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Analysis: How student activists across US campuses may change the world

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While American politicians have aided, abetted Israeli war crimes, ethnic cleansing, genocide, students across scores of US campuses have refused to accept this reality and have mobilized in unprecedented ways to stop the uncontrolled Israeli madness

The United States (US) has always prided itself as the leader of the “free world” and defender of democracy, the rule of law and liberal values such as free press, freedom of expression and assembly. Moreover, many laws were passed by the US Congress and enforced by successive American administrations that sanction many nations such as Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and China, because of alleged human rights abuses. However, when it comes to Israel, the US has willfully ignored the former’s gross violations against the Palestinians, who have been suffering under its brutal military occupation for decades.

US has supported Israel since Oct 7

For over 200 days Israel has committed so many massacres and atrocities in Gaza that are impossible to ignore or justify. Over 125,000 victims have fallen so far in the Israeli onslaught against the small enclave, at least 45,000 of whom have been killed or remain missing, with over 70% being women and children. Even though since January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has deemed it plausible that Israel’s actions in Gaza could constitute genocide, most US public figures and the political establishment in general, have stubbornly persisted in backing the Israeli crimes without any compunction or showing genuine empathy to the victims.

While the Biden administration and Congress have continued to ignore these facts, they have provided the Zionist regime with most of its military capabilities, economic support, and political cover. So far the US has frustrated all international efforts to shut down the Israeli killing machine by casting four vetoes in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) since the war began, as well as applying political pressure on many regional actors. In fact, the weapons the US has been supplying to Israel is in direct violation of its own laws which prohibit the deliberate and indiscriminate use of its arms against civilian populations and infrastructure, as well as the use of starvation as a tool to subjugate the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza. As a result, Gaza has become totally destroyed and unlivable.

While American politicians have aided and abetted Israeli war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, students across scores of US campuses have refused to accept this reality and have mobilized in unprecedented ways to stop the uncontrolled Israeli madness. Over a hundred universities and colleges with the participation of tens of thousands of students across the US have rallied against these actions and policies vowing to force an end to the Israeli genocide.

US students’ protests for Gaza has its roots in history

There are certainly precedents of student activism in recent American history. During the civil rights era of the 1960s, historically Black colleges played a crucial role in organizing students and mobilizing communities to fight institutional racism. Similarly, opposition to the Vietnam war in the late 1960s and early 1970s was a rallying cause that drew student activism across hundreds of US campuses. Historians note that the brutal response of state sanctioned violence that claimed the lives of four students with nine injured at Kent State University in May 1970, was a turning point for the public to oppose the Vietnam war.

Starting in the mid-1970s and throughout the 1980s, campuses across the US played a major role in the fight against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Student-led campaigns that called for divestment from corporations profiting off the apartheid regime as well as sanctions against South Africa started to bear fruit as scores of universities started to divest including Columbia University and the University of California at Berkeley, which have been some of the leading universities in the current standoff between the students and university administrators. By 1988, 156 universities and colleges had divested from companies and businesses that had any dealings with the Apartheid regime, eventually leading to its collapse just a few years later.

The strategy of the current students’ campaigns across dozens of American universities and colleges against the Israeli occupation and military assault on Gaza has its roots in this history. Policy shifts and social change in the US usually take place in two different forms, with sometimes both approaches intersecting. The first is top-down. In this process, the ruling elites and wealthy class through their institutions and policy centers start pressing the political class to adopt their policy preferences and demands. Once they become law, the courts and executive branch enforce them, while corporate media sell them to the people to create public consent.

The other approach is a bottom-up approach. In this situation, policy and social change start with a different group of people that are critical of the status-quo and seek drastic change that the ruling class and the deep state are not willing to accept. Student activists as well as the labor movement belong to this category. Typically the sweeping demands of this approach are met by the powerful interests with total disregard or fierce resistance when the pressure is intensified. Often times they may employ the use of ruthless state violence.

But if the forces of social justice change persist and are willing to endure sacrifices, there will come a time when a significant number of the public will embrace their just demands. Such expansive public opinion will eventually translate into policy change within the political class and eventually the legal system.

Zionist elites are scared of student activism

The reason Zionist elites and defenders of American hegemony are currently scared of student activism is because such a movement has the potential to impact the general public and change its attitude towards supporting Palestinian rights. Labeling critics of the Zionist regime as anti-Semites is no longer taken seriously and has been overplayed by the pro-Israel interest groups.

The courage and determination shown by students across the US in the past few weeks has been breathtaking. If the momentum in dozens of campuses is maintained and eventually able to change public attitudes towards the Palestinian cause, and US policies in the region more broadly, much of the credit will go to the students’ movement that was ignited one spring after witnessing one of the worst massacres seen this century. Such an outcome was predicted by the American cultural anthropologist icon, Margaret Mead, when she remarked, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Source: AA

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