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Roving Periscope: In an election year, US varsities are plagued with JNU-type “students” protests!

Roving Periscope: In an election year, US varsities are plagued with JNU-type “students” protests!

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: In an election year, the United States, which loves to lecture the world on freedom and democracy, is testing its own medicines on college campuses over its pro-Israel policy in the Gaza War that has claimed nearly 34,000 people since the October 7, 2023, invasion of the Jewish state by Hamas terrorists.

The media reported on Tuesday that pro-Palestinian groups, overlooking Hamas killing some 1,200 Israelis that triggered the conflict in the first place, have completely politicized several university campuses across the US, leading to arrests, and shutting down several colleges.

In New York, the demonstrators’ slogans were akin to those of professional demonstrators masquerading as Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) “students” in New Delhi. The authorities are now probing how many of these demonstrators were students.

The BBC reported that students’ protests over the war in Gaza have taken hold at some elite US universities as officials scramble to defuse demonstrations.

Police moved to break up an encampment at New York University (NYU) on Monday night, making several arrests.

Dozens of students were arrested at Yale earlier in the day, while Columbia University canceled in-person classes.

The wave of demonstrations has been marred by alleged antisemitic incidents, which have been condemned by the White House.

Demonstrations and heated debates about the Israel-Gaza war and free speech have rocked US campuses since the Hamas attack on Israel, which prompted Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

In the US, students on both sides say there has been a rise in both antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents since then.

When asked about the rallies on Monday, President Joe Biden, 81, who is trying to keep the White House for four more years after the November elections, said he condemned both “the antisemitic protests” as well as “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

The protest movement was thrust into the spotlight last week after New York City police were called out to Columbia’s campus and arrested more than 100 demonstrators.

Rallies have spread since then. In addition to NYU and Yale, encampments have been set up at the University of California at Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Michigan, Emerson College, and Tufts.

Like their peers, the NYU protesters are calling on their institution to disclose and divest its “finances and endowments from weapons manufacturers and companies with an interest in the Israeli occupation.”

NYU said 50 people were involved in the main encampment outside the business school. It described the protest as unauthorized, saying this disrupted classes. Hours before, nearly 50 protesters were arrested at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

On Monday, Columbia head Dr. Minouche Shafik asked students to stay away from campus, citing incidents of “intimidating and harassing behavior”. Classes were held virtually instead.

Dr. Shafik said tensions on campus had been “exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their agendas.”

Authorities at NYU also suggested protesters without links to the university had turned up. Recent videos posted online have shown some protesters near Columbia expressing support for the unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel.
Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Manning, who toured Columbia on Monday, said she had seen protesters there calling for Israel’s destruction.

The Hamas attack on Southern Israel on October 7 saw about 1,200 Israelis and foreigners – mostly civilians – killed and 253 others taken back to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded by launching its most intense-ever war in Gaza, to destroy Hamas and free the hostages. More than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza – most of them children and women – have been killed in the conflict, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.


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