‘Thank you students’: Palestinians express gratitude for Columbia University protesters with touching signs in Gaza

More than 1,000 campus protesters in the US have been arrested in recent weeks in opposition to Israel’s attacks on the embattled territory

Katie Hawkinson
Friday 03 May 2024 00:21 BST
Related video: Stun grenade used on UCLA protesters as police order Gaza encampments to disperse

Displaced Palestinians are hanging touching signs thanking student protesters across the US advocating against Israel’s continued attacks on Gaza.

Photographs from Deir al Balah, a town in southern Gaza, show Palestinians crafting signs expressing gratitude to students at several universities in the US for staging protests and encampments. Their signs, which have been hanging in Gaza for over a week, come as tensions boil over between universities and protesters on their campuses.

A sign in Gaza that reads, “Thanks for your solidarity! Emory University” pictured on 1 May. Dozens of protesters at Emory University in Georgia have established an encampment on campus (EPA)

Pro-Palestinian protests at schools like Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia — where dozens are staging an encampment — are designed to pressure university authorities to divest from Israeli investments or cut ties with businesses that have connections to Israel.

Officers arrested at least 28 protesters on Emory’s campus on 25 April, local outlet WSBTV reports. Protesters have continued to stage an encampment every day since.

The protests come amid Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to officials in the territory. The attacks come in response to 7 October, when Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking another 250 as hostages.

The Associated Press also circulated footage this week of Palestinians thanking the student protesters.

“It is so wonderful,” Abu Yusuf al-Habeel, a Palestinian who is displaced and currently residing in the Shati refugee camp, told the outlet of the protests.

The wave of student protests started at Columbia University on 17 April, when students staged an encampment on the New York City campus. Their pro-Palestinian encampment was a response to school president Minouche Shafik’s testimony to Congress about alleged antisemitism at the Ivy League school.

A sign in Gaza that reads, “Thank you, students in solidarity wtih Gaza your message has reached. Thank you students for Coulumbia” pictured on 28 April. More than 100 Gaza protesters were arrested at Columbia this week after they occupied a campus building (AFP via Getty Images)

Since then, more than 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters have been arrested at schools across the US.

This week, the New York Police Department arrested more than 100 people on Columbia’s campus after protesters occupied Hamilton Hall. After barricading themselves inside the building Monday, the protesters renamed it “Hind’s Hall,” in honour of Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza by Israeli tanks.

This week’s chaos came after New York officers made more than 100 arrests on Columbia’s campus on 18 April. In both instances, university administrators requested police come to campus.

After protesters were arrested in New York, tensions also boiled over at the University of California, Los Angeles campus.

Early Thursday, police officers in riot gear dismantled a pro-Palestinian protest camp at the University of California, Los Angeles and arrested more than 130 demonstrators. The night before, the protests became violent after pro-Israel demonstrators attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment.

A man sits in Rafah in a tent with the message “thank you students for Columbia” painted on the side on 27 April. The New York Police Department has arrested hundreds of protesters at Columbia since their protests began on 17 April (AFP via Getty Images)

However, some schools are striking deals with demonstrators to discuss their demands.

Protesters at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities are taking down their four-day encampment on Thursday after Interim University President Jeff Ettinger said university administrators are willing to speak with students about their demands, which include divestment from investments with Israeli ties.

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