Protests and arrests: what's going on on US campuses?

Anger over the humanitarian disaster caused by the Gaza war has caused the protests at several US universities to escalate, with a few anti-Semitic incidents also being reported. At New York's renowned Columbia University, police arrested more than a hundred people. Teaching has been restricted to online lectures. Europe's press looks behind the scenes and draws historical comparisons.

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Echo (RU) /

Paradoxical protesters

It's as if today's radical protesters were wearing blinders, film director Alexander Rodnyansky writes in a Telegram post republished by Echo:

“I'm writing about those who chant 'I love Hamas' and attack Jewish students. ... Among them are many LGBTQ+, transgender, non-binary people, zealous defenders of the environment against the people - all these representatives of a new 'faith', armed with decolonialist rage, rushing to defend terrorist organisations, gang enclaves and entire states in which they would hardly survive for even a few minutes. ... There they would be killed, like virtually all opponents, violators of religious canons and dissidents.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Zero interest in deeper analysis

Corriere della Sera criticises the protesters' ideological narrow-mindedness:

“The Gaza generation has a Manichean view of the world shaped by unshakeable ideological certainties. The rich (individuals or nations) are always wrong, the poor are always right. The rich must necessarily have oppressed and exploited the poor. Humanity is divided into an imperialist West on one side and everyone else on the other: victims who must receive compensation. Progress, the West's big fraud, is entirely evil and destructive. ... They know little or nothing about the Middle East conflict, its infinite complexity, the diffuse responsibilities on both sides, the role of powerful directors like Iran, nor are they interested in going into any depth.”

T24 (TR) /

New '68 movement could be in the offing

The US government is underestimating the power of the demonstrations, T24 believes:

“It's a big mistake to sneer at such student movements. Because over time they can merge with other grievances and lead to a different kind of rupture in society. Let's not forget the '68 movement. Those protests, which began with demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, spread across the world and became a struggle for rights and freedom. In some countries they were limited to the student movement, in others they linked up with the labour movement and went down in history as a worldwide uprising for rights and freedom. Will the protests in the US also lead to such a leap? Only time can tell.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Joe Biden can only lose

The protests pose a dilemma for the president:

“It's a problem that can't be ignored, but it won't win him any political points either. ... Biden is now expected to successfully walk - rhetorically speaking - the fine line between two demographic groups which have so far favoured the Democratic Party, while according to polls the party is losing more and more support among African-Americans and Hispanics due to the economy. The US president needs to 'hear what the youth are trying to tell him' about his administration's policies in Gaza while protecting Jews in the US who (with good reason) feel increasingly insecure in view of the current mood in the US.” (GR) /

Listen to all points of view

News website In defends the right to freedom of expression:

“There is no doubt that the conflict in the Middle East is complex, and that all sides bear responsibility. But that doesn't mean we can't discuss it. ... And discussion involves listening to different views, holding events, organising demonstrations. So just as we would rightly be up in arms if someone proposed banning a pro-Israeli event, or if those who advocate Israel's right to self-defence were not allowed to speak, we must oppose any attempt to silence pro-Palestinian points of view.”

L'Opinion (FR) /

Intolerance posing as progressiveness

L'Opinion draws comparisons with the 1960s and 1930s:

“The current scenes are the exact opposite of those of the 1960s, when black pupils could only get into their classrooms under police protection amid racist jeers. Sixty years later, intolerance has changed sides and is now, one might say, 'progressive'. Do these historically ignorant jeerers even know that Jewish students were banned from studying in Europe in the 1930s? We can already hear the hateful responses to our outrage: 'And the children in Gaza, doesn't that bother you?' ... But why should the suffering of some only be recognised if the suffering of others is ignored?”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Radicalisation and prosperity

Corriere della Sera also dares to make a historical comparison:

“In 1968 there was the Vietnam War, now there is Gaza. ... The protests are radicalising. .... The outrage over the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in the Gaza Strip often goes hand in hand with open support for Hamas violence. ... There is another parallel: sociological studies of this great youth uprising have shown that the 1968 generation was the first to grow up in prosperity. The explosion of protests was the result of the economic boom, which had also created new needs, purchasing power, consumer behaviour and unprecedented freedom for young people. Today, Generation Z, as those born between 1997 and 2012 describe themselves, is also benefiting from unprecedented prosperity.”

Zeit Online (DE) /

Biden in a bind

The protests could prove dangerous for Joe Biden, Zeit Online observes:

“The protests at the universities are the preliminary climax of a clear dissatisfaction with the president's Middle East policy that has been building up for months. Young, left-wing voters are already frustrated that 81-year-old Biden wants to be president again. ... For their part, Jewish citizens - traditionally a Democratic voting bloc - are also watching closely as Biden tries to navigate the crisis on both foreign and domestic policy. Biden cannot afford to lose either group of voters if he wants to win against Donald Trump on 5 November.”

Politiken (DK) /

If not here, then where?

Politiken praises the students for getting involved:

“Universities are centres of knowledge and learning where the world's future thinkers and leaders are often born. If a conflict as tragic and controversial as the Gaza war should not be discussed at universities, what should? ... At the same time it is of course completely unacceptable that Jewish students at Yale and elsewhere felt threatened and intimidated by the protests. There must be room for everyone and, ideally, a debate that makes everyone wiser and changes the world.”