Clashes over Israel-Hamas war shatter students’ sense of safety on US college campuses

Eden Roth, a Jewish student at Tulane University in New Orleans, discusses tensions on campuses amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, November 7, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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Clashes over Israel-Hamas war shatter students’ sense of safety on US college campuses

  • Threats and clashes have sometimes come from within, including at Cornell, where a student is accused of posting online threats against Jewish students

NEW ORLEANS: As a Jewish student, Eden Roth always has felt safe and welcome at Tulane University, where more than 40 percent of the students are Jewish. That has been tested by the aftermath of last month’s Hamas incursion into Israel.
Graffiti appeared on the New Orleans campus with the message ” from the river to the sea,” a rallying cry for pro-Palestinian activists. Then came a clash between dueling demonstrations, where a melee led to three arrests and left a Jewish student with a broken nose.
“I think that the shift of experience with Jews on campus was extremely shocking,” said Roth, who was in Israel last summer for a study-abroad program. “A lot of students come to Tulane because of the Jewish population — feeling like they’re supported, like a majority rather than a minority. And I think that’s definitely shifted.”
Tulane isn’t alone. On other campuses, long-simmering tensions are erupting in violence and shattering the sense of safety that makes colleges hubs of free discourse. Students on both sides are witnessing acts of hate, leaving many fearing for their safety even as they walk to classrooms.
Threats and clashes have sometimes come from within, including at Cornell, where a student is accused of posting online threats against Jewish students. A University of Massachusetts student was arrested after allegedly punching a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag at a demonstration. At Stanford, an Arab Muslim student was hit by a car in a case being investigated as a hate crime.
The unease is felt acutely at Tulane, where 43 percent of students are Jewish, the highest percentage among colleges that are not explicitly Jewish.
“To see it on Tulane’s campus is definitely scary,” said Jacob Starr, a Jewish student from Massachusetts.
Within the student Jewish community, there is a range of perspectives on the conflict. The latest war began with an attack on Oct. 7 by Hamas militants who targeted towns, farming communities and a music festival near the Gaza border. At least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mainly in the initial Hamas attack, Israeli officials say. Israel has responded with weeks of attacks in Gaza, which have killed more than 11,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza — most of them Palestinian civilians.
Emma Sackheim, a Jewish student from Los Angeles who attends Tulane’s law school, said she grew up as a supporter of the Jewish state but now considers herself an opponent of Zionism. Sackheim says she knows students who oppose Israel’s policies “but don’t feel comfortable to publicly say anything.”
“I was standing on the Palestinian side,” she said when asked about the Oct. 26 demonstration, which took place along a public New Orleans street that runs through campus.
Still, she said Tulane is where she feels most comfortable as a Jew. “I know that I have so many options of community,” she said.
On campuses around the US, students on both sides say they have been subjected to taunts and rhetoric that oppose their very existence since the invasion and the subsequent Israeli assault on Hamas in northern Gaza.
They see it in campus rallies, on anonymous message boards frequented by college students, and on graffiti scrawled on dorms and buildings. In one case under police investigation as a possible hate crime, “Free Palestine” was found written this week on a window of Boston University’s Hillel center.
Colleges have been scrambling to restore a sense of security for Jewish and Arab students — and stressing messages of inclusion for diverse student bodies. But untangling what’s protected as political speech and what crosses into threatening language can be a daunting task.
Tulane’s president, Michael Fitts, has described an increased police presence and other security measures on campus. In messages to the campus community, he has lamented the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives and said the university was reaching out to Jewish and Muslim student groups and religious organizations.
He has faced criticism from people on both sides seeking more forceful statements.
Islam Elrabieey, for example, seeks condemnation of Israel’s actions.
“To condemn Hamas is a good thing,” said Elrabieey, a native of Egypt and a visiting scholar in Tulane’s Middle East and North African Studies program. “But at the same time, if you didn’t condemn Israel for committing war crimes, this is a double standard.”
As places that encourage intellectual debate, it isn’t surprising that colleges have seen heated conflict, said Jonathan Fansmith, a senior vice president for the American Council on Education, an association of university presidents. But when different factions disagree about what crosses the line between free speech and abuse, it puts colleges in a difficult place, he said.
“Everyone should be incredibly sympathetic to Jewish students who feel under threat, and the alarming rise in antisemitic actions is something college universities take very seriously,” Fansmith said. “But they have a requirement, a responsibility under the law as well, to balance the free speech rights of people who may disagree, who may have critiques that they find disagreeable or dislike. And finding that line is very, very difficult.”
After facing criticism for trying to remain too neutral on the war, Harvard University’s president on Thursday condemned the phrase “from the river to the sea,” saying it has historical meanings that, to many, imply the eradication of Jews from Israel. Pro-Palestinian activists around the world chanted the phrase in the aftermath of the Hamas raid.
At Tulane, Roth said some Jewish students have been rattled enough to make them think twice about visiting the Mintz Center, the headquarters for the Tulane Hillel organization.
“I don’t feel completely safe, but I feel like we have no other choice but to embrace who we are in these times,” Roth said in an interview at the building. “I know a lot of my friends are nervous to wear their Star of David necklaces, to wear a kippah or even come into this building. But I think it’s critical that we do not let fear consume us.”
Lea Jackson, a freshman from New Jersey who describes herself as a modern Orthodox Jew, said she is concerned supporters of a Palestinian state are nervous expressing their views because of the large numbers of Jewish students on campus.
The Hamas raid may have made some people more reluctant to speak even as others become more outspoken, said Jackson, who said she recently spent a “gap year” in Israel and has friends and family there.
“But it’s a lot harder to have a civil conversation,” Jackson said, “when emotions and tension are so high and so many people are so personally connected to this.”


As U.S.-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

Updated 3 sec ago
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As U.S.-supplied weapons show impact inside Russia, Ukrainian soldiers hope for deeper strikes

Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the U.S. to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv
The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions

KHARKIV, Ukraine: Weeks after the decision allowing Ukraine to use U.S.-supplied weapons for limited strikes in Russian territory, the country is having some success in halting Russia’s new push along the northeast front, but military commanders are clamoring for restrictions on long-range missiles to be lifted.
Deteriorating battlefield conditions forced the U.S. to permit Ukraine to use Western-supplied artillery and rocket systems to defend the eastern city of Kharkiv by targeting border regions where the Kremlin’s forces assemble and launch attacks.
The impact was swift: Ukrainian forces pushed Russian positions back, won time to better fortify their own positions and even mounted small offensive actions.
But commanders said that without the ability to use long-range guided missiles, such as ATACMS, their hands are tied.
“We could target (Russian) brigade command points and the entire northern grouping, because they are located 100 to 150 kilometers from the front line,” said Hefastus, an artillery commander in the Kharkiv region who goes by his callsign. “Normal ammunition can’t get at them. With this kind, we can do a lot to destroy their centers of command.”
The Ukrainian commanders interviewed spoke on condition that their callsigns be used, in line with brigade rules.
The U.S. expanded the scope of its policy to allow counterstrikes across a wider region Friday. But the Biden administration has not lifted restrictions on Ukraine that prohibit the use of U.S.-provided ATACMS to strike inside Russian territory, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. The U.S. began providing Ukraine with long-range ATACMS earlier this year, but with rules, including that they cannot be used to strike inside Russia and must be used within sovereign territory, which includes land seized by the Russians.
That prevents attacks on airfields and military infrastructure in Russia’s deep rear, underscoring a common Ukrainian complaint that Western allies anxious about potentially provoking Russia are undermining Ukraine's ability to fight effectively.
Ukrainian officials are pushing U.S. allies to be able to strike particular high-value targets inside Russia using ATACMS, which can reach over 100 kilometers (62 miles).
“Unfortunately, we still cannot reach, for example, airfields and their aircraft. This is the problem,” Yehor Cherniev, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, defense and intelligence, said earlier this month. “That’s why we are asking (allies) to lift the restrictions to use long-range missiles against limited military targets in the territory of Russia.”
Since late May, Ukraine has been able to target Russian troops and air defense systems 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border in the Kharkiv region. Moscow opened a new front in the region on May 10, capturing village after village in a sweeping advance that caught Ukrainian troops unprepared.
Though not a panacea, the move has greatly slowed Russia’s momentum, even allowing Ukrainian troops to make advances along the northeast border, including recently recapturing areas southwest of Vovchansk, according to local reports. Brigades there said high mobility army rocket systems, or HIMARS, were fired hours after permission was granted, destroying an air defense complex outfitted to launch the deadly missiles.
At the time, the stakes were high as Ukrainian military leaders anticipated another assault designed to divert troops from other intense battlegrounds in the Donetsk region. First Deputy Defense Minister Ivan Havryliuk told The Associated Press that at least 90,000 Russian troops deep in Russian territory were gearing up for a new assault.
“The HIMARS were not silent for the whole day,” Hefastus said, recalling the first hours when permission was granted to use the rocket systems. “From the first days, Ukrainian forces managed to destroy whole columns of troops along the border waiting for the order to enter Ukraine.”
“Before, we couldn’t target them. It was quite complicated. All warehouses with ammunition and other resources were located a 20-kilometer distance beyond what we could hit,” he said.
The dynamics shifted almost immediately, allowing Ukrainian forces to stabilize that part of the front line. Soldiers near a strategic area north of Kharkiv where fighting to push Russian troops back is ongoing said enemy troops had moved positions several kilometers back. Such claims could not be independently verified.
“Tactics have changed" as a result of Ukraine’s improved striking ability, said Kalina, a platoon commander for the Khartia Brigade. Before, they were only able to hit incoming infantry assaults; now, they can employ more artillery against Russian firing points.
The U.S. decision came in the 11th hour, after much lobbying by Ukrainian officials and right as troops were preparing for combat in anticipation of Russia opening a new front in the northeast.
Ukrainian officials are hoping to convince American allies to allow the use of ATACMS against specific targets.
“It seems pretty absurd when the enemy is so actively advancing on our territory and striking with all types of missiles and calibers at Ukrainian territory and we cannot strike back inside the enemy’s territory where they hold logistics and supplies,” said Lys Mykyta, the commander of a drone company in the 103rd Territorial Defense Brigade.
But Ukrainian officials said only desperate battlefield conditions are likely to convince American officials to walk back the restriction.
The renewed invasion of the Kharkiv region, which drew in precious Ukrainian reserves, pushed the U.S. to have a change of heart on allowing self-defense strikes in Russian territory, Cherniev said.
“Probably, the decision about the ATACMS will also be changed based on the situation on the ground,” he said. “I hope the decision will be made as soon as possible.”

Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

Updated 22 June 2024
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Former French president Hollande says Macron ascendency ‘is over’

  • “I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said
  • Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said

USSEL, France: French President Emmanuel Macron’s ascendancy is “over,” former head of state Francois Hollande told AFP Saturday, after his former protege called a snap election likely to hand massive gains to the far right.
“I have no scores to settle at all. That’s all in the past,” Hollande said on the campaign trail in his native Correze department in central France, where he is standing to be an MP.
Suffering at the time from abysmal poll ratings, Socialist Hollande did not himself stand for a second term at the 2017 election.
Running as a pro-business centrist, his former economy minister Macron pulled off a surprise win that shattered traditional governing parties on the left and the right.
Now just two years into the younger man’s second term, “Macronism is over, if indeed it ever existed. But it’s over, I say it with no special hostility,” Hollande said.
“I don’t mean that his presidential term is coming to an end, that’s something different. But what he may have represented for a time is over,” he added.
Re-elected in 2022 for a second five-year term, Macron lost his absolute majority in parliament in legislative polls the same year.
His party has limped on in minority government, passing hard-fought and controversial reforms including raising the pension age and toughening immigration law.
But a heavy defeat at June 9’s European Parliament election prompted Macron to dissolve parliament in hopes of breaking the deadlock.
A new chamber will be elected on June 30 and July 7 with the far-right National Rally (RN) looking set to win the most seats.
France’s two-round electoral system makes predicting outcomes tricky, but it is highly unlikely that Macron’s gamble will pay off by winning a new majority.
Instead, he could find himself presiding over a government run by an ideological opponent.
Macron’s rule has “had a heavy political cost,” Hollande said.
“The parties were heavily damaged and public morale was too. The far right has never been so strong.”
Hollande’s Socialist party has formed an electoral alliance with other left parties including Greens, Communists and hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).
Their New Popular Front (NFP) is currently running second to the RN in the polls, both well ahead of Macron’s Renaissance outfit.
“It’s time for a political realignment,” Hollande said.
“I didn’t plan to stand for any election in my position, something very serious had to happen” in the shape of the RN’s more than 31 percent in the European election, he added.
Some Socialist voters have struggled with the idea of backing an alliance with LFI and its fiery leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, with some party figures accused of anti-Semitism and a history of Euroskeptic statements.
“I’m in the framework of an alliance because it has to be done, but there’s no kind of confusion” between his positions and Melenchon’s, Hollande said.
If elected, “I’ll be an MP who will call for responsibility whatever happens... vigilant and committed to finding solutions,” he added.


Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Updated 22 June 2024
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Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

  • The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back
  • Falco warned of “a real emergency“

ROME: The Italian island of Capri banned tourists from disembarking Saturday after problems with the water supply from the mainland threatened to leave the holiday hotspot parched.
The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back.
The company charged with supplying the island with water said there had been a technical problem on the mainland on Thursday, and while that had since been fixed problems with the supply to Capri remained.
Falco warned of “a real emergency” and said that while there was still water on most of the island on Friday, local tanks were “running out.”
“The emergency would be worsened by the arrival of the thousands of tourists which arrive on Capri daily,” he said.
Locals could collect up to 25 liters of drinking water per household from a supply tanker, he said.
The ban, which does not apply to residents, will be in place until further notice.
Capri, in the Bay of Naples, is famed for its white villas, cove-studded coastline and upscale hotels. There are some 13,000 permanent residents but huge numbers of day-trippers in summer months.


Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Updated 22 June 2024
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Russian bomb attack kills three, injures 29 in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

  • Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured
  • “This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram

KYIV: Russian guided bombs struck an apartment building in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, on Saturday, killing three people, injuring 29 and prompting President Volodymyr Zelensky to call for more help from Kyiv’s allies.
Pictures posted online showed parts of an apartment building in ruins, with windows smashed, balconies shattered and rubble strewn about a crater on the ground.
Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko put the casualty toll at three dead and 29 injured in the mid-afternoon attack. Regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said two children were among the injured and four of those hurt were in serious condition.
“This Russian terror through guided bombs must be stopped and can be stopped,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
“We need strong decisions from our partners to enable us to stop the Russian terrorists and Russian military aviation right where they are.”
Syniehubov said rescue work was proceeding. Other civilian targets had also been hit and public transport halted.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov said there had been four strikes.
Kharkiv lies about 30 km (20 miles) from the border with Russia. The city of about 1.3 million people has frequently been targeted in Russian attacks during nearly 28 months of war.
Russia has relied increasingly on the use of the bombs, relatively inexpensive, dropped from a distance and involving fewer risks for its forces.


Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

Updated 22 June 2024
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Bangladesh says it won’t let in any more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar fighting

  • Clashes between Myanmar junta and insurgents started in October 2023
  • Deadly fighting engulfs Rohingya-inhabited border areas

DHAKA: Bangladesh will not take in any more Rohingya fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, said on Saturday, amid reports that people from the areas affected by fighting have been gathering on the border.

Concerns that a war between Myanmar’s junta and the opposition ethnic-minority Arakan Army would trigger a new wave of refugees seeking safety in Bangladesh have been on the rise over the past few months.

Clashes between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin States started in late October 2023 with a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which has been in control of the country since early 2021.

Most of the Rohingya — hundreds of thousands of whom fled to Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown and persecution in 2017 — come from Rakhine. One of the most heavily Rohingya-populated areas in the state, Maungdaw, has been under the control of the Arakan Army, which last week warned it was expecting the junta to attempt to recapture it.

“On the other side of the border in Myanmar, a fierce gunbattle is happening and, every day, people are dying. Maungdaw town is a predominantly Rohingya-inhabited area,” Rahman told Arab News.

“We have heard that (some) Rohingyas have tried to enter Bangladesh ... (they) have gathered on the border on the Myanmar side, mainly near the Teknaf subdistrict under Cox’s Bazar.”

More than a million Rohingya Muslims currently live in squalid camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, turning the coastal district into the world’s largest refugee settlement.

Rahman said Bangladesh cannot receive more refugees and will not allow any more Rohingya to enter the country from Myanmar.

“The Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazar camps are very anxious about the safety and fate of their relatives living in Maungdaw and the surrounding area,” he said. “(But) we can’t receive any more Rohingyas, as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than 1 million. Our stand is that not a single more Rohingya will enter our land.”

The UN estimates that 95 percent of Rohingya refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance, which has been dropping since 2020, despite urgent pleas for donations by the World Food Program and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The protracted humanitarian crisis has started to affect the host community, which, despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, has been supporting the Rohingya by providing not only land, but also water, electricity, healthcare and a huge law-enforcement presence.

The Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief estimates the government has spent around $2 billion since the beginning of the crisis on maintaining infrastructure for refugees.