Gaza protests continue on US campuses despite bigoted response

Gaza protests continue on US campuses despite bigoted response

Gaza protests continue on US campuses despite bigoted response
Graduate students and demonstrators protest the war in Gaza on May 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas. (AFP)
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Student protests at dozens of university and college campuses across America have been very effective in raising public awareness of Israel’s genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The facts of Israel’s genocidal military assault are clear, so most pro-Israeli spokespeople, members of Congress and right-wing media outlets have instead focused mainly on the false assertions of antisemitism.

Universities, pressured by powerful pro-Israel organizations and politicians, have also cracked down on the pro-Palestine protests, but not on pro-Israel protests.

Members of Congress, especially those who have received millions of dollars in pro-Israel campaign funding, have been leading the fight against the students, trying to rebrand the Israeli invasion of Gaza as a “necessity” without addressing the killings of women and children and the destruction of more than 370,000 homes and many businesses, churches, mosques, schools and hospitals.

Pro-Israel advocates and anti-Palestine campus protesters have confronted the pro-Palestinian protesters with Islamophobia, anti-Arab hatred and racism, but the focus remains on fighting antisemitism. That was the focus of a speech President Joe Biden made last week at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The president’s tough words were seen as a counter to his threat to halt weapons shipments to Israel’s military if it continues its violence, particularly against Rafah, where a majority of Gaza’s Palestinians have fled, seeking shelter from Israeli attacks.

Biden faces losing voter support in key swing states, which he barely won ahead of Donald Trump in 2020, as a result of the “Abandon Biden” movement, whose followers have vowed not to support his reelection because of his support of Israel’s genocide. 

Pro-Israel advocates have confronted the protesters with Islamophobia, anti-Arab hatred and racism.

Ray Hanania

Since Israel launched its campaign in Gaza, Biden has pushed through $40 billion in funding to help cover Israel’s costs, even though it is one of the world's wealthiest nations. Protesters make the point that the $40 billion provided by Biden and the pro-Israel-influenced Congress is unnecessary and should instead be used to provide benefits to Americans, especially the homeless, the poor and senior citizens. Israeli citizens already receive mostly free healthcare and mostly free education subsidized by the government.

The American public continues to question the country’s foreign aid to Israel and Tel Aviv’s genocide in Gaza. Polling shows a growing concern relating to Israel’s actions, which last week gave Biden the cover to halt some weapons shipments to Israel due to its alleged violations of restrictions on use against civilians.

A Gallup Poll in March showed that a majority of Americans (55 percent) now disapprove of Israel’s military action in Gaza. Other polling has also shown a similar shift. But the student protests are the main focus in the US and they threaten to impact the November elections. Republicans and Democrats will hold their presidential conventions in Milwaukee in July and in Chicago in August, respectively. These conventions often bring out protesters on either side of the major debates facing the American public, such as abortion rights and gun controls. There is a likelihood that the student protests will continue and become the main focus of both the presidential conventions.

The pro-Palestine student protests at university and college campuses have been intense and controversial. There is an expectation the protests will continue as Israel’s military storms through Rafah.

Despite the hysterics of those who are critical of the pro-Palestine protesters, such as some members of Congress who have sought to pass punitive legislation, student protests are a part of American society. They have taken place many times and have had a tremendous impact on domestic and foreign policy. 

The American public continues to question the country’s foreign aid to Israel and Tel Aviv’s genocide in Gaza.

Ray Hanania

There was a wave of student protests against the Vietnam War, including at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968, which continued right up to 1973, when President Richard Nixon withdrew America’s combat forces from Vietnam. Students also protested against the apartheid policies of South Africa in the 1980s.

But Israel holds a special place in America and is protected by the country’s political system — a protection that critics argue has been “bought” by the pro-Israel political action committees.

On the other side, little attention has been given to acts of Islamophobia and anti-Arab hate. Only a few incidents have been reported in the media after pro-Israel protesters were punished. One example was at Arizona State University last week, when a Jewish professor, Jonathan Yudelman, accompanied by an Israeli soldier, viciously harassed a 20-year-old female Muslim student who was not participating in any of the protests.

After viewing video of his actions on social media, the university fired Yudelman and banned him from returning to the campus. But that action was only taken after Arizona State President Michael Crow had dozens of students arrested and banned from continuing their classwork.

There is no doubt that the pro-Palestine protesters have an uphill fight in America’s intensely pro-Israel environment. They face possible arrest, beatings by police and dismissal from class. But there is no indication they are surrendering to the unfair bullying. However, they could use more help to counter their marginalization by the mainstream media, which only presents them as driven by antisemitism and also defends Israel’s genocide and Congress’ response. It is only right that the vicious anti-Arab chants from pro-Israel protesters are challenged and punished too.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at

X: @RayHanania

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