Israel-Hamas war: ‘Cancerous’ pro-Palestinian university protests ‘reminiscent of 1930s Germany’, Holocaust expert says

Police clash with pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the UCLA campus early on Thursday morning. Pic: AP

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Protests on US university campuses are “cancerous” and reminiscent of 1930s Germany, the chairman of the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre has told Sky News.

Speaking from Yad Vashem, the memorial in the Jerusalem hills, Dani Dayan said that antisemitism is becoming acceptable in many institutions and leaders must make a stand.

Mr Dayan said: “I have no opposition to people protesting against Israel’s policies, including in Gaza. The problem is not that. The problem is that the calls are for the elimination of Israel irrespective of its policies, and that is antisemitic.

University protests latest: Riot police use rubber bullets at Los Angeles campus

“I will be the last person to oppose freedom of demonstration, freedom of opinion, but the genocidal calls are genocidal.

“Even if you don’t intend to kill all the Jews of Israel, just to remove them, just to deny them from their liberties, just to deny them from the right for self-determination, that is deeply antisemitic.

“What we are witnessing in the elite campuses, especially in the United States, is a cancerous process.

“The elimination of Israel is part now of the legitimate discourse. I would even say the prevalent discourse in many universities in America and in Europe, Columbia included.”

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Police make arrests at UCLA protest

Mr Dayan, previously Israel’s consul general in New York, recently wrote a letter to the president of Columbia University urging her to “lead with moral principles”. He is yet to receive a reply, he said.

Recalling events at Heidelberg University in Germany in the mid-1930s when the campus was purged of Jewish academia and students, Mr Dayan said that he sees comparisons with what is happening today.

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Police raid Columbia University

He said: “We are not on the eve of a Nazi regime, or anything like that, but the similarity I do see is that a bigoted ideology, a racist ideology is considered legitimate, promoted when thousands of faculty, staff and students in a university call for the abolition of the Jewish state and the elimination of Zionism. Something is deeply rotten and should be taken care of.”

By dawn on Thursday, the UCLA encampment in Los Angeles was over, with rubble and debris where the mini village of tents, gazebos and signs protesting against Israel’s war in Gaza once stood in the school’s Royce Quad.

Hundreds of California Highway Patrol officers wearing riot gear had entered the campus and demolished the encampment.

Videos were published of riot police using rubber bullets on demonstrators in fierce clashes that saw some protesters arrested and led away with their hands tied behind their backs.

Read more:
Inside pro-Palestinian protest as police break up UCLA encampment

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UCLA protest: How it unfolded

A hard core of demonstrators were still holding out against police and could be heard chanting slogans and repeated calls for the college to sever its financial ties with Israel.

More than 100 people were arrested when police in New York entered Columbia University on Tuesday night to clear protesters there.

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‘Order must prevail’ at protests

Across Europe there have been regular marches against Israel and in support of Palestinian people, attended by tens of thousands.

In the UK, the prime minister’s spokesman has said police will have Downing Street’s support if they are forced to break up demonstrations at universities.

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