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ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR
Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Campuses against war in Gaza

Pressure from American students is putting Biden before the dilemma of either supporting Israel or appeasing part of his voters

Pro-Palestinian protestors at Columbia University
Pro-Palestinian students arrested on Tuesday night at Columbia University.STEPHANI SPINDEL (EFE)
El País

In many Western democracies, the brutal military retaliation undertaken by Benjamin Netanyahu against the civilian population of Gaza in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attack of October 7 has transcended foreign policy to become a domestic issue. For days now, the campuses of some of the most prestigious universities in the United States have joined the demonstrations taking place on weekends in cities like London, Paris and New York, and students are demanding an immediate end to the war.

The protesters are keeping up a fight with academic administrators and police authorities that is reaching historic proportions in a country that, regardless of whether the administration is Democratic or Republican, has been supporting Israel without reservations. Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Emory and Emerson are among the more than 20 universities that have organized movements that are galvanizing American society. Unlike other massive protests recently experienced in the U.S. such as Black Lives Matter — following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in 2020 — or Occupy Wall Street — motivated in 2011 by the economic crisis — this protest is not based on a domestic issue but on an unacceptable situation in the Middle East for which the protesters consider their own government partly responsible.

To find a similar mobilization we would have to go back almost 40 years, when global outrage against the South African apartheid regime forced U.S. students out of the classrooms. The difference is that now the country is immersed in a cultural war and gripped by an unprecedented political polarization that has been taken advantage of by ultra-conservative populism, whose greatest exponent is former president Donald Trump, and which threatens to divide the Democratic ranks just a few months before the November presidential election.

The decision by the president of Columbia University to suspend students who refused to leave the encampments, and to ask the New York Police Department to intervene to clear the area two weeks ago — a move that was repeated in the early hours of Wednesday — has helped deepen a conflict that is beginning to be reminiscent of the protests against the Vietnam War, and which could become a serious obstacle for President Biden as he seeks re-election.

No government should be surprised that the images of the tragedy unfolding in Gaza are stirring consciences thousands of kilometers away, and that those who can do something to stop it are being required to act. Biden is probably the politician on whom Netanyahu depends the most and the one who can force him to a ceasefire and alleviate the desperate situation of Palestinian civilians. And that’s how American students are viewing it.

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