US campuses splintered by protests over Israel-Palestine conflict

Demonstrators, school administrators, police are testing limits of safety, freedom of expression

By Ai Heping,Mingmei Li and Yifan Xu in Washington | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-06 07:44
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Police face off with pro-Palestinian students after dismantling part of a barricade on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, early on Thursday. ETIENNE LAURENT/AFP

Divestment demands

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the US have accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians. However, Jewish students who support Israel and its right to defend itself against Hamas say the protests have made them afraid to walk freely on campus.

Some said denunciations of Zionism and calls for a Palestinian uprising are an attack on the Jewish people.

Many of the pro-Palestinian student demonstrators have called for their universities to make transparent all financial holdings and divest from companies and funds they believe are profiting from or supporting Israel and its policies.

They have also demanded an "amnesty" for students and faculty members who have been disciplined by their schools as a result of protest action.

However, experts have warned that divestment is virtually impossible. Universities probably have very few if any direct ties to companies that are based in Israel or are weapons manufacturers, they said.

Nicholas Dirks, the former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, told CNN: "The economy is so global now that even if a university decided that they were going to instruct their dominant management groups to divest from Israel, it would be almost impossible to disentangle".

Many of the protests stopped short of physical confrontations, but clashes included a violent attack last week by pro-Israel protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles, while racist taunts and abuse were hurled by white students at protesters at the University of Mississippi.

New York police arrested 282 people on Tuesday night during crackdowns at Columbia University and the City College of New York. Of those, 74 faced misdemeanor or more serious charges and another 16 had outstanding warrants, prosecutors said. About half of those arrested had no affiliation with either school.

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