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

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At pro-Palestinian protest, students continue to pressure NYU to shut down Tel Aviv site

About 100 pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at Washington Square Park on Wednesday, demanding that the university shut down NYU Tel Aviv, protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus and publicly call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.
People+are+standing+in+front+of+the+Washington+Square+Arch+beneath+a+large+Palestinian+flag.
Zhuoer Liu
(Zhuoer Liu for WSN)

Around 100 students gathered by the Garibaldi statue in Washington Square Park for a pro-Palestinian demonstration Wednesday, calling on NYU to shut down its study abroad site in Tel Aviv and demand a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. The university has repeatedly rejected calls to close the Tel Aviv program on the grounds that shutting it down would violate academic freedom.

Protesters waved Palestinian flags and demanded that the university protect pro-Palestinian speech on campus. Various student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and NYU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, organized the protest, which took place on the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” 

The protest was quickly met with around 20 pro-Israeli counterprotesters, who chanted “free Palestine from Hamas” and “the Jews united will never be defeated.” The demonstration was originally planned to take place at Schwartz Plaza, but the area was blocked off by metal barriers and patrolled by Campus Safety and police officers.

Protesters and counterprotesters declined to comment at the demonstration, with SJP members instead referring WSN to the group’s Instagram post. In the post, the group demanded that NYU “end their complicity” in the Israel-Hamas war and that the university “stand firmly against the vilification” of pro-Palestinian speech.

A pro-Palestinian student who attended the protest — who requested to remain anonymous due to safety concerns — said Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students on campus have been feeling “hopelessness and helplessness” surrounding Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip in a written statement to WSN. 

“Many of us, especially our students with connections to Gaza have felt an overwhelming sense of isolation,” the student wrote. “Participating in the protest presents a solution to at least one of the problems: it is a physical and verbal affirmation that those who are currently hurting for Gaza are not alone. It also fulfilled the innate childish urge to scream out of frustration — and mostly to scream for help.” 

In a written statement to WSN, NYU spokesperson John Beckman reiterated the university’s commitment to NYU Tel Aviv, arguing that shutting the site down would be an “academic boycott.”

“NYU firmly rejects the demonstrators’ demands to close NYU Tel Aviv and to cease our scholarly and academic interactions with the University of Tel Aviv,” Beckman wrote. “This has been NYU’s longstanding position, because this kind of academic boycott of Israel is antithetical to the tenets of academic freedom, most notably the principle of the free exchange of ideas.”

Some students have alleged that NYU’s Tel Aviv program violates academic freedom as well as the university’s Code of Ethical Conduct and Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies because of an Israeli law barring foreigners who have called for a boycott of the country from entering its borders. 

Protesters also accused NYU leadership of complicity in Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed over 1,200 Israeli civilians and left around 200 held hostage. More than 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war so far, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Israel and Hamas recently entered a temporary pause to the fighting, in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinians held prisoner in Israel.

Speakers at the protest criticized the presence of the Department of Campus Safety and the New York City Police Department, who they claimed were “repressing their voices.” Two weeks ago, SJP organized a separate demonstration at Washington Square Park, which also saw a heightened police presence. The protest was planned to take place outside the Stern School of Business’ Tisch Hall, but the area was closed off by Campus Safety officers. 

NYU increased the number of Campus Safety officers around its Washington Square and Brooklyn campuses in response to on-campus incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Since the beginning of the war last month, the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life has received hundreds of reports of antisemitism, and there have been reports of students facing employment discrimination and being identified online for promoting pro-Palestinian speech. 

Yezen Saadah contributed reporting.

Contact Luke McCrory at [email protected].

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