Sciences Po University Closes Paris Campus Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests

Sciences Po University in Paris closed its main campus due to ongoing pro-Palestinian student protests demanding condemnation of Israel's practices. The protests, which included a hunger strike, reflect deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Sciences Po University Closes Paris Campus Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests

Sciences Po University Closes Paris Campus Amid Pro-Palestinian Protests

Sciences Po University, one of France's most prestigious educational institutions, announced the closure of its main site in central Paris on May 3, 2024, following ongoing pro-Palestinian student protests. The decision came after dozens of students occupied new buildings, demanding that the university condemn Israel's practices and end its cooperation with Israeli institutions.

Why this matters: The protests at Sciences Po reflect a broader trend of demonstrations at top universities worldwide, highlighting the deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The university's response will set a precedent for how academic institutions balance student activism with maintaining open dialogue and academic freedom.

In a message to staff, the university's management stated, "We ask you to continue to work from home," effectively shutting down the campus. The article at Sciences Po, which counts President Emmanuel Macron among its alumni, are part of a larger trend of demonstrations at top universities worldwide, fueled by anger over the Israel-Hamas war and the resulting humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

A committee of pro-Palestinian students announced a "peaceful sit-in" at Sciences Po, with six students starting a hunger strike "in solidarity with Palestinian victims" in Gaza. The protesters, demand, review, ties with Israeli universities, a move that acting administrator Jean Basseres has refused to meet.

The protests have drawn attention from local authorities and government officials. Valerie Pecresse, the right-wing head of the Paris regional authority, temporarily suspended funding to Sciences Po earlier in the week, condemning what she called "a minority of radicalised people calling for anti-Semitic hatred." Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau has called on university heads to "keep order," including by calling in the police if needed.

France is home to the world's largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, and Europe's biggest Muslim community, making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a sensitive issue in the country. The ongoing Israel-Hamas war has claimed the lives of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli official figures. Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,596 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The closure of Sciences Po's main campus and the ongoing protests highlight the deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not only in France but also in academic institutions worldwide. The situation continues to unfold, the university faces the challenge of addressing the students' demands while walking a fine line between a complex political environment and maintaining its commitment to academic freedom and open dialogue.

Key Takeaways

  • Sciences Po University in Paris closes main site due to pro-Palestinian student protests.
  • Students demand university condemn Israel's practices and end cooperation with Israeli institutions.
  • Protests reflect broader trend of demonstrations at top universities worldwide over Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • French authorities condemn protests, with some calling for police intervention to maintain order.
  • University faces challenge of balancing student activism with academic freedom and open dialogue.