Inspired by U.S. students, anti-genocide encampments spring up around the world
A man writes a message of gratitude on a tent in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah on April 27, 2024. | PRizek Abdeljawad / Xinhua News Agency

Massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations and occupations continued across universities in the United States, Europe, and Australia this weekend, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes under increasing pressure at home.

The student protests have led to a brutal crackdown by police, particularly at U.S. universities. From New York to California, students protesting against Israel’s assault on Gaza have been sleeping in tents at college campuses and occupying the central squares of campuses.

With the Gaza death toll surging to nearly 34,500, protesters around the globe are following the example set by U.S. students and demanding that schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they say enable the Netanyahu government’s genocide.

In Paris, at the renowned Sciences Po university, protesters on Friday blockaded a central campus building, forcing classes to be held online.

Canada’s first campus protest for Gaza has been set up at McGill University in Montreal, where protesters are demanding a divestment of funds “implicated in the Zionist state as well as a cut in ties with Zionist academic institutions.”

In Australia, students at the University of Sydney’s historic Camperdown campus set up a pro-Palestinian encampment last week, also calling for the university to “cut ties with arms manufacturers.”

Police violently arrest encampment demonstrators at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., on Saturday, April 27. | Christine Tannous / St. Louis Post Dispatch via AP

Last week, Netanyahu described ceasefire protesters around the world as “anti-Semitic mobs calling for the annihilation of Israel” and claimed they were attacking Jewish students and faculty members. His allegations have been slammed as slander by major political figures, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most prominent Jewish member of the U.S. Senate.

Sanders called Netanyahu’s claims “insult the intelligence of the American people” and that the Israeli leader was using false allegations of anti-Semitism to distract attention from the policies of his “extremist and racist government” in Gaza, the West Bank, and inside Israel itself.

“No, Mr. Netanyahu, it is not anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas to point out that, in a little over six months, your extremist government has killed over 34,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 78,000, 70% of whom are women and children.”

The Israeli Prime Minister faces mounting pressure at home, with thousands hitting the streets across Israel on Saturday to demand his resignation and imprisonment. In Tel Aviv, three separate protests converged near Azrieli Mall, while dozens of demonstrators, led by relatives of hostages, attempted to block Ayalon Highway, reported The Times of Israel.

Some protesters bypassed police barriers, and others ended up in skirmishes with police. Seven protesters were reported to have been arrested.

Netanyahu’s police forces also attacked local offices of the Communist Party of Israel and Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) this weekend in an effort to disrupt planned May Day marches that are to center on demands for a ceasefire and an end to the occupation.

Even as students internationally are being inspired by U.S. protests to start their own encampments, administrators at many U.S. campuses are stepping up efforts to shut down demonstrations. Police and even the National Guard have been called in, and in some places, the repression has been violent, with dozens of demonstrators arrested.

Talks between students and administrators began late on Saturday to end the encampment set up at Columbia University in New York City, but scenes of mass arrests on U.S. campuses continued to fill social media timelines into Sunday and Monday.

Arrested and bound students are lined up on a sidewalk by police and campus security forces at Northeastern University in Boston on Saturday, April 27. | John Tlumacki / Boston Globe via AP

In Boston, police in riot gear cleared an encampment on the campus of Northeastern University on Saturday. Massachusetts State Police said about 102 protesters were arrested and will be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Corporate media in the U.S., meanwhile, have been working overtime to demonize the student demonstrators.

The right-wing press denounced them as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic radicals and reported unsubstantiated claims of violence by protesters. Liberal outlets sought to blame them in advance if Trump wins in November, deflecting blame from the White House and the Biden administration’s continued military support for Netanyahu.

The truth of the encampments’ message has reached Gaza, though. Over the weekends, messages in English started appearing on tents and on the rubble in Rafah showing appreciation for the solidarity. “Thank you for Columbia,” read a spray-painted message on the side of one Gaza family’s tent.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Morning Star. It has been supplemented with further reporting by People’s World.

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Roger McKenzie
Roger McKenzie

Roger McKenzie is the International Editor of Morning Star, Britain’s daily socialist newspaper. He is the author of the book "African Uhuru: The Fight for African Freedom in the Rise of the Global South" published by Manifesto Press.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.