As college campuses erupt in protest, some see a political transformation

As college campuses erupt in protest, some see a political transformation

Arun Kundnani writes:

In the summer of 2020, millions of teenagers, outraged by the police killing of George Floyd, took to the streets of American towns and cities as part of the largest protests against police brutality in U.S. history. Though years have passed, that energy has not entirely dissipated. Many of the young people who protested in 2020 are now college students campaigning for the U.S. to withdraw its support for Israel’s war in Gaza. They constitute the cutting edge of a pro-Palestine movement that has seen over 1.2 million people participate in about 6,000 protests in the U.S. since Oct. 7.

Just as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement demanded a broad cultural reckoning with racism, pro-Palestine activists in colleges are leading a rapid shift in U.S. public opinion on Israel and Palestine. Thanks in large part to their efforts, Israel appears to be losing the battle for public opinion in the U.S., particularly among the younger generation. Attempts to present Palestinian resistance as “just like ISIS and al Qaeda,” as Israeli President Isaac Herzog put it in The New York Times last November, have failed to persuade a majority of Americans. Around two-thirds of voters now support the U.S. government calling for a permanent cease-fire and a de-escalation of Israel’s violence in Gaza.

This protest movement has manifested most recently in a wave of sit-ins and encampments at dozens of universities across the country. While school officials have tried to crack down on these demonstrations, leading in some cases to levels of police violence reminiscent of that used against BLM protesters four years ago, the suppression has only galvanized opposition from a movement committed to challenging support for Israel in the U.S. establishment.

In many ways, the journey of this generation of young protesters resembles the path trodden by their grandparents, who began the 1960s marching for civil rights and ended the decade with opposition to the Vietnam War. “Our consciousness had grown from thinking of the sheriff in Alabama to thinking of a worldwide system,” a veteran of that movement, Willie Ricks of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), told me in 2021. “Wherever people were raising their head against imperialism, we were with them.” One of those anti-imperialist struggles was the Palestine liberation movement, which the SNCC supported from the summer of 1967. [Continue reading…]

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