the day when tension rose a notch – L’Express

the day when tension rose a notch – LExpress

Sit-ins in the street, occupation of historic premises and tense face-to-face confrontations with pro-Israel demonstrators: the pro-Palestinian mobilization once again disrupted the functioning of Sciences Po Paris this Friday, April 26, where the demands of certain students are echoing the protests that are agitating certain prestigious American campuses. A small crowd of students, activists or sympathizers of the Palestine committee, are striving to continue the mobilization in and outside the premises of Sciences Po, rue Saint-Guillaume, in the heart of the upscale 7th arrondissement, noted a journalist from AFP present on site.

The tension clearly increased a notch around 4 p.m. with the arrival of around fifty pro-Israel demonstrators shouting in particular “Liberate Sciences Po” or “Liberate Gaza from Hamas”. Some were masked and had motorcycle helmets. A stampede between supporters of the two camps occurred among the many journalists present. The police then positioned themselves to separate the two groups without violence.

Previously, pro-Gaza students had started removing trash cans that obstructed the entrance to the building. But activists continue to occupy the site and a sit-in was organized immediately on the pavement. On Wednesday evening, around ten tents were set up in the courtyard of another building, before the police came to dislodge the students favorable to the Palestinian cause.

Support from LFI

The students received this Friday the support of several LFI figures including the Franco-Palestinian activist Rima Hassan, candidate on the “rebellious” list for the European elections. They carry “the honor of France”, declared to the press, Rima Hassan repeating the words of the rebellious leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon who sent an audio message of support to the demonstrators.

The management has decided to close several premises on its Paris campus and “strongly condemns these student actions”. The management, which is criticized by part of the educational community for having allowed the police to intervene on campus, organized a meeting with student representatives on Friday morning. “The debate, yes. The blockage, no”, lamented on BFMTV the Minister of Higher Education Sylvie Retailleau who took issue with the “dangerous game” attributed to LFI in the mobilization for “electoral purposes”.

READ ALSO: Sciences Po, Mélenchon… How pro-Palestinian activism is infiltrating French universities

The Palestine Committee calls for “the clear condemnation of Israel’s actions by Sciences Po” and “the end of collaborations” with all “institutions or entities” deemed complicit “in the systemic oppression of the Palestinian people”. He also calls for an end to “the repression of pro-Palestinian voices on campus.” As in the United States where the mobilization of pro-Gaza students ignites political debate, the activism of pro-Gaza students at Sciences Po is accused of fueling anti-Semitism on campus.

“It takes the entire campus hostage”

“That we show solidarity with the Palestinians, that we show rejection of the crimes committed in Gaza, it is natural, it is even worthy and noble,” judged Raphaël Glucksmann, head of list of the Socialist Party and Place publique in the European elections, on BFMTV. “Afterwards, in what atmosphere do we do it? […] Are we able to organize discussions with those who do not share the point of view? And so far, until proven otherwise, that’s not the case. So we have a problem and the management of Sciences Po has the right to decide to evacuate,” added Raphaël Glucksmann.

For the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France, Yonathan Arfi, who spoke on LCI, “there is nothing massive” but “it works, it takes the entire campus hostage, it prevents academic freedom and imposes a climate of intellectual terror on some Jewish students.”

READ ALSO: Israel-Hamas: on American campuses, anti-Semitism has reached a milestone, by Abnousse Shalmani

“We have nothing against Jewish students, there are Jewish students who campaign with us,” argued Hubert Launois, 19, a second-year student and member of the Palestine committee. “What we have a problem with is the colonial and genocidal policies of the Israeli far-right government,” he added.

New momentum or swan song when this Friday marks, for a majority of students, the end of classes and the start of exam revision? “We also know that it’s the end of the year. We don’t want this movement to die,” summarized a 21-year-old student, mobilized, who did not wish to give her name.