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Pro-Palestinian protests spread to campuses

By AI HEPING in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-24 07:28
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A child walks past the Al Taqwa Mosque after it was hit during an Israeli airstrike on the Al Bureij refugee camp located in the Gaza Strip on Monday. ASHRAF AMRA/GETTY IMAGES

At least 47 people were arrested at Yale University on Monday during pro-Palestinian protests, while new demonstrations broke out at other US campuses over the conflict in Gaza amid growing concerns about the safety of Jewish students.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up encampments at the University of Michigan and at universities in the Boston area, on Sunday night, including at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, in Cambridge, Emerson College in Boston and Tufts University in Medford. Harvard University closed Harvard Yard until Friday in apparent anticipation of demonstrations.

Passover, a major Jewish holiday, started at sundown on Monday night, and some groups have expressed fears for the security of Jewish students who will be celebrating.

US President Joe Biden on Monday condemned antisemitic protests on college campuses and decried "those who don't understand what's going on with the Palestinians", without expanding on what he meant.

As the New York Police Department built up a large presence around Columbia University on Monday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul visited the campus to address security concerns.

"Students are scared," Hochul said in a video posted on X. "They are afraid to walk on campus. They don't deserve that."

School administrators have tried to defuse the protests while balancing the free speech rights of protesters and the fears of many Jewish students, who said some of the demonstrations have veered into antisemitism.

At Columbia, where police last week arrested more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had set up an encampment, the university canceled in-person classes on Monday.

Growing encampment

Students continue to protest into the evening at Columbia University in an encampment in support of Palestinians, in New York City, US, April 23, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

The scene at Columbia University's growing encampment appeared quiet on Monday morning although there were about 70 green, blue and yellow tents on the lawn in front of the school library.

Early Monday, Columbia University President Nemat Shafik said that school leaders would be coming together to discuss a way to bring an end to "this crisis".

In a statement to the university community, Shafik said: "These tensions have been exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas."

US Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who questioned Shafik at a congressional hearing last week about antisemitism on the campus, wrote her a letter calling on her to resign, saying that "anarchy has engulfed the campus".

New England Patriots football team owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alum, whose name is on the Jewish student center he helped to fund, released a statement Monday saying he no longer supports the university.

"I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken," Kraft said.

The health ministry in Hamasrun Gaza said at least 34,183 people have been killed in the territory as the conflict marked its 200th day on Tuesday.

Hebrew Public Radio reported on Monday that Israel was preparing to expand a "humanitarian zone" in the Gaza Strip in preparation for a possible attack on Rafah.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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