Image of swastikas painted at Columbia University is old, unrelated to ongoing protests

By: Tahil Ali
May 13 2024

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Image of swastikas painted at Columbia University is old, unrelated to ongoing protests

Screengrab of a social media post alleging anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of Columbia University's campus. (Source: X / Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict Misleading

The image depicts an incident from 2018, where a professor’s office at Columbia Teachers College was vandalized, with swastikas spray-painted on it.

Claim ID 5a9bf097

What is the claim?

Social media users on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and X (previously known as Twitter) have circulated a photograph purportedly depicting two swastika symbols and anti-Semitic slurs on the walls of Columbia University's campus.

Posts shared on May 6 allege that the incident occurred on ‘Holocaust Remembrance Day’, coinciding with the ongoing pro-Palestinian student protests at the university. These protests, advocating for divestment from Israel and companies supporting the Gaza war, began at Columbia on April 18 with a student encampment and subsequently spread to universities across the nation.

One version of the post stated, "Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is what the students of @Columbia University chose to do today. I am utterly speechless." Archives of these posts can be viewed here, here, and here.

Screenshots of the posts shared on social media. (Source: Facebook/Modified by Logically Facts)

Contrary to the claims, our investigation revealed that the photograph does not pertain to the current protests. It can be traced back to 2018 when a Jewish professor's office at the Columbia University Teachers College in Manhattan was defaced.

What did we find?

A reverse image search led us to the origin of the viral picture, which was an act of vandalism (archive here) in November 2018.

As reported by the university's student newspaper, Columbia Daily Spectator, (archive here), which published the viral image credited to Rya Inman, two swastika symbols and an anti-Semitic slur were discovered spray-painted in red on the walls of the entrance to the office of Professor Elizabeth Midlarsky. Midlarsky, a Jewish professor who teaches psychology and education, has conducted research on the Holocaust. The incident took place on November 28, 2018.

A screenshot of the original article displays a similar image to the one claimed. (Source: Columbia Spectator/Modified by Logically Facts)

In a statement released by the student paper, Midlarsky expressed her shock, stating, "I was in shock. I paused for a moment because I couldn't believe what I was seeing." At the time, the New York Police Department's Hate Crimes Task Force was investigating the incident.

This was not the first instance of Midlarsky being targeted due to her work on the Holocaust. In 2009, she, along with two other university professors, received a manila envelope containing an image of a swastika. In 2007, a swastika was spray-painted on her door, and anti-Semitic flyers were found in her mailbox, as reported by CNN.

The verdict

The viral photograph showcasing anti-Semitic graffiti within Columbia University documents an incident from 2018 at the university. It bears no relation to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict or the associated student protests across universities in the U.S. Therefore, we have marked this claim as misleading.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

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