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25 Years Online
••• The International Writers Magazine - Students & Gaza

Student America Rises up For Gaza
• Dr Marwan Asmar
The Protest Movement Grows Worldwide

Student Protests

The world is Gaza. The strip today takes center stage, it has become globalized and internationalized. It is Israel that has become the world’s pariah for its war on the 364-kilometer enclave. The world has spoken in a domino fashion. 

The world’s student population, the top 10 percent of the global population - the most educated, knowledgeable and cultured have spoken. Today they are in the forefront with their message: Stop the Israeli genocide in Gaza, stop the killing and destruction, stop the cooperation of their universities with Israeli occupation and their companies and research institutions. 

It was the American universities that set the global ball rolling. Students from top US universities have spoken out, saying they will no longer keep their lips sealed against the bloody actions against Gaza. They also want their universities to disinvest in Israel and are angry with the US government which is aiding and abetting the mass slaughter by suppling the weapons and mass bombs - 2000 pounds missiles - dropped on housing estates in different parts of Gaza.

Today, United States universities are experiencing mass intifadas on their campuses through setting up protest tents and “Gaza Solidarity Encampments” on their lawns calling for the end of the war. Many of the administrations of these universities have called on the police, the national guard and state paratroopers to enter their campuses and dismantle these encampments. But other than violence, arrests, beatings and handcuffs, these encampments continue.

Since 18 April 2024, the US campuses have been experiencing social and political revolutions with mass protests and sit-ins captured on videoclips and posted on the social media. It was all there for everyone to see with police brutality on camera of students and their professors, people from all walks of life, whites, colored, Chinese, Arab-Americans, Jews and anti-Zionists - those who were pro-freedom, anti-occupation and for free-speech. 

Akin to Vietnam

The nationwide protests and the police being reactions to them which are mildly described as brutal, are likened to the anti-war protests experienced in America during the 1960s when US universities then become a pivotal force against Washington’s war in Vietnam.

Palestinian activist and commentator Dr Mostapha Barghouti is echoing what other leading activists are saying, pointing out the young generation’s uprising in American universities resembles the protests against the US war in Vietnam and the anti-apartheid movement which have spread to other universities in the world. These university protesters are not in any way anti-Semitic. How could they be if they include rabbis speaking against Israel’s military action in Gaza and names like activist, author and filmmaker, Noami Klein, professor Angela Davis from the University of California at Santa Cruze and Professor Noelle Mcafee, head of Philosophy, Dr Caroline Fohlin, an economics professor, both at Emory University in Atlanta. The latter was set upon by the police as seen on camera.

What was disturbing for the authorities, running all the way from the White House, to the police and right-wing extremists is that this is a student movement with the spark being Colombia quickly moving to Harvard, Michigan State University, to Georgetown, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Tufts and Purdue. It’s a popular student movement that has not been experienced in decades.

These were elite universities representing the crème of American academia and were not afraid to speak up despite the institutional bullying.  They were followed by the rest of the higher educational spectrum including the different universities in California, Texas University in Austin, the Universities of Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, Wayne in Detroit, Indiana and many more colleges. 

‘You Are Not Alone’

Suddenly it was Palestine and Gaza ‘you are not alone’. Encampments on universities’ grounds was being set up by the day.  This time the student movements was not isolated like before. Now it was becoming sustained. Students this time around, made sure their voice would continue to be vocal through the encampments and tents. The university authorities became angry, they didn’t want theirs filled with such encampments, so they called in the police who started the rough-handling and abuse.  

Despite threats and intimidation from the authorities, these students were not going to go away. The organizers started employing different tactics inviting officials from outside. US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked up to the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University to express solidarity.

At the Colombia encampment a special library was set up to honor English professor Refat Al Areer who was killed, along with his family, by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza last December. Al Areer was a poet, a translator and a linguist and lectured at Gaza’s Islamist University which was also destroyed – along with the 11 other universities in the enclave - by Israeli bombing.

A memorial library was also set up in his name at the University of Pennsylvania’s Gaza solidarity encampment. American students were standing with Palestine against Israel’s brutal onslaught on Gaza that started soon after 7 October and now is entering its 8th month where over 34,000 civilians were killed and 75,000 people injured and hundreds of thousands displaced.

It’s being seen as Tel Aviv’s revenge for the 1200 Israelis killed by Hamas operatives on 7 October who broke out of the Gaza fence and took 240 hostages.

US presidential candidate Jill Stein said students are being “brutalized” at pro-Palestine protests in universities across the country by American police officers who are allegedly trained in crowd control techniques by the Israeli military, in an act she says, is an “assault on democracy”.

If the ‘global intifada” is engulfing American campuses, it is quickly spreading to British, French, Italian and Australian universities where the fight for Gaza is becoming more vocal. International students are joining the popular mass protests happening all over the world, in America itself, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, in Japan and many more.

It's becoming a global movement to stop the Israeli brutal war on Gaza that has been turned into a mass rubble site that stands at 37 million tons of debris according to the UN and would take 13 years to remove.

© Dr Marwan Asmar - April 29th 2024
Dr Asmar is an Amman-based writers who covers Middle Eastern and global affairs.

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