Concerns about the rise of anti-Semitism on US college campuses following pro-Palestinian protests at Yale and Columbia

Columbia University announced Monday that all classes will be held remotely to “reduce bad blood” amid rising tensions on campus over Israel’s war in Gaza. “The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days”said the school’s president, Minouche Shafik, in a statement. “We need a reset.” The move to virtual learning comes just days after dozens of Columbia students were suspended and arrested for protesting on the school’s lawn and demanding the university do so divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning at Yale UniversityOfficials arrested students who had also set up tents on campus, urging the university to distance itself from the Jewish state. The Yale Police Department told NPR Between 40 and 45 people were arrested. These flashpoints are the latest in a months-long period of unrest on college campuses since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The attackers killed 1,200 people and took about 250 more hostage, Israel said.

The subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza killed more than 34,000 PalestiniansAccording to local health authorities, two-thirds of them were women and children. According to Israel, there are still around 100 hostages in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, Columbia students who oppose Israel’s war and the blockade of Gaza set up camp on the school’s south lawn, known as “Gaza solidarity camp”. It came on the same day that Shafik testified before Congress that anti-Semitism was a serious problem on campus and would not be tolerated.

The next day, Shafik called the New York Police Department. He said this in a statement The demonstration posed “a clear and present danger to the essential functioning of the university.”. He added that students were warned multiple times that they were violating campus rules. More than 100 people were arrested. Tensions on campus remained high over the weekend. On Sunday, Elie Buechler, a rabbi working in Colombia, advised Jewish students to return home and stay home, citing safety concerns. His message came a day before the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Everyone at home

“It deeply pains me to say that I strongly recommend that you return home as quickly as possible and stay home until the reality on and around campus has improved dramatically,” Büchler wrote in a group chat with students.

He also expressed disappointment with the government’s response to anti-Semitism on campus. According to the Spectator, a person approached with a sign that said as students played Israeli music and waved the Israeli flag at a demonstration Saturday evening “Al Qasam’s next goals”. (The Al-Qasam Brigades is the military wing of Hamas responsible for numerous attacks against Israel.)

Columbia University did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

The arrests themselves sparked intense criticism on and off campus.

The editorial board of Columbia’s student newspaper, the Daily Spectator, wrote that the university had “ignored”countless appeals to engage meaningfully with studentss, but instead choose to continue down the path of surveillance, repression and authoritarian politics.”

The Columbia and Barnard College chapter of the American Association of University Professors condemned the arrests of students participating in peaceful protests.

We call for all suspensions and charges from Barnard College and Columbia University be dismissed immediately,” the chapter said in a statement Saturday.

In recent days, students from other schools set up their own protest camp, largely in solidarity with the arrested Columbia University students. They also called for a withdrawal from Israel.

According to news reports and social media posts, camps were organized at Yale, New York University, MIT, Tufts University, Emerson College and the New York City-based New School.

Camping at Yale

At Yale, etcAround 40 tents and hundreds of demonstrators occupied Beinecke Square in the center of campus starting Friday evening, according to the Yale Daily News. The student newspaper also reported on Sunday evening that the demonstration “remained peaceful.”

On Monday morning, a Yale spokesperson told YDN: “The university decided to arrest those who did not leave the plaza “taking into account the safety of the entire Yale community and providing access to university facilities to all members of our community.” Columbia and Yale are not the only schools where leaders are cracking down on students protesting on their campuses. Earlier this month, three Vanderbilt University schools took action to expel students after a group of student protesters broke into the university president’s office and injured a campus security guard, according to the student newspaper Vanderbilt Hustler. Last week, the University of Southern California canceled its commencement address over unspecified security concerns. At the same time, valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a first-generation Muslim American, sparked controversy with her social media posts about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“In the last days The discussion about the selection of our best students has taken on a worrying tone.” Andrew T. Guzmam, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at USC, said in a statement Monday.

On Saturday, the University of Pennsylvania announced that it had shut down the student group Penn Students Against the Occupation of Palestine for failing to “comply with the guidelines for student organizations at Penn.” UPenn did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

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