Israel Palestinians Campus Protests

Students are continuing to stand up in campus uprisings across America demanding that colleges and universities cease direct and indirect support of the Zionist State of Israel, which is committing atrocities and crimes against humanity, including genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

Protests and campus takeovers intensified along with global demands to end Israel’s massacre in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem that has taken more than 35,000 Palestinian lives.

Gaza Solidarity Encampments are sprawled out on campuses from coast to coast. Students occupied and barricaded buildings, establishing liberated zones.

Organizers sent an overarching message that expending resources that ultimately underwrite the genocide of Palestinian men, women and children must stop. The escalated actions were the response to the relentless carnage inflicted by the Zionist occupier state since war broke out in October 2023.

State troopers arrest a person at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

“I think this escalation was seen as necessary by the radical organizations on campus, Jewish Voices for Peace [and] Students for Justice in Palestine, mainly,” said Thandiwe Abdullah, 20, of the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and a Howard University senior.

“But also, different groups on campus who see this as a righteous action and a righteous escalation because all our institutions have failed us,” she said.

For Ms. Abdullah, there are various reasons for a major escalation at this time. Speaking to The Final Call from the encampment at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she said they don’t have any avenue politically, legislatively, or even at educational institutions to demand an end to funding the genocide. “As students, we decided it was time to make our stance known,” explained Ms. Abdullah. 

Among the demands organizing groups are making is for institutions to divest from companies doing business with Israel. This list includes:

Stop doing business with military weapons manufacturers who supply arms to Israel.

Stop accepting research money from Israel for projects that aid the country’s military efforts.

Stop investing college endowments with money managers who profit from Israeli companies or contractors.

Have more transparency of funds received from Israel and how it is used.

Who pays for Palestinian blood?

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, the National Representative of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam, explained why people must stand up.

“Who could do to another human being what is being done to our Palestinian family, and let it happen and not think of a humanitarian crisis?” the Minister said during his message titled: “What Does Allah The Great Mahdi And The Great Messiah Have to Say About The War in The Middle East? on Feb. 25.  

“The crisis is not just what is happening to the Palestinians. The crisis involves what is happening to you, what is happening to me; what is happening to human beings who are more concerned with what they will lose by standing up, rather than standing up and facing the consequence of their stand, knowing that God will bring them out victorious,” he said.

Referencing biblical scriptures, the Muslim leader said: “God was going to “open the graves” of all of those who have been slain under the wicked rule, really, of the Caucasian people.  They have killed so many.

But who will pay for the killing of Palestinians, men and women, and children?  Who will pay for the destruction of the Palestinian life and culture, and civilization? Who will pay for that?!  

“They don’t think they are going to pay!  And Netanyahu now thinks, like Pharaoh, he is God—and he talks to America like he is God (‘I don’t need the money that you send me every year, because I’m making a lot of money!’),” explained Minister Farrakhan.

Repressive police crackdowns

Since October, universities have been an epicenter of pro-Palestinian activism, however not without a price. Those lifting their voices are threatened, suspended, doxed (publicly publishing their private information), and censored by school administrations, powerful right-wing organizations, and some fellow students.

Nationwide demonstrations began at Columbia University in New York City on April 17 in protest of Israel’s bloodshed in Gaza. After failed negotiations between students and college administrators, pressure was exerted to demolish the encampments.

Additionally, as protest numbers grew, so did the police and the crackdowns. Militarized police in several cities converged on encampments, physically destroying tents, and forcefully removing and arresting people.

At the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), pro-Israel agitators physically accosted pro-Palestinian protestors with baseball bats, mace, and harassed them as law enforcement stood idly by as a melee ensued over several hours, said media reports.

There and at other encampments, protesting students were met with police tear gas, rubber bullets, tasers, loud disorientating flashbangs and zip-ties. According to an Associated Press tally, over 2,000 protestors have been arrested since mid-April.

The violent attacks at Columbia, Yale, New York University, UCLA, Emory, University of Texas, and other universities display a dangerous overreach against students’ First Amendment rights and illustrate America’s dissent into a surveillance state, activists argue.

“We are looking at a level of state repression across the nation that is unprecedented,” said Keyanna Jones, co-pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Ms. Jones is also an activist in the struggle against Cop City, Atlanta’s $90 million police training facility, which she says is tied to Israel. Coupled with state repression is a “chilling of free speech” because the government is intent on controlling the narrative, she told The Final Call.

“And when you think about them, wanting to control the narrative, you have this dynamic of seeing the brutality inflicted upon these students and community members. And it’s all painted through the lens of ‘outside agitators,’ or ‘disturbances,’” she said.

She said that the whole question of peaceful protesting is a big misnomer. “There is no protest that’s peaceful because protest disturbs the peace of the ruling class … of the oppressor … of your intended target,” she reasoned.  “But if people want to talk about the violence that occurs in many of these protests, the violence is coming from the police,” Rev. Jones contended. 

Pro-Palestinian protesters are pushed to the edge of campus by Texas State Troopers on horses at the University of Texas, April 24, in Austin, Texas. Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up on an increasing number of college campuses following arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University. Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP

For Josh Newman, 24, a University of Delaware graduate student in Africana Studies, people are also finding ways to be strategic because of the type of repressive tactics being used on demonstrators. Some of which was learned in Israel by U.S. law enforcement. 

“That whole conversation can dive deeper into this establishment of these Cops Cities across the nation and what happened with Columbia … with Emory and this militarization of the police to crush these dissenting voices,” said Mr. Newman.

Particularly voices of Black, Palestinian, and Muslim students, he pointed out. “I think there is a connection,” he said, particularly in Atlanta where a major battle opposing a Cop City is ongoing.

Students are carrying that issue forward and it’s growing in the DMV area. “Particularly in the D.C. area because of the increasing surveillance and police presence of the DMV area,” noted Mr. Newman.

“So, there’s a lot of connections that can be drawn between how the United States police forces train with the Israeli police or the IDF,” stated Mr. Newman. “They learn tactics and they bring those tactics home to crush movements … Black liberation movements … Muslim movements, [and] to surveil dissenting voices in the United States,” he said. 

Mr. Newman said the students comprehend the common thread tying the police tactics to colonialism that is occurring globally from “Palestine to D.C.,” from “Haiti to Baltimore,” and “Nicaragua to Atlanta.”

In some cities, including Chicago, high school students have participated by walking out of classes.

A generation born for liberation

“These are students who were born at a time and came of age at a time where protest was the norm,” said Melina Abdullah, independent vice-presidential candidate on the ticket with Dr. Cornel West, and co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Grassroots.

“Black Lives Matter is 10 years old,” she said. “Many of them were 10 years old or younger, when Black Lives Matter was formed,” she said.  Melina Abdullah’s oldest daughter is Thandiwe Abdullah. “I can speak from my own perspective, as a mother,” Melina Abdullah told The Final Call.

“As we’re witnessing these uprisings, these are young people who understand the importance and impact of uprising,” said Melina Abdullah.

This generation is impacted by witnessing the genocide of Palestinians, other young people’s lives stolen, and children younger than themselves, not only orphaned but rounded up and criminalized, like Black youth in America.  “They understand that to not resist oppression means to enable it,” said Melina Abdullah.

She has attended several protests. “They’re beautiful spaces that are educational spaces,” she said.

At UCLA, students were in circles studying the history of Israel, studying 1948, and studying the Balfour Accord—sitting around reading books.

“As a professor … I’m also looking at this, like, this is a beautiful classroom space … doing precisely what students should be doing … developing critical thinking skills … arriving at their own conclusions,” she said. 

“The universities are exposing who and what they are,” she said, explaining the hardline position some schools took toward the students.

Meanwhile, as negotiations collapsed at some universities that plunged into scenes of clashes, other institutions reached agreements.

Brown University

Agreed to take up a vote in October on the student’s divestment proposals for Brown’s endowment from companies that facilitate Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory.

The agreement also promised no repercussions against students and faculty involved in encampments at Brown.

Rutgers University (New Brunswick)

– Agreed to accept at least 10 displaced Gazan students to study at Rutgers on scholarship.

– Provide an Arab Cultural Center for Palestinian and Arab students on all Rutgers campuses.

– Develop a Memorandum of Understanding for long-term educational and collaboration with Birzeit University in Ramallah, Palestine.

– Hire a senior administrator and develop training sessions on anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim racism for administrators and staff.

– No member of the Rutgers–New Brunswick faculty, staff, students or alumni- involved in encampments will face retaliation from the University.

– Divestment and cutting ties with Tel Aviv University is under review.

Northwestern University

Agreed to disclose university investments, a community house for Middle Eastern and North African/Muslim students, and funding to support admitting Palestinian faculty and students.

University of Minnesota

Student coalition will present divestment proposal to Board of Regents on May 10. The university agree to financial transparency only on  public companies.   

Zionist backlash on student activists

Anyone supporting Palestinian rights is targeted by a well-funded movement of Zionist organizations that includes the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), lobbyists for Israel, pro-Israel liberal and rightwing politicians, and media outlets.

They brand critics of Israel and those who reject conflating Zionism with Judaism, as anti-Semites, say observers. Against the pressure of nonstop cries for justice in Gaza, pro-Israel and media narratives assert the protests are unsafe for Jewish students.  

“No one is directing anything at students,” argues Ms. Jones. “We are asking these universities to divest from their complicity in genocide,” she said. 

 “We’re targeting universities’ administrations,” she added. “So that’s already false.”

Ms. Jones clapped back at the “victimization of Jewish people” claim, which she says is disturbing. “They have totally hijacked and co-opted the term anti-Semitic to make it about themselves only, rather than the true definition of anti-Semitic, because they refuse to acknowledge any other people as Semitic people. So that’s a problem in and of itself,” she said.

Ms. Jones lambasted the government jumping on the bandwagon of condemning the demonstrations and the universities for being complicit with the ADL and other Jewish organizations that have encouraged them to dox students speaking out for a free Palestine.

The Zionist watchdog groups pushed the government to place the students on government watch lists and labeled some as terrorists, she said.

“Some of them who were arrested at Emory—were charged with terrorism,” said Ms. Jones.  “When you think about that, the majority of people arrested over at Emory were Black,” she added.

Endowments and divestments

Some note the uprisings against academic institutions concerning Israel have dented a reliable resource for Zionist “soft power” control and influence. Campuses were a dependable turf for Zionist organizations like the ADL, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish Committee, and Hillel—The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. 

These groups vehemently oppose an expanding Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) Israel campaign, particularly on college campuses. Students pressing for divestment from Israel waxes against the influence that proponents of Zionism gained through megadonors who pumped millions of dollars into universities—funding “Israel studies” programs and the like.

Minister Farrakhan said what is happening in Palestine has become a test for the whole human family. “If you could look at their suffering, and it don’t move you, you have lost your humanity,” he said.

“If you can see a dog suffer and have compassion, …  if you can see your favorite horse suffer, where you’ve got to put him down, you feel pain!  Palestinian mothers are crying over the loss of their children!  I watched them cry; I watched them touch their babies that are dead and don’t want to let the baby go to be buried.

“That’s not a barbarian feeling, that’s a human feeling. I saw Jews that were suffering, too, burying their dead, and weeping as the Palestinians are weeping.  These are not barbarians!  They have suffered from Israel’s presence in Palestine,” said Minister Farrakhan.