University professor sparks uproar after hailing Hamas terror attack as ‘exhilarating’ - and employer has taken no action

Rickford/Cornell University

Russel Rickford said that the attack has allowed Palestinians to “breathe for the first time in years”

Holly Bishop

By Holly Bishop

Published: 17/10/2023

- 17:55

Updated: 17/10/2023

- 22:55

A Cornell University professor spoke at a pro-Palestinian rally

A professor at Cornell University labelled Hamas’ terror attack on Israel as “exhilarating” and “energizing” at a pro-Palestine rally.

The Ivy League University has so far failed to act and has not responded to any requests for comments.

Russel Rickford – a history professor – spoke to crowds at the demonstration, stating that the attack has allowed Palestinians to “breathe for the first time in years”.

Rickford, who describes himself as a “historian of the black radical tradition” said: “It was exhilarating.”

“It was exhilarating, it was energizing. And if they weren't exhilarated by this challenge to the monopoly of violence, the shifting of the violence of power, then they would not be human. I was exhilarated.”

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The crowd responded in a chant: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

The chant has been used frequently by pro-Palestinian advocates and has been deemed antisemitic by the American Jewish Committee.

Over 1,400 Israelis have died because of the attack, and 3,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israel's retaliatory strikes.


The crowd responded in a chant: \u201cFrom the river to the sea, Palestine will be free\u201d.

The crowd responded in a chant: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”


Cornell University have failed to comment and Rickford has not posted on social media since June.

Rickford opposed an effort to overhaul police presence on Ivy League campuses in the wake of the George Floyd protests in 2020.

The proposals wanted to replace the Ithaca Police Department currently patrolling the universities with a new Department of Community Solutions and Public Safety, comprising both armed and non-armed officers.

Rickford said he and others were “deeply sceptical” of the plan.

“We fear that it is an effort to rebrand policing while suppressing or erasing the fundamental demand for massive police defunding that arose in the context of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor uprisings,” he wrote in an email.

WATCH NOW: Cornell professor at pro-Palestine protest

Meanwhile, an inclusion and diversity officer at Cornell has faced heavy criticism after he called the Hamas attack a “resistance”.

“F**k your fake outrage at Palestine when you’ve literally been silent about the violence perpetuated by Israel against Palestine every day,” Derron Borders, of the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management, wrote on Instagram the day of the attack.

Last week, counter-terrorism police in the UK arrested a 22-year-old student from the University of Sussex after hailing Hamas terror attacks as “beautiful and inspiring”.

Elected women students’ officer Hanin Barghouti was filmed addressing a protest in Brighton organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Hanin Barghouti

Hanin Barghouti's speech was met with cheers and applause from the crowd


Addressing the crowds, Barghouti said: “Yesterday was a victory. For freedom fighters to break out of a 15-year blockade so successfully under the inhuman genocide of Israel was so beautiful and inspiring to see.

“It shows the world that we will always fight and always resist and we need to celebrate these acts of resistance because this is a success. Revolutionary violence initiated by Palestinians is not terrorism - it is self-defence...”

“And it is currently because of the liberation of the Palestinian people under illegal occupation for 75 years.

Police said the student was arrested on suspicion of supporting a proscribed organisation.

In a statement, they appealed for witnesses and anyone with footage to come forward.

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