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Israel-Palestine Protests on College Campuses

Written by Carla Elalam

Edited by Rebecca Oxtot and Annika Lilja



In the last month, hundreds of Pro-Palestine protests have erupted all around college campuses, sparking widespread solidarity and activism nationwide. At Columbia University, students have camped out in a show of solidarity, calling on the University Administration to address their concerns and take action regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


Students at these protests are demanding their university divest funds from companies they believe support and fund Israel. More than 100 pro-Palestinian protestors were arrested, and many were suspended. Columbia University is holding classes virtually as Pro-Palestinian protesters continue to occupy the Ivy League school campus.


The University’s officials had set a deadline for protestors to stop their encampment but extended it for talks with the students. They stated that “the talks have shown progress and are continuing as planned” (NPR). Officials also put out a statement regarding the encampments, “For several days, a small group of faculty, administrators, and University Senators have been in dialogue with student organizers to discuss the basis for dismantling the encampment, dispersing and following University policies going forward. We have our demands; they have theirs. A formal process is underway and continues” (NPR). 


Columbia University President Nemat Shafik faced a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. a few days after the protests on April 17, where she took a firm stance against antisemitism stating that the phrases “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as well as “long live the intifada” were antisemitic but encountered criticism regarding the handling of actions against faculty and students with pro-Palestinian views (BBC). This hearing was very similar to the congressional hearings in December regarding the Palestine-Israel conflict that led to the resignations of the presidents at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania after facing intense backlash for their handling of protests on college campuses.


Students, faculty, and administrators are navigating how to uphold principles of free speech and academic freedom while also addressing issues related to discrimination, harassment, and safety, and the concerning rise of antisemitism. With the rise of on-campus protests, reports have increased of Jewish students feeling targeted and marginalized, with incidents of harassment and hate speech directed towards them. Videos of Jewish students being surrounded or blocked from attending their classes have gone viral over social media platforms. 


The impact of this conflict extends beyond just one university, as thousands of young people are engaging in protests on campuses all around the US. Similar to Columbia, 47 students at Yale were arrested a week ago and were loaded into University shuttles to be transported to jail after they refused to end their Gaza Encampment. Furthermore, the University of Southern California canceled its main commencement ceremony, which was supposed to take place in May, holding over 65,000 students and families. The University canceled it due to safety measures from the ongoing protests that are happening currently with students. At UCLA, Pro-Palestinian student groups have organized rallies and demonstrations all around the campus. In response to these protests, there have counter-demonstrations by Pro-Israel student organizations, leading to police involvement as well as the college cancelling classes due to violence that has escalated.


Despite the students’ calls for divestment and action, they find themselves met with handcuffs and canceled graduation ceremonies rather than protection from police and administration. But as more and more protests take place, it is clear that the voice of the youth can’t and won’t be silenced. Students all around America continue to unite in solidarity for Palestine, whether through encampments, sit-ins, or any other form of protest. 


 

Sources:


Treisman, R. (2024) Pro-Palestinian campus protesters face looming deadlines and risk of arrest, opb. Available at: https://www.opb.org/article/2024/04/26/college-campus-protestspalestine/#:~:text=%22For%20several%20days%2C%20a%20small,our%20demands%3B%20they%20have%20theirs (Accessed: 28 April 2024). 


Offenhartz, J. (2024) Carefully planned and partly improvised: Inside the Columbia protest that fueled a national movement, AP News. Available at: https://apnews.com/article/inside-columbia-protest-movement-0b35ff55f18d0bf4b2c8c0a27b1dbe04 (Accessed: 28 April 2024). 


Ailworth, E., Choiniere, A. and Pissani, J. (2024) Inside the Pro-Palestinian protests disrupting Columbia University, The Wall Street Journal. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/us-news/education/pro-palestinian-protest-new-york-city-universities-71c4c93e (Accessed: 29 April 2024). 


“USC Cancels ‘Main Stage’ Commencement Ceremony.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 25 Apr. 2024, www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-04-25/la-me-usc-commencement-canceled


Treisman, Rachel, et al. “Across the U.S., pro-Palestinian Campus Protesters Risk Arrest and Suspension.” NPR, NPR, 28 Apr. 2024, www.npr.org/2024/04/26/1247408281/campus-protests-israel-gaza-encampments-arrests-graduation


Matza, Max. “Columbia University President Defends Efforts to Combat Antisemitism.” BBC News, BBC, 18 Apr. 2024, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-68838018

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