How does the world view the protests on US campuses?

The world watches what happens on American campuses with shock, pride, joy and alarm. Scenes of protests – and arrests of demonstrators – were headline news around the world, from Bogotá to Berlin, from Tehran to Paris.

In some countries, including France, students have staged protests of their own, though not with the scale and intensity of those in the United States.

Some applaud the protests. Others, especially in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes, see the crackdown as evidence of American hypocrisy on human rights and free speech. Still others see them as the latest sordid chapter in America's ongoing culture wars.

In some ways, the protests and the response to them are a Rorschach test for the world: The analysis often offers more insight into local politics than American politics.

Here is a selection of opinions from around the world.

Many in France, including Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, see the pro-Palestinian protests as another example of the dangers of “woke” culture – “le wokisme” – which they fear is being imported from the United States and threatens core French republican values.

On Friday, police officers raided an elite Paris university, Sciences Po, to remove students who had occupied the building overnight. The protesters had called on the university to condemn what they called “the ongoing genocide in Gaza” and to review its partnerships with Israeli universities.

It is the second time police have done so in the past nine days, something many say they have never seen before at the university, founded in 1872 to educate the country's future leaders.

Attal denounced an “active and dangerous minority” of student protesters who, he said, wanted to impose “an ideology that came from the other side of the Atlantic”.

In both the United States and France, the protests are viewed by many, especially on the right, through the same lens as past movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, which the French establishment has dismissively analyzed as reductive and divisive, a threat. to social cohesion.

“One of the characteristics of wokisme is that of dividing the world into dominant and dominated, oppressors and oppressed. Today, what we see happening on American campuses is a vision that classifies Israel as the oppressor and Palestine as the oppressed,” said Chloé Morin, a political analyst who recently published a book denouncing wokisme. “Consequently, they cannot accept the existence of anti-Semitism and that Jews can also be victims of it.”

A well-known academic and expert on Islam, Gilles Kepel, offered a similar analysis. “Wokisme multiplies the narcissism of small differences, which means that no society is possible,” he wrote in the newsmagazine L'Express. “It is a mortal danger for democratic societies.”

Supporters of the protests reject the idea that they are imported from American campuses. They point out that Sciences Po students had been organizing protests long before the Columbia campus erupted.

“This is not a copycat,” said Pierre Fuller, a professor of Chinese history at Sciences Po, who organized a professors' petition in late March calling on the university to condemn both Israeli policies in Gaza and the hostage-taking of Hamas.

“If it's a woke impersonation, I'd rather be woke than someone advocating genocide,” said Jack Espinose, 22, a public relations student at Sciences Po who was among the students dragged out by police on Friday.

A right-wing talk show broadcast across Egypt recently gave unexpected coverage to the arrest of an economics professor at Emory University. The show's host seemed particularly affected by the image of her head being slammed into the concrete by a police officer during the breakup of a protest on campus, holding the image of her for two minutes.

“This is the real White House,” said the host, Ahmed Moussa, with evident pleasure. “All the words that the Americans said before, just don't believe them. Only believe what you see.

Moussa, who once said he was proud to patriotically serve the ruling army and security agencies, is among several Egyptian television personalities seizing on the harsh tactics used by police on US campuses as a way to criticize Washington, which For years, Cairo has been the target of human rights warnings.

Footage of officers punching or dragging students has been looped on many news channels. Moustpha Bakry, a member of Parliament with his own television show, said the United States has lost its credibility as a champion of freedoms.

“You fell into the swamp,” Mr. Bakry said.

Nashat Dehi, a top TV host at Channel Ten, widely believed to be linked to the country's intelligence agency, said Cairo was no longer obligated to respond to the US State Department's annual human rights report on Egypt.

“The US administration is carrying out its own intifada to counter university protesters,” he said.

German news media have covered the U.S. protests much more extensively than those that have taken place on their own campuses in recent months. In particular, they focused on incidents of anti-Semitism.

A recent headline in Die Welt read: “With smiling faces they preach hatred against Jews.” Articles published on its website about the protests are labeled “anti-Semitic protests.”

This attention offers confirmation of Germany's decision to ban many anti-war protests and discourage public criticism of Israel in the name of fighting anti-Semitism. This approach has been subject to international censure, particularly for its chilling effect on the art world.

“Should it be assumed that the discourse on the Middle East in New York and London should be considered exemplary?” wrote a commentator from the left-wing newspaper Taz.

One place where protests on American campuses have received almost no coverage is China, where state media has made little mention of them in the past week.

The most likely reason: Chinese authorities don't want student protests on their campuses, said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor emeritus of political science at Hong Kong Baptist University. “They fear that students will use this as an excuse to mobilize,” he said.

The main exception is Guancha, a nationalist website with a long history of condemning the United States. Articles were published Thursday suggesting the protests showed divisions in the United States symptomatic of a broader decline in social cohesion.

Other Chinese news organizations with intended audiences outside China, as well as covert influence operations, have seized the opportunity to amplify protests and inflame tensions.

While Chinese officials have said little to their own people, Hua Chunying, chief spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized the United States over X, which is hidden from view in mainland China.

He posted a video montage of scenes of US police struggling with protesters alongside the question: “Do you remember how US officials reacted when these protests occurred elsewhere?”

The country's two largest newspapers, El Tiempo and El Espectador, published editorials this week in support of the student protests.

At El Tiempo, editors saw the violent arrests of students as an opportunity to remind readers of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, so that it doesn't “become part of the landscape,” said Federico Arango, a columnist. He said he had lost count of the number of editorials the newspaper had published about the war.

“We hope the protests don't just end in controversy,” Arango said. “Hopefully, people see that those students are not there for or against Biden or Trump. I think what these students want is for people to see the tragic reality that the Palestinian people are going through.”

This week, the country's left-wing president, Gustavo Petro, announced he would cut diplomatic ties with Israel. He described the Israeli government's actions in Gaza as “genocidal.”

At the National University of Bogota, a public institution known for student movements, slogans such as “It's not a war, it's a genocide” and “Don't stop talking about Palestine” were painted on the walls.

“The important thing is to show your discontent, to show that you are not turning a blind eye to what is happening in the world,” said Yadir Ramos, 22, a psychology student.

Iranian state media has closely followed the protests on American college campuses, seeing them as evidence of America's double standards regarding free speech.

Images of the riot police raid on Columbia University appeared on the front pages of several conservative newspapers in Iran on Thursday, with headlines that read: “This is how America treats students” and “Repression and expulsion are the price of being liberal.”

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian expressed concern about the safety of American student activists and protesters. Last week, on X, published a video of police officers confronting students and handcuffing them, calling it “repression” and saying it “clearly shows the American government’s duplicitous policy and contradictory behavior toward freedom of expression.”

Many ordinary Iranians also took to social media to express dismay that U.S. universities, which they perceived as bastions of free expression and debate, had called the police.

Tehran resident Raika, 45, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of retaliation, said the violence reminded her of when she was a university student in Iran and plainclothes security officers stormed the campus of Tehran University, beating and arresting students who were organizing a sit-in.

But at least he said students in the United States have access to a fair and independent judicial process.

Reporting contribution was provided by Erika Solomon in Berlin; Jorge Valencia in Bogota, Colombia; Farnaz Fassihi in New York; Keith Bradsher in Beijing; AND Joy Dong in Hong Kong; Mother Mekay In Cairo; AND Ségolène Le Stradic in Paris.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *