student, who police said is 24, put up posters on campus about Israeli casualties and hostages.
Friedman was arraigned on Thursday, has pleaded not guilty on all charges and was granted supervised release ahead of the next hearing on Nov. 28. Her lawyer declined to comment to the New York Jewish Week on the case. While earlier reports said Friedman was a student at Columbia, the university has said she is not enrolled at the school.
The incident, which took place on Wednesday night outside the main campus library, happened as student groups across the country have staged rallies and made statements backing Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel or blaming Israel for the bloodshed. As war between Hamas and Israel has continued, battles have raged online over university responses, and Jewish groups have pressed for a more forceful response to pro-Palestinian groups’ rhetoric. Some major Jewish donors have pulled funding from universities due to their perceived lackluster condemnation of the attack.
Columbia closed its campus to the public on Thursday ahead of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies.
The man who was allegedly attacked on Wednesday, whose name was not given, told the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that he and others had printed flyers with information about the number of deaths in Israel, along with a photograph of a kidnapped Israeli family, and posted the flyers in designated news bulletin areas on campus.
The alleged victim said he saw Friedman take down and rip up several of the flyers. He said Friedman told him and others, “F— you. F— all of you prick crackers.”
She also said, “I disrespected you. What are you going to do about it?” according to a complaint filed with the district attorney’s office.
Friedman then shoved the complainant and struck him in the hands with what appeared to be a broomstick, slicing and fracturing his finger, the complaint said.
A friend of the alleged victim, who is also Israeli, told the campus newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, that the suspect approached the pro-Israel students while they were putting up the flyers and asked to join them, saying she was Jewish. She remained with the group that morning, but later in the day, the Israelis noticed her with a bandana over her face tearing down the posters.
When the pro-Israel group confronted her, she shouted at them, hit the man with the stick and attempted to punch him in the face, one of the Israeli students told the Spectator.
Friedman was charged with one count each of assault in the second degree as a hate crime; assault in the third degree as a hate crime; aggravated harassment in the second degree; and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
“Our community woke this morning to the terrible news that an Israeli student was assaulted outside of Butler Library last night,” the school’s Hillel said in a statement after the attack. “To be clear: we condemn any violence against any student on campus, and we especially condemn the antisemitic targeting of Israelis or Jewish students at this time.”
Three deans from Columbia University said in a joint statement on Thursday, “We know that the atmosphere on campus is extremely charged and many are concerned for their personal safety.”
“Community members are observing and experiencing disturbing anti-semitic and islamophobic acts, including intimidation and outright violence — as was experienced on campus outside Butler Library late yesterday afternoon — with some students being targeted based on their religious identity or political speech,” the statement said. “It is paramount — in a moment where it is most difficult to be together across our differences — that we recommit ourselves to doing precisely that.”
CORRECTION: This story and headline have been corrected to reflect that the suspect is not a student at Columbia University, according to a spokesperson for the school.