New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU rejects student demands to shut down Tel Aviv site at Bobst protest

Student groups protested outside Bobst Library on Thursday, calling for NYU to shut down its study abroad program in Tel Aviv.
Danny Arensberg
Students and faculty gathered in front of Bobst Library, calling for NYU’s Tel Aviv campus to be shut down. (Danny Arensberg for WSN)

Around 100 students and faculty gathered outside Bobst Library on Thursday, calling on NYU to shut down its study abroad program in Tel Aviv and divest from companies and weapons manufacturers supporting Israeli war efforts.  

More than 20 Campus Safety and police officers stood in front of the library during the demonstration, which members of Shut it Down NYU, Students for Justice in Palestine, Faculty for Justice in Palestine and other on-campus groups participated in. Protesters carried signs reading “Shut down NYU Tel Aviv” while chanting “shut down sites where students are banned, Tel Aviv is stolen land.” 

A group of around 20 counter-protesters, which consisted of students and faculty, gathered to the side of the demonstration, waving Israeli flags and holding up posters featuring the faces of Israeli hostages. As the protest continued, officers from the New York City Police Department moved some of these protesters to the sidewalk across from the library by Washington Square Park. 

NYU spokesperson John Beckman said the university has no intentions of closing its study away program in Israel. The university has long emphasized its commitment to the site in the face of student criticism, saying that shutting the program down would violate academic freedom.

“As to the demands from the demonstrators that NYU close the NYU Tel Aviv site — the university rejects those demands,” Beckman wrote to WSN. “NYU is fully committed to the continued presence of the NYU Tel Aviv program, and the university believes that calls for academic boycotts are at odds with the fundamental tenets of academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas.”

Beckman also said that Campus Safety officers secured the entrance to Bobst in order to keep protesters outside the building and make sure students and faculty unaffiliated with the demonstration could still access the library safely. 

A group of people with face coverings are holding Palestinian flags, one of which reads, “Palestine will be free.” They are marching in front of Bobst Library which is a rust-colored building.
(Danny Arensberg for WSN)

On Oct. 25, NYU president Linda Mills sent an email to students announcing that the university increased the presence of Campus Safety officers at its Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses to address student safety concerns due to the Israel-Hamas war. The university sent out an email to students with “Guidance and Expectations on Student Conduct” on Wednesday, setting regulations for the use of signs, behavior during protests and online activity. 

At recent on-campus demonstrations, students have said NYU Tel Aviv violates academic freedom as well as the university’s Code of Ethical Conduct and Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy because of an Israeli law that prohibits foreigners calling for a boycott of the country from entering. An SJP member who attended the protest — who chose to remain anonymous due to safety concerns — said they think NYU remains complicit in “the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” as long as the university is committed to its Tel Aviv program.

“The university’s refusal to recognize and acknowledge the atrocities in Palestine, including the multiple airstrikes of refugee camps and ferocious demolitions of neighborhoods across Gaza, while silent, deafeningly sets the precedent for their approval of egregious human rights violations,” the student wrote to WSN. 

The protest is the most recent development in on-campus tensions over the Israel-Hamas war, which began more than three weeks ago after a violent assault on nearby Israeli towns by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which killed more than 1,400 civilians. The group also took around 200 hostages into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military responded to the attack with airstrikes and heavy artillery into Gaza, and recently began a ground invasion that has killed more than 9,000 people so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

On Oct. 25, hundreds students and faculty took part in a nationwide pro-Palestinian walkout in Washington Square Park, also demanding that the university cut ties with Israel by ending its study abroad program in Tel Aviv and divesting from weapons manufacturers they said NYU has a stake in. 

NYU recently announced that students currently studying in Tel Aviv would complete the semester remotely from home, Abu Dhabi or Manhattan. The university has told WSN that it is “fully prepared” for students to return to the program in person for the spring 2024 semester and will base its decision on international travel regulations from the U.S. Department of State.

An NYU student, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, told WSN that he disagreed with the protest but still thought that students had the right to express their views. 

“I am very connected to Israel, it is my home,” the student said. “[The protestors] have, of course, the right to speak like anyone else; they have the freedom of speech. But they should not be doing it in front of the library.”

Contact Ania Keenan at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Ania Keenan
Ania Keenan, Features Editor
Ania Keenan is a sophmore double majoring in Journalism and Data Science. She is from California and loves black coffee, long walks, writing poetry and reading non-fiction. When she is not working on the next features investigation, you can find her running along West Side Highway, listening to audiobooks or complaining about the cold.
Danny Arensberg
Danny Arensberg, Photo Editor
Danny Arensberg is a junior majoring in photography and imaging at Tisch School of the Arts. With a primary focus on photojournalism and current affairs, he is constantly chasing breaking news within New York City. Covering everything from politics to protests on a wide range of topics, he never is not far from his camera. If he is not tiring himself out through photojournalism, you can find him running endlessly through Manhattan on any given day or falling off his skateboard. You can find him on Instagram @dannyarensberg and contact him at [email protected].

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