American intifada for Gaza – what should we expect?

Image: Efrem Efre


Millions of Americans are fed up with war, their government's allegiance to a foreign country, militarism, police violence, unprecedented restrictions on free speech

The mass protests at dozens of universities across the United States cannot be reduced to suffocating and misleading talk about anti-Semitism. Thousands of American students across the country are not protesting, risking their futures and their own safety because of some pathological hatred of the Jewish people.

They are doing so out of complete rejection and justifiable outrage at the mass slaughter perpetrated by the State of Israel against defenseless Palestinians in Gaza. They are angry because the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip, which began on October 7, is fully financed and supported by the US government.

These mass protests began at Columbia University on April 17, before spreading across the entire US geography, from New York to Texas and from North Carolina to California.

The protests are being compared, in terms of their nature and intensity, to the US anti-war protests against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s. While the comparison is pertinent, it is essential to note the ethnic diversity and social inclusion in the current protests. In many fields, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, black, Native American and white students stand side by side with their Palestinian counterparts in a unified stand against the war.

None of them are motivated by the fear of being recruited to fight in Gaza, as was the case with many American students during the Vietnam War. Instead, they are united around a clear set of priorities: an end to the war, an end to US support for Israel, an end to its universities' direct investment in Israel, and the recognition of its right to protest. This is not idealism, but humanity at its best.

Despite mass arrests, starting in Columbia, and direct violence against peaceful protesters everywhere, the movement has only gained strength.

On the other hand, American politicians, starting with President Joe Biden, accused protesters of anti-Semitism, without engaging in any of their reasonable and globally supported demands. Once again, the establishments Democrat and Republican remained united in blind support for Israel.

Joe Biden condemned “anti-Semitic protests”, describing them as “reprehensible and dangerous”. A few days later, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, visited the university under tight security, using language that was not appropriate for a country that claims to embrace democracy, respect freedom of expression and the right to assembly.

“We cannot allow this type of hatred and anti-Semitism to flourish in our fields”, he said, adding: “I am here today joining my colleagues and calling on President [Minouche] Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos.”

Minouche Shafik, however, was already in agreement, as she was the one who asked the New York Police Department to crack down on the protesters, falsely accusing them of anti-Semitism.

Mainstream US media outlets have contributed to confusion and misinformation about the reasons behind the protests. O The Wall Street Journal, once again, allowed writers like Steven Stalinsky to vilify young justice activists because they dared to criticize Israel's horrific genocide in Gaza.

“Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis and others are grooming activists in the US and across the West,” he claimed, thus once again taking a critical conversation about US support for genocide in bizarre and baseless directions.

The writers of establishment US officials may want to continue deceiving themselves and their readers, but the truth is that neither Hezbollah nor Hamas “recruiters” are active in US universities. Ivy League America, where young people are often groomed to become leaders in government and large corporations.

All of these distractions are designed to prevent the undeniable shift in American society that promises a long-term paradigm shift in popular opinions about Israel and Palestine.

For years before the current war, Americans have been changing their opinions about Israel and their country's so-called “special relationship” with Tel Aviv. America's Young Democrats are leading this trend, which is also seen among independents and, to some extent, among young Republicans.

A statement asserting that “sympathies in the Middle East now lie more with the Palestinians than with the Israelis” would have been unthinkable in the past. But it is the new normal, and the latest polls on the subject, along with Joe Biden's increasingly low approval ratings, continue to attest to this fact.

Older generations of American politicians, who built and sustained careers based on their unconditional support for Israel, are being crushed by the new reality. Their language is confusing and full of falsehoods. Yet they are even willing to defame an entire generation of their own people – America's future leaders – to satisfy the demands of the Israeli government.

In a televised statement on April 24, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the protesters as “anti-Semitic mobs” who have “taken over important universities,” claiming that the peaceful protesters are calling for “the annihilation of Israel.” His words should have outraged all Americans, regardless of their politics and ideology. Instead, more US politicians began to repeat Benjamin Netanyahu's words.

But political opportunism will generate a ricochet effect, not just in the distant future, but in the coming weeks and months, especially in the run-up to the presidential elections. Millions of Americans are clearly fed up, with war, with their government's allegiance to a foreign country, with militarism, with police violence, with unprecedented restrictions on free speech in the United States, and much more.

Young Americans, not bound by their own interests or the historical and spiritual illusions of previous generations, are declaring that “enough is enough.” They are doing more than chanting and standing up in unison, demanding answers, moral and legal accountability, and an immediate end to the war.

Now that the US government has taken no action and, in fact, continues to fuel the Israeli war machine in its offensive against millions of Palestinians, these courageous students are taking action for themselves. This is, without a doubt, a remarkable and inspiring moment in the history of the United States.

*Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and visiting professor at Istanbul Zaim University. Author, among other books, of These chains will be broken: Palestinian stories of struggle and defiance in Israeli prisons (Clarity Press).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on the portal counter punch.

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