Campus Protests Across America


ICNA CSJ

Date published: Sat, 27 April 24


At some of the most elite universities in the world, the highly selective student body gathers to make its voice heard. This is a centuries-old tradition, dating back by some accounts to 1209 at the University of Oxford-  young people and students of knowledge always gather to lead revolution- to analyze and critique policies and demand change from lawmakers and institutions. Student protests are demonstrations of young people who are not disillusioned with the idea of justice, and who truly believe in the power of their voices and actions to demand the change they wish to see. This is not something new, and is even acknowledged by universities in retrospect. It is known that free speech is a defining characteristic of the college experience- a place for students to learn how to effectively speak for their beliefs, and organize to lobby their ideas- possibly for the first time in their lives. Students begin their relationship with democracy in colleges across America. 

Protests for Palestine are not the first time that college protesters have been arrested and put in bodily danger for engaging in a demonstration against U.S. interests. In Ohio, Kent State University students were shot and killed by the Ohio guard for protesting against the U.S invasion of Cambodia in 1970. The University itself laid a memorial for the students years later and acknowledged that the guards overreached in their reaction to the unarmed students. The site of the massacre is considered a National Historic Landmark. In 1991, US students across the country protested against the United States’ involvement in conflicts in the Middle East. Protests were described as peaceful, yet students at UC Santa Cruz were arrested for civil disobedience. Now, these same protests are looked back upon fondly as a memory of the youngest Americans using their First Amendment rights to stand against another unnecessary war in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Cold War. The tide changed, and even the University administration staunchly against the protests is forced to acknowledge their memorable impacts. 

Today, thousands of Students in schools across the country are asking that their universities divest from supporting the genocide in Gaza. They are protesting the occupation of Palestine, and the war crimes currently being perpetrated by Israel.​​ The human toll of the war on Gaza is severely conservative- numbers are accurate, but cannot take into account those who have been lost or unaccounted for. Just now (Thursday, April 25th, 2024) bodies of children with their hands bound were found in a mass grave across Nasser Hospital. Many adult men and women, all believed to be civilians were also found buried in these graves. 700 bodies have been found so far, including some that were buried alive. Students get these updates while participating in protests, reinvigorating their belief in the cause. Additionally, with push notifications to news services- these updates are being given as they are reported, making the protests raw and real reactions to the atrocities in Gaza. 

These protests, though they are reported as disorganized, violent, and anti-Semitic, have clear asks, and are largely peaceful. Students are demanding that universities pull investments from companies that support the Israeli occupation, such as weapons manufacturers who sell weapons to the state, or technology and software companies that allow Israel to spy on Palestinians. The students also demand that all endowments given to the universities be disclosed, that the money be traceable and that this information be available to anyone who would like to access it. Hundreds of millions of dollars from investors who are either Israeli themselves, hold a stake in the Israeli government, or are staunchly Zionists, are passed through universities with little accountability. This is problematic because it impacts how protests deemed unfavorable by donors and investors are treated- and creates an environment that is unsuitable for free speech. Robert Kraft, a Zionist, decided to pull his donations to Columbia University because he disliked how the administration handled the protests. To be clear, Columbia University suspended protestors, had them arrested, attempted to destroy the encampment, and has even been accused of turning the internet data of student activists over to investigators. Kraft felt that even these actions were not severe enough. Now, Columbia University will no longer be a recipient of his donations, except for the Center for Jewish Life. 

Student Justice for Palestine also demands that the protestors, student activists, and Palestinians on campus be protected from doxxing, threats, and physical violence. Zionist organizations like Canary Mission, Chabad, and Trojans for Israel on campus post images, names, addresses, social media handles, and even the addresses of family members of student organizers. Doxxing is a form of harassment and a threat of violence for students. Universities in the past several months have allowed trucks displaying the names and addresses of student activists to drive around campus. Some of the students who were victims of doxxing had not even organized for an anti-zionist cause- they were simply of Palestinian background and were subject to threatening behavior on this grounds.  Additionally, professors and faculty of different universities who stood for Palestine or against the genocide have been doxxed as well. Some lost their jobs and others felt pressured to resign from their positions. Professors who joined the protests have been arrested, some of them violently, despite being cooperative with police. SJP National makes this demand after months of harassment, violence, and now the brutal response to these peaceful protests. 

The status quo- determined for years by the Israeli lobby and the United States government- is to mark any criticism of the state of Israel as Anti-semitic and unacceptable. Many liken any criticism of the Zionist ideology to the days of Nazi Germany. Even Evangelical Christians- who actually do pander in Anti-Semitic language- consider any criticism of a “Jewish State” to be morally wrong. So deep is the relationship between Israel and the current culture, that even in the face of the obvious lies that the country’s leaders tell to hide their crimes, it is impossible and even morally reprehensible to criticize it. The walls are falling, however, now that a large number of Jewish people are coming forward and telling their stories about the conflation of Judaism and Zionism, and how they too feel deceived by the dream that the Zionists have been selling. Jewish people are standing up against the occupation of Palestine, against the apartheid regime which subjects two races of people to an entirely different legal system, and against the genocide against the people of Gaza. This is why when counter protestors aim to call the protests Anti-semetic- they fail to drive the point home. At Columbia’s encampment, Jewish students were peacefully commemorating the Passover Holiday, breaking bread while surrounded by their allies and friends. 

As we write these words, encampments have been established on many more college campuses. Students, faculty, and bystanders are arrested using violent techniques all recorded on camera and broadcasted to the world- including a viral video of an elderly female professor being thrown to the ground by two male cops. Police are firing rubber bullets into crowds of nonviolent protestors. These protests are a sign that the tide is turning in the era of Israeli propaganda when hundreds of thousands of people, including Jews, Muslims, and people of diverse ethnic backgrounds are finally able to call out the genocide of Gaza for what it is. Though there is still talk of releasing the hostages taken in the Hamas attacks on October 7th, people across the world acknowledge that the genocide is not an acceptable response, and finally learning of the 75 year history of Israeli occupation that has been manipulated to fit more neatly into our history books. College students in campuses across America are spurring the revolution, and though students are mourning the Genocide happening in their name, with their tax dollars, and in the investments their universities are making with their tuition- they are hopeful that this time, someone will listen. The 2024 election cycle will be incredibly interesting, as there is nothing more pressing on the minds of the American people than the crisis in Palestine. Despite this, it seems that President Biden is relenting to the talking points of the Israeli government, which is insististing on turning these campus protests into displays of anti-semitism instead of the criticism of an ethno-state that has every reason to be examined. Israel is not above international law, and most definitely not above moral questioning- and this genocide and the political response across the world has made it clear that Israel’s actions must be reavaluated.