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Gaza protests highlight the need to build cooperation vs. confrontation, says Eboo Patel
Gaza protests highlight the need to build cooperation vs confrontation | Eboo Patel | GZERO World

Gaza protests highlight the need to build cooperation vs. confrontation, says Eboo Patel

It’s time for college students to rethink how they protest, says Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith America, a nonprofit that works with hundreds of campuses to foster healthier dialogue. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer for the latest episode of GZERO World, Patel criticizes the confrontational culture on campuses, urging a shift from romanticizing conflict to embracing cooperation. He challenges the dichotomy of oppressors and oppressed, advocating for a more nuanced approach to diversity that resembles a potluck of ideas.

“We absolutely need to change the default setting on campuses from confrontation is romanticized to cooperation is the norm."

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Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter
Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter | GZERO Reports

Covering Columbia's campus protests as a student and GZERO reporter

The past few weeks of student protests, counter-protests, and police activity at Columbia have been the tensest moments the University has seen in over 50 years. What’s it like to be a student and graduating senior during this historic moment?

When GZERO writer Riley Callanan began her senior year at Barnard, the women’s college within Columbia, she never expected it would end this way: thousands of student protesters, an encampment and takeover of an administrative building, the attention of the national news media, armed police officers swarming campus, and, ultimately, a canceled graduation ceremony. Now, as she tells colleague Alex Kliment on GZERO World, instead of senior galas and grad parties, Columbia students are having intense debates over the Israel-Palestine conflict, antisemitism, and free speech.

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Campus protests over Gaza: Now what?
Campus protests over Gaza: Now what? | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Campus protests over Gaza: Now what?

Something is happening here—on college campuses, that is. But what do we make of protests that turn violent, like what we saw at UCLA or even some of the Columbia conflicts? In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Eboo Patel, founder of the nonprofit Interfaith America, talks about his work on hundreds of college campuses to find common ground. His core message is simple: "Cooperation is better than division."

Patel advocates for a shift in focus from confrontation to cooperation on campuses, suggesting that universities should foster environments of civil discourse. He proposes initiatives like teach-ins and dialogues to explore constructive solutions to complex issues. "I think the problem here, the thing that universities could control, which I think that they have gotten wrong in many cases over the course of the past five years, is the default mode has been set to confrontation, not cooperation."

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Why campus protests worsen divisions, and how to mediate: Advice from Eboo Patel

Listen: On this episode of the GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer, Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith America, advocates for cooperation over division on college campuses in response to protests, highlighting the need for civil discourse and pointing out that despite some instances of violence, most campuses engage in constructive dialogue.

Whether you are for or against the protests happening across the country, one thing is clear: They've caught the world's attention. Some have escalated into violence, as seen at UCLA, Texas, and Columbia University. On the podcast, Patel discusses his efforts on over 600 college campuses to foster unity. His central message: "Cooperation is better than division."

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Ian Explains: Will the Gaza campus protests work?
Will the Gaza campus protests work? | Ian Bremmer explains | GZERO World

Ian Explains: Will the Gaza campus protests work?

Have the student protests worked? College campuses nationwide have become protest hubs, echoing past movements demanding change. From Columbia to UCLA, students are pitching tents, occupying buildings, and clashing with police over Israel's actions in Gaza. The core demand: divestment from Israel. Whether it's cutting ties with Israeli donors or businesses, students are risking penalties to be heard, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World.

This activism mirrors the 1968 protests at Columbia, which targeted US involvement in Vietnam. Then, as now, divestment was a central demand, albeit from different sources. Some progress has been made; Brown and Northwestern students have reached agreements with administrators. Worldwide, youth are voicing discontent over Gaza.

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A demonstrator stands in front of a row of National Guard soldiers, across the street from the Hilton Hotel in Grant Park, site of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, on Aug. 26, 1968.

Library of Congress/Warren K. Leffler/Handout via REUTERS

This is not 1968

Last week, my friend Alex Kliment wisely urged us to “Stop with the 1930s stuff,” current historical comparisons between what President Joe Biden has called a“ferocious surge” of antisemitism in response to the war in Gaza and the murderous anti-Jewish hatreds of the 1930s that led to the Holocaust.

Let’s pump the brakes on another distortion of history — that of today’s US political environment with the upheavals of 1968. (Seehere,here, andhere for recent public examples.)

Here’s the argument some are making …

As in 1968, the Democratic Party, burdened with a weak incumbent, is fighting to keep the White House as a deeply unpopular war ignites angry student protests, provoking confrontations between students and police. The Democrats, preparing to nominate their candidate (in Chicago!) will face ugly demonstrations there that provoke yet more activist confrontations with police, adding to a sense that the nation is out of control and prompting centrist voters to favor a restoration of order.

Conclusion: The Dems lost in 1968, and Biden now faces defeat for the same reasons.

Not so fast. First, today’s student protesters are furious over the war in Gaza, the heavy civilian death toll among Palestinians with nowhere to go, and the seeming refusal of the US government and US institutions, including their schools, to make it stop.

But the students of 1968, angry over segregation in America and the war in Vietnam, faced the reality they might be drafted and sent to kill or be killed in Southeast Asia. The furies that fueled those students were far more personal.

Second, if today’s political environment feels chaotic, consider this … As of May 2024, hundreds of students have been arrested, and graduation ceremonies have been canceled. President Biden is unpopular.

By May 1968, a much larger number of protesters had been arrested, state troopers had killed three students and wounded 50 more at South Carolina State University, President Lyndon Johnson had announced he would not seek reelection, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, and Robert F. Kennedy would soon follow.

Third, this year’s election dynamic is very different. Polls say Biden is a weak leader for Democrats, but he is the incumbent. The advantages this confers on his reelection bid exceed anything 1968’s ill-fated Dem nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, had on hand.

Biden has another advantage: Party convention organizers are already prepping for the worst in Chicago. In 1968, the Dems and Chicago PD weren’t ready for demonstrations of that scale, intensity, and sophistication of organization.

Further, in 1968, for voters who wanted a leader who could calm the raging passions of that moment, Richard Nixon could offer himself as an experienced statesman, a Cold War-era safe pair of hands — a man without the personal baggage that would permanently stain his legacy a few years later.

Donald Trump is a different political character. Love him or hate him, he will not be the choice of voters who crave a return to “normalcy.” Trump presents himself, and many of his devoted fans see him, as a political revolutionary, a Molotov cocktail to throw at the nation’s political elite.

In addition, while Nixon could win over persuadable voters as the “law-and-order candidate,” Trump now faces 91 felony charges in four separate criminal cases and is currently making headlines for defying a judge’s orders.

Finally, from the “tragedy-repeated-as-farce” department, 1968’s Robert F. Kennedy was a murdered martyr for social justice. His son, Robert Kennedy Jr., is aconspiracy theoristwho says a doctor once told him that “a worm got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died.” Nor is the younger Kennedy likely to win five states that had voted Democrat for decades, as third-party segregationist George Wallace did in 1968.

Biden faced an uphill reelection fight before the war and related protests erupted, and Trump might well beat him in November. If so, when seeking explanations, look to the problems Biden faced before Hamas attacked Israel.

Café Esplanade, a fancy coffee shop that was designed by a celebrated modernist architect and frequented by many from Brno’s once-thriving Jewish community.

Brno Architecture Manual

Stop with the “1930s” stuff

A few weeks ago, I was standing on a little triangle of clumpy, unkempt grass between two plastic garbage cans and an electrical transformer on a street corner in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic.

Before World War II, this little patch of grass was the site of the Café Esplanade, a fancy coffee shop designed by a celebrated modernist architect, where the cream of Brno’s once-thriving Jewish community would go to read the papers, chat, and smoke. Later, they would begin to speak in hushed voices about what was going on next door in Germany and Austria.

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Students gather in front of the Sorbonne University in support of Palestinians in Gaza, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Paris, France, April 29, 2024.

REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Student protests go global

As police ramp up efforts to dismantle pro-Palestine encampments and demonstrations on US campuses, the student protests are going global.

Students at four universities in Australia have jumped onto what they call a “global wave” of pro-Palestinian activism, vowing to occupy areas of campus with encampments until their schools cut financial ties with Israel.

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