Police break up anti-Israel demonstrations at universities in Berlin, Amsterdam and Zurich

Anti-Israel demonstrations have been escalating in recent weeks worldwide over the war in Gaza and academic ties with Israel, though protests in European remain smaller in scale than those seen in the US.

Police on Tuesday, May 7, broke up anti-Israel demonstrations at universities in Berlin, Amsterdam and Zurich, which were inspired by similar demonstrations on campuses around the world, reports The Times of Israel.

Around 100 people set up two dozen tents on the campus of the Freie Universität Berlin, protesting against Israel’s military operation in Gaza, joining a call by the so-called “Student Coalition Berlin” to occupy German universities. The police cleared the anti-Israel demonstration due to a university management request as the protest was not registered.

Students from a number of Berlin universities joined the anti-Israel protest, carrying Palestinian flags and shouting slogans supporting Palestinians and denouncing Israel and Germany.

The students demanded that criminal charges be dropped against students and others who had shown solidarity with Palestinians on campuses. They also demand for the universities to publicly oppose planned reforms to Berlin’s senate that would enable the expulsion of students on political grounds. In addition, they urged banning police from the campus and reinstating academics and staff members of German universities and research institutes who were expelled or defunded because of their anti-Israel stance.

Freie Universität Berlin said the protesters tried to enter university rooms and lecture halls aiming to occupy them, and that the university filed criminal complaints and suspended lectures in several buildings.

“This kind of protest is not dialogue oriented. An occupation of university property is not acceptable. We welcome academic debate and dialogue – but not in this form,” said Guenter Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin.

At the University of Amsterdam, the police broke up the protest after protesters refused to leave the campus. Some students hurled stones and fireworks at the officers when they broke up the demonstration, said police, and more than 120 were arrested.

“The demonstration took on a violent nature because later in the evening massive stones were removed from the ground,” police said in a statement.

Police also began dispersing anti-Israel protesters at the Swiss university of ETH Zurich on Tuesday. Students also set up camp at Lausanne University (UNIL) last week and protests have since spread to at least three more sites in Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne.

Some academics have sided with students.“We consider the steps they’ve taken to be peaceful and good natured, aimed at bringing to the public’s attention a dramatic situation,” UNIL political science professor Bernard Voutat said on Monday. “We teachers cannot remain silent.”


Photo credit: Tobias Schwarz/AFP