Universities in Britain and the US are on edge as Israel’s war with Hamas, which has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises of the new century and the slaughter of thousands of civilians, has sparked major clashes.
University spaces are always conducive to vigorous, even confrontational, dialogue, yet the war in the Middle East has caused a massive crisis with incalculable consequences. Those students and professors who have taken a position in favor of a cease-fire and the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip are faced with the designation of “anti-Semite”, while there has been no lack of violence.
Abstention in British universities
Students at 15 UK universities, including Oxford and the London School of Economics (LSE), staged a coordinated strike on Thursday, boycotting classes and calling for a ceasefire. Also protesting the “increasing attacks and the situation of continuous surveillance of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students”.
The rally was organized by a collective of 30 Palestinian student associations from universities across the UK, who in a joint statement point out that this “hostile environment, encouraged by university administrators, has effectively denied Palestinians their right to publicly mourn the disaster that befalls their people in Gaza.”
And they note that Palestinians “are forced to hide their identities on college campuses, with administrators banning their national flag and preventing events to mourn even their dead.”
As they point out, “in the supposed bastions of free speech and the exchange of ideas, Palestinians and pro-Palestinian voices face chilling restrictions on their right to express their views.”
Many students walked out of classes, seminars and lectures, calling on university institutions to demand an immediate ceasefire. At LSE alone, more than 100 students marched, taking part in the mobilization, while similar actions will be implemented at 13 universities on Friday.
“War” and at Columbia University
The situation is also belligerent at Columbia University in the US, where complaints from both students and staff at the Ivy League school of harassment and physical violence are mounting because of the positions they have expressed on the war in the Middle East.
Since the beginning of the war, on October 7, the clashes between Israel and Hamas, the shelling of civilians and the attitude of the US have become the occasion for intense debates in the university, which sometimes develop into verbal and not only conflicts. In some of them, professors have also been involved.
The situation has exceeded the limit of dialogue and political confrontation. On campus, a right-wing, pro-Israel group has brought a truck carrying a huge electronic billboard, revealing the identities of students the group labels “Columbia’s Top Anti-Semites.” And the incidents are constantly increasing. A 19-year-old student is facing hate crime charges after he allegedly beat another student with a stick who held up a poster with the face of an Israeli hostage from Hamas. A swastika was found painted in a bathroom, while students wearing kafiyas or hijabs have reported harassment. Also, a Columbia administrator, who spoke anonymously to a campus radio reporter, said during a rally that he hoped the pro-Palestinian protesters would “die.”
At Columbia University, officials and members of its affiliated women’s college, Barnard, emailed students expressing concern that students who believe the plight of Palestinians is being ignored, as well as faculty, are making and posting offensive statements against it. Israel.
Both sides believe that the university administration does not take their point of view, nor their concerns for their physical safety, seriously.
Pro-Palestinian students walked out of a class taught by Hillary Clinton to protest what they see as the university’s pro-Israel bias. Instead, some Jewish graduates, who accused the university of being insufficiently sensitive to anti-Semitism, began posting pictures of their diplomas upside down online.