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UMass Amherst student arrested for allegedly punching Jewish student and spitting on Israeli flag

The student was arrested Friday night by UMass Police and released on bail on condition that they don't return to campus. 
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A University of Massachusetts Amherst student was arrested for allegedly punching a Jewish student and spitting on Israel’s flag during a vigil hosted on campus Friday, officials say.

The incident occurred at a “Bring Them Home: Solidarity Walk and Installation” organized by UMass Hillel, a Jewish organization on campus. The event featured empty seats at a Shabbat table representing the 240 people taken hostage by Hamas, the organization said.

The arrest is just the latest in a spate of incidents on college campuses during the Israel-Hamas war. The Anti-Defamation League said there’s been a 388% increase in reported antisemitic incidents since last year, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it recorded nearly 800 complaints and bias incidents since Oct. 7, compared to 63 for the month of August.

At UMass, the student suspect walked through the crowd at the gathering “aggressively giving people the middle finger,” UMass Amherst Hillel said in a statement Sunday.

After the event concluded and event security had left, the same student returned and then punched a Jewish student holding an Israeli flag and took the flag and spit on it, the organization said.

A Hillel staff member stepped in to de-escalate the situation, and the incident was witnessed by UMass staff, the statement said.

Hillel says that it “will continue to maintain increased security out of an abundance of caution,” although the university has no indication of an ongoing security threat.

Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed, the school's interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, and Tyrone Parham, assistant vice chancellor and chief of police, also said in a message to students that the individual had “assaulted a student who was holding an Israeli flag and proceeded to steal and spit on the flag.”

The assaulted student was not injured, school officials said. 

UMass Police investigated and the student, who was not identified, was arrested that same night and released on bail with a prohibition on returning to campus. 

“The student will be subject to the legal consequences of their actions as well as the Student Code of Conduct,” officials said.  

The school condemned the student’s actions as “reprehensible, illegal and unacceptable.”

“Antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any form of bigotry have no place in our community, and we are committed to ensuring that our community’s engagement with opposing viewpoints is maintained in a respectful manner,” the statement said. 

Last week, a 21-year-old Cornell University junior was also charged with making online threats against Jewish students. He allegedly threatened to “shoot up” a campus building, and said he’d “stab” or “slit the throat” of Jewish men, in an online discussion board, prosecutors said. 

On the West Coast, an Arab Muslim student at Stanford University was struck Friday in a hit-and-run that police are investigating as a hate crime. In that case, the student said a white man made eye contact and accelerated toward him shouting, “F--- you and your people.” 

It's been about a month since the war in the Middle East erupted on Oct. 7. Israel says 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas incursion and 240 are being held hostage; in Gaza, the death toll has surpassed 10,000, health officials there said Monday. More than 1.5 million people have been displaced in Gaza by the Israeli military ground offensive in the densely populated, blockaded Palestinian territory.

Fallout from the war can be felt in other countries across the globe, including the U.S.

In some cases, it's turned deadly. Last month, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was stabbed to death, allegedly by his landlord, in suburban Chicago. The landlord was an avid listener of conservative talk radio and became obsessed with the conflict in the Middle East, his wife said. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder.