Columbia University closed its campus to the public on Thursday ahead of a planned protest against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and one day after a 24-year-old Israeli student was beaten in front of a library on campus.
The assault of the Columbia student, who was hanging fliers at the time of the attack, was one of several in New York in the last 24 hours that the police were treating as possible bias incidents.
It led to the arrest of a 19-year-old woman who was charged with assault, according to the Police Department. The police did not identify the victim. On Thursday, a university spokeswoman, Samantha Slater, said the school was restricting access to campus “to help maintain safety and a sense of community through planned demonstration activities.”
New York City has been wracked by grief, shaken by protests and living on edge in the week since a Hamas attack killed more than 1,200 Israelis and an Israeli bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip killed more than 1,100 people and flattened large areas of the densely populated and impoverished region.
Some events, like a rally in Times Square last weekend where protesters cheered rocket attacks on Israel, have raised tensions between the Jewish community and a pro-Palestinian leftist movement that has grown in influence in recent years. Others, like a candlelit gathering in Washington Square Park where mourners prayed for the dead in Israel and Gaza and decried the war, have been more muted.
“Every single life lost — every Israeli murdered by Hamas, every Palestinian killed in Gaza — is a human spark that is extinguished,” Brad Lander, the city comptroller, told the assembled mourners in Washington Square on Wednesday night. “We mourn those human beings, and we mourn the loss of that human spark.”
Another protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza was scheduled for Friday afternoon. The group organizing it, Within Our Lifetime, said the demonstration would be held near Times Square as part of an “International Day of Action for Palestine, in defense of liberation, justice and freedom for the Palestinian people.”
The protests have heightened anxieties in the city, which were already high after the divisive Times Square rally. Khaled Meshal, the former Hamas leader, called for protests across the Arab and Muslim world on Friday in a message sent to the Reuters news agency.
But law enforcement officials said on Thursday that there were no credible threats to New York. They said plans were being made to deploy a large number of uniformed officers if necessary.
In addition to the assault at Columbia, the Police Department’s hate crime task force said it was investigating two incidents that occurred in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
In one, a 34-year-old man suffered minor injuries after he was struck with a flag near the Navy Yard at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday by a man on a “two-wheeled vehicle.”
Later that night, a group of men waving an Israeli flag shouted anti-Palestinian statements at an 18-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old as they walked down the street in Bay Ridge at 11:30 p.m.
Shortly afterward, three cars parked in front of the same group of young people, blocking their path, and then a group of men emerged from the cars and attacked the 18-year-old, punching and kicking him repeatedly. The police said they were looking for suspects in both incidents on Thursday and that no arrests had been made.
Chelsia Rose Marcius and Claire Fahy contributed reporting.