Tensions have reached a boiling point at several top United States universities, including Columbia University, New York University (NYU), and Yale, as pro-Palestinian demonstrations and arrests escalate in response to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. The unrest has prompted Columbia to move its main campus to a hybrid schedule for the remainder of the semester, while NYU witnessed a number of arrests outside one of its buildings on Monday night.

The tumult at Columbia began last Thursday when over 100 people, including the daughter of US Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, were arrested at a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus. University President Minouche Shafik had requested NYPD assistance in clearing the crowd, which had begun amassing the day prior. As arrests continued over the weekend, Shafik decided to hold classes virtually on Monday to "deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps."

Some Jewish students at Columbia have reported experiencing antisemitic harassment, including being told to "go back to Poland." An Orthodox rabbi associated with the university advised nearly 300 Jewish students to return home until the situation on campus improves. Despite the arrests and safety concerns, pro-Palestinian protesters have remained undeterred, with Monday marking the sixth day of demonstrations.

The unrest has drawn reactions from high-profile figures, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and President Joe Biden, who have all expressed concern for the safety of Jewish students and spoken out against antisemitism. However, Biden also condemned "those who don't understand what's going on with the Palestinians."

The protests at Columbia and other universities have been ongoing since October 7, when Hamas attacks on Israel killed about 1,200 people and led to the kidnapping of roughly 250 hostages. Israel subsequently launched a war against Hamas in Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinian civilians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

At NYU, the NYPD moved in on an encampment in Gould Plaza, arresting several protesters on charges of trespassing. Helga Tawil-Souri, an associate professor of Middle East and Islamic studies at NYU, told Al Jazeera that the protest was peaceful and that she had never seen a crackdown of this nature in her nearly 20 years at the university.

The wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations has spread to other universities across the country, including Yale, where dozens of protesters were arrested on Monday morning for trespassing. Protest encampments have also been established at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emerson College, and the University of Southern California, with students demanding their institutions divest from companies with ties to Israel and support Palestinian liberation.

As the unrest continues, universities are grappling with how to balance student safety, freedom of expression, and the growing tensions between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups on campus. The situation has also reignited debates about antisemitism and the role of academic institutions in addressing complex geopolitical issues.

With no immediate end to the Israel-Hamas conflict in sight, it remains to be seen how universities will navigate the ongoing protests and mounting tensions on their campuses.