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Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., claims that the arrest of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s daughter at anti-Israel protests at Columbia University was political payback for Omar’s questioning of the institution’s leadership. Bowman stated that Omar had criticized Columbia’s commitment to free academic expression during a congressional hearing. Following this, Isra Hirsi, Omar’s daughter, was arrested and later released on trespassing charges. Hirsi, an organizer with Columbia University’s Apartheid Divest group, had been suspended from Barnard College for standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

Hirsi’s arrest came amid ongoing protests at Columbia University against Israel’s war with Hamas. Activists set up an encampment on the main lawn, calling for divestment from companies complicit in genocide and transparency of Columbia’s investments. The protesters demanded amnesty for all students facing repression and continued their demonstrations despite Hirsi’s arrest. The protests included calls for an intifada and the death of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with dozens of anti-Israel activists participating in the demonstrations.

During the congressional hearing on Capitol Hill, Omar raised concerns about anti-Israel activism at Columbia University, specifically mentioning an incident involving a toxic chemical substance at a protest. However, court documents revealed that the substance was actually a non-toxic flatulence spray called “Liquid A–” and “Wet Farts.” Hirsi’s arrest followed Omar’s questioning of Columbia administrators, leading Bowman to accuse the school of engaging in political reprisals against the congresswoman.

Bowman argued that educational institutions should not participate in political payback and criticized Columbia University for targeting Omar’s daughter after her mother’s comments at the congressional hearing. The arrest of Hirsi sparked outrage among supporters of the “Squad” members, with Bowman insisting that the arrest was connected to Omar’s criticism of the institution’s leadership. Despite facing trespassing charges, Hirsi was released from NYPD headquarters and returned to her activism with a message of continued resilience in the face of repression.

The protests at Columbia University highlighted the ongoing tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the role of educational institutions in supporting divestment efforts. The demonstrations included demands for transparency in Columbia’s investments and calls for divestment from companies implicated in alleged genocide. Hirsi’s arrest and subsequent suspension from Barnard College underscored the challenges faced by activists advocating for Palestinian rights on college campuses, with concerns raised about academic freedom and political reprisals.

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