As city officials question who’s funding anti-Israel protests broiling with antisemitism at Columbia University and New York University and point to the nearly identical tents used at these “encampments” occupying campuses, one expert tells Fox News Digital the apparent organization and recent student “training sessions” suggests “foreign assistance.” 

“I think there is good reason to suspect that there is foreign assistance and coordination that’s fueling the campus protests,” Dr. Jay Greene, a senior research fellow at the Center for Education Policy at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital. While the “hard evidence to prove this is still fuzzy,” given organizing happens “sometimes indirectly or secretly,” Greene said there are “enough signs to make it reasonable to suspect that that is occurring.”

“Those signs include things like having common tents, having those tents all purchased and ready to go. Even the timing of the protests, right on the eve of Passover, this is well-timed to put Jewish students in a disadvantageous position because they’d be away for the holiday. And then also the remarkable similarities in language being used by protesters and foreign actors, including Hamas and Hezbollah,” he said. 

Greene also referenced how there have been “training sessions” at Columbia and elsewhere organized by Palestinian groups to help train students on the same “talking points” that Hamas and Hezbollah leaders have repeatedly made in speeches that call for “a global intifada and the assistance of foreign allies.” 


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    NYPD officers take down a tent encampment as anti-Israel agitators stage a demonstration outside of NYU’s Stern School of Business in Manhattan, New York on Monday, April 22, 2024.  (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital)

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    NYU protesters staged a tent encampment in front of the school as they demand a permanent cease fire between Israel and Gaza. (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital)

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    An NYPD officer deconstructs a tent encampment as anti-Israel agitators stage a demonstration outside of NYU’s Stern School of Business in Manhattan, New York on Monday, April 22, 2024.  (Julia Bonavita/Fox News Digital)

“We know that there were these training sessions, we know that there are speeches, we can see similarities in equipment. We can see similarities in language,” Greene said. “But this is not to say that these movements don’t also have a domestic origin. I mean, I think that they certainly do, but they’re being facilitated and fueled by foreign agents.” 

Weeks before anti-Israel demonstrations reached a fever pitch in the days following Columbia President Minouche Shafik’s testimony before Congress about antisemitism on campus, Columbia University had already suspended several students over a March 24 event hosted at a campus residential facility that the school said it already barred twice from occurring. 

Video circulating on YouTube showing the virtual portion of the two-hour “Resistance 101” seminar organized by “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” that featured Charlotte Kates, an international coordinator of Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, and her husband, Khaled Barakat. 

An Israeli government document links Barakat to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization. 

“There is nothing wrong with being a fighter in Hamas,” the speakers told students on the call, according to the New York Post. Kates, appearing remotely, said of the most extreme anti-Israel agitators at Columbia and its sister college, Barnard, “These are the people who are on the front lines defending Palestine and fighting for its liberation.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce on March 25 also called out Barakat’s link to the PFLP terrorist group, noting how he told Columbia students during a webinar that “friends at Hamas and Islamic Jihad” emphasized the importance of support on U.S. college campuses, adding that by contrast, “they don’t care what Biden says, what Kamala Harris says.”

“Every demonstration in New York matters more than all this nonsense that happens in mainstream media,” Barakat told students. “Your work is so important to the resistance in Gaza, more than ever.”

NYU tents removed by police

NYPD officers clear away tents from an encampment set up by anti-Israel protesters on the campus of New York University (NYU) on April 22, 2024.  (ALEX KENT/AFP via Getty Images)

Fox News Digital reached out to Kates’ group, Samidoun, for comment but did not immediately hear back. 

Students for Justice in Palestine’s name has been plastered among anti-Israel demonstrations at several elite universities, which Greene described as a “remarkably shadowy group,” given it doesn’t operate under its own 501c3, making it difficult to “observe exactly how it’s organized and funded.” 

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Greene told Fox News Digital how terrorist-affiliated NGOs, including the Holy Land Foundation, were prosecuted by the U.S. government for assisting terror. 


“The government bothered to investigate these organizations and the flow of funds closely enough to find organizations that were essentially abusing the nonprofit tax code to facilitate foreign influence and support for terrorism,” he said. “Over time, that same kind of investigation could occur here. And it could well reveal similar kinds of problems, but it requires a significant government intervention.” 

“It’s going need a presidential administration that makes this a priority,” he continued. “The Biden administration does not have this as a priority.”

NYU matching tents

Anti-Israel demonstrators at an encampment outside the Stern School of Business at New York University in Greenwich Village on Monday, April 22, 2024.  (Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry on Tuesday separately called out how the tents used by demonstrations all seemed similar, if not identical. 

“Was there a fire sale on those tents? So there’s organizing going on,” Adams said. “And what’s the goal of that organizing? That’s what we have to ask ourselves.” Similar to what happened in 2020 during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations when “anarchists came into the city,” the mayor said “outside agitators” have latched onto the Columbia and NYU protests.

Adams said authorities “have identified individuals who don’t attend the schools who are on the campuses” fanning the flames of unrest. 

In an interview with local news Tuesday morning, Daughtry said the NYPD has identified “known professional agitators” at Monday night’s protests who wanted to “rouse up the mob mentality to agitate the officers to get the officers to react, to get one of them to assault one of the protesters, so they can get that image [that shows] ‘Look, I’m getting brutally assaulted by the police.'”

NYU tent encampment with anti-Israel signs

Anti-Israel students and faculty of New York University, inspired by Columbia University, occupy a plaza on campus and declare it a Gaza solidarity encampment on April 22, 2024 in New York City.  (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

“It’s great that city officials in New York are attuned to the potential difficulty here and are calling for more information,” Greene told Fox News Digital. “But they alone don’t have the resources or the reach to conduct this kind of investigation and really requires a federal effort, especially because these are international and sometimes involve classified materials.” 

Greene added, “it would be especially tragic if it required some horrible tragedy to then spark an investigation for how that came about,” because “that’s basically how the Holy Land Foundation was caught.”

“We had, you know, the horrible tragedy of 9/11. And let’s hope we don’t have to have another one of those to track down bad actors again,” he said. 

House Speaker Mike Johnson paid a visit to Columbia University’s campus on Wednesday in support of Jewish students, as the timing of the demonstrations reached a fever pitch ahead of Passover. Over screams from the crowd, Johnson said that “if this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard.” 

“We have to bring order to these campuses,” he said. “We cannot allow this to happen around the country.” 


NYPD officials have said they need approval from Columbia leadership to come onto campus and make arrests, explaining officers are barred from entering private property unless a crime is in progress and officers in that case would intervene when someone’s life is in danger. 

Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y., on campus Wednesday, condemned “terrorist sympathizers” and said to those protesters who are “proud that you’ve been endorsed by Hamas, you are part of the problem.”

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