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Asia Pacific Report

From France to Australia, university pro-Palestine protests in the United States have now spread to several countries with students pitching on-campus camps.

And students at Columbia and other US universities remain defiant as campuses have witnessed the biggest protests since the anti-Vietnam war and anti-apartheid eras in the 1960s and 1980s.

But authorities have cracked down at some institutions against the peaceful demonstrations with at least 550 being arrested in the US, reports Al Jazeera.

Clashes between students and police officers have been reported across the US during intensifying university protests with encampments in at at least 20 institutions.

Ali Harb, a Washington-based commentator on US foreign policy, Arab-American issues, civil rights and politics, says the Gaza-focused campus protest movement “highlights a generational divide over Israel” in the US.

Young people are willing to challenge politicians and college administrators across the country, he says.

“The opinion gap — with younger Americans generally more supportive of Palestinians than the generations that came before them — poses a risk to 81-year-old Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election chances,” says Harb.

“It could also threaten the bipartisan backing that Israel enjoys in Washington.”

Divestment from Israel
What started as the Gaza solidarity encampment at Columbia University, where students camped inside campus to push their institute to divest from companies linked to Israel, has since spread to campuses in California, Texas and other states.

The students are protesting against Israel’s war on Gaza, where Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 34,000 people and its blockade has caused starvation.

Students have been demonstrating worldwide in support of Gaza since the outbreak of the war on October 7.

Following the Columbia encampments, the protests have further spread to universities from France to Australia. Here is a summary:

In Paris, France, Sorbonne University students have taken to the streets. Additionally, the Palestine Committee from Sciences Po, is organising a protest where students set up about 10 tents on Wednesday. Despite a police crackdown, the protesters regathered on Thursday.

In Australia, students from the University of Sydney set up pro-Palestine encampments on Tuesday, and they were continuing to protest yesterday. Also, University of Melbourne students have pitched tents on the south lawn of their main campus.

In Rome, Italy, students from Sapienza University organised demonstrations, sit-ins and hunger strikes on April 17 and April 18.

Investigating Israeli ties
In the United Kingdom, students from the University of Warwick’s group Warwick Stands With Palestine have occupied the campus piazza. In Leicester, a protest broke out on Monday in which students from the University of Leicester Palestine Society also participated.

Last month, students from the University of Leeds occupied a campus building in protest against the university’s involvement with Israel.

Hicham, a student protesting at Sciences Po, which is also called the Paris Institute of Political Studies, told Al Jazeera, “We have a few demands but one of them is to start investigating all of the ties they [Sciences Po] have with the state of Israel, which [are] academic and financial”.

The students are calling on the French government to provide more help to the Palestinians.

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