A Student Intifada: Massive protests against Israel war on Palestinian engulf America

By WU team, US

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”

After Israel’s attack on Gaza started in October 2023, multiple student groups organized on-campus protests in US. Columbia students wrote an open letter and organized a peaceful protest with many student organizations on campus on Oct 12 involving hundreds of protestors from multiple groups on campus.

The letter had four specific demands- Address Palestinian humanity and existence, Correct and apologize for the emails sent by Columbia administration that support Israel while ignoring — and neglecting to even name — Palestinians.

Divest from companies profiting from Israeli apartheid, noting that both former Columbia and Barnard presidents unilaterally & anti-democratically ignored the student body referendums to divest in 2020 and in 2018.

Cancel the opening of the Tel Aviv Global Center, noting that Palestinian affiliates of Columbia would be restricted from access to this program given Israel’s apartheid policies, and further noting that this therefore violates Columbia’s very own non-discrimination policy.

Cease the dual-degree partnership with Tel Aviv University, for the same reason.

A similar divestment plan was put forth by Columbia Undergraduates in 2020 and was rejected. Simultaneously, multiple protestors were also doxed (their personal information was posted publicly online) threatening their well-being even though the protest was peaceful.

The protests led the university to react leading to immediate suspension of the two main groups involved in organizing the protests – Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and change its policy where events would now require a “10-business-day” requirement to get approved and other sanctions focused on these two groups.

Moreover, the university made sure that failure to comply will be subjected to discipline and sanctions. The university administration also called for increased New York City Police Department presence on and near campus whenever SJP and JVP organized peacefully as a clear intimidation tactic.

Free speech was immediately suppressed. The student general body passed a historic vote of non cooperation in objection.

The faculty strongly supported the reinstation of the SJP and JVP and also criticized the university for its violation of academic freedom as they too were forced to remove any pro-palestinian statements from their personal websites.

Then, at a rally on January 19 2024, by the Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a coalition of 94 student groups that was revived after SJP and JVP were banned, supporters of the Palestinian cause were attacked on campus with “skunk spray” by fellow students.

The attackers were probably former IOF soldiers, and were aware of a similar strategy previously used as biological warfare in Palestine. Many students were hospitalized and required medical care.

Students had to get chest x-rays, anti-nausea medication, IVs, nebulizers, and EKGs. Columbia university administration did not condemn these actions in any manner. In comparison, when an Israeli student was allegedly assaulted, the university reprimanded the person with arrest immediately.

Instead, the students who participated in the pro Palestinian rally were “scolded” for the “unsanctioned” Gaza rally and the admin claimed they could not assure safety for such rallies.

Protests across campus still continued under the new leadership of CUAD and the administration responded with increasing the NYPD police presence and the arrests of Palestinian supporters and organizers increased.

The CUAD demanded for disclosure and divestment of Columbia’s finances and put forth the following four demands-

Financial Divestment

  1. Academic Boycott of the Tel Aviv Global Centre and any other study-abroad programs in Israel
  2. Stop the Displacement – Prevent land grabs in Harlem or Palestine. No development without community control
  3. No policing on campus
  4. End the Silence – Release a public statement calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

CUAD showed the connections between Israel, police and the university in this flowchart:

The students could no longer tolerate silence on the genocide of more than 35,000 Gazans. Meanwhile, the political theatre was taking its own pro-Israel course. Claims of “antisemitism” were brought to congress and congressional hearings were to address how the US campuses were responding to it.

Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia, was called along with presidents of three other universities (Harvard, Penn State and MIT) to testify how the campuses are dealing with “antisemitism” on campus.

Of note, the students from the same campuses had protested and this “Student Intifada” was conflated with “calls for genocide” and termed “antisemitic”. This garbling of terms was purposeful and intended. But intifada does NOT mean genocide, instead it means “shaking off”.

All this while mass graves are being uncovered in Gaza, showing a clear and jarring evidence of genocide of the palestinian people.

Notably, Shafik submitted around 4000 documents to the congress about the “measures” taken, which including increased police presence and that could even lead to persecution of pro-palestinian protestors and students.

At the same time, many students set up a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” with dozens of tents set up in the university to show their solidarity and demand divestment from the university.

President Shafik immediately authorized the NYPD to arrest over 100 protesters involved in the setting up of the encampment.

This was the first mass arrest to happen on campus since 1968. Everything changed after that. Gaza solidarity encampments and arrests began all over the country with a similar response from the university administrations.

The students have shown a lot of political clarity. Across all campuses, the demands have been similar: divest from all war-profiteering companies, not just those that assist Israel. This shows that these students are focused not only on the unfolding genocide, but understand American imperialism as a whole system.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a politican who acts left-wing even though she is not, visited the encampment. She supports the US government and does not support the demands of the students.

But she wanted to co-opt the protests and bring them under the direction of her party. The organisers released a statement in response about “opportunists entering our space.”

They said, “We see through the politicians who previously were silent, refusing to acknowledge their complicity in the ongoing genocide, who now come to our campus seeking photo-ops for political campaigns.”

The list of universities where the police have been called to arrest protestors is growing by the day and so is the police brutality with more than 800 arrests being made so far.

These campuses include Columbia, Yale, New York University, University of Minnesota, University of South Carolina, University of Texas at Austin, Brown, Emory University (where even the Chair of the Department of Philosophy was arrested), Princeton, University of Southern California, University of California, Berkeley etc,. At the Berkeley campus, the demands were as follows:

Everywhere the playbook is the same:

Students set up peaceful encampments to demand divestment -> University administration reprimands them with police force and brutality. The brutality has escalated from arrests to rubber bullets, stun guns, tasers etc towards both students and faculty.

This Student Intifada that started in the United states is moving worldwide. Protests led by SJP across the US have spread across the world. The students of the world are acutely aware of the situations in Palestine and the ongoing massacre of its people by Israel.

The students are demanding for divestment from companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Caterpillar, BlackRock etc and are refusing to participate in academic partnerships with a genocidal state.

This has brought hope to people in Gaza for the first time in 25 years as they feel the power of the student intifada. They feel the support and express their solidarity as the students in the US transform their existing campuses into “Popular Universities of Gaza”.

“As you erect tents across campuses, as you demand that colleges and universities divest from companies profiting from genocide, as you demand to put an end to academic programs with Israeli institutions, you are making history!

Your loud cry for Palestinian liberation is being heard and is slowly but forcefully resonating around the world. “ – The Palestinian Educational Collective

Sources of Pictures:

Twitter, New York Times, Democracy now, Al Jazeera English, Instagram
Videos and Photos

Stanford
Stanford University harassing muslims and arabs (whether or not they were present at the encampment): https://www.instagram.com/p/C6Pr19ox9qi/?img_index=1

Columbia
Comparing police violence now vs on nazis: https://twitter.com/OnlinePalEng/status/1784138629134066042
Mass arrests: https://twitter.com/BenFRubinstein/status/1783379772099244271

Cal Poly Humboldt
They occupied a building and renamed it to Intifada hall: https://twitter.com/CallaWalsh/status/1784106343525179633
They barricaded it with furniture: https://twitter.com/NationalSJP/status/1782600147077087256
Protestors hit police with water bottles after police break above barricades: https://twitter.com/NagiNajjar/status/1783069913567101287
Preparing barricades outside: https://twitter.com/ShareefaEnergy/status/1784291695955222632

Emory

Professor asks police “what are you doing?” and police throws her on the ground: https://twitter.com/RobertMackey/status/1783684235938894086

Philosophy dept chair gets arrested: https://twitter.com/MiddleEastEye/status/1783599259650002973
Protestors push police with signs: https://twitter.com/MichaelDoudna/status/1783651267165753525
Police tase a student: Atlanta Police Violently Arrest Emory Students & Faculty to Clear Gaza Solidarity Encampment
Indiana University Bloomington

Snipers:

Georgetown University
Professors form a barricade to protect students: https://twitter.com/aidaroussahmed/status/1783993030824825292

UCLA
Zionists try to form a counter-protest and are peacefully defeated: https://twitter.com/PplsCityCouncil/status/1784640308439101787

Northeastern University
Zionists chant “kill all jews” and over 100 pro-palestinian protestors are arrested:
https://twitter.com/DSAWorkingMass/status/1784215258439073912 (full thread)

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Protesters gheraoed the police: https://twitter.com/readytoescalate/status/1784283020184240206

New Orleans Non-University Encampment
Set-up: https://twitter.com/readytoescalate/status/1784709750078279846
Confrontation with police (kids chanting): https://twitter.com/readytoescalate/status/1784739226568831288

City College of New York

Ohio State University
People surround Muslims doing namaaz to protect them from police: https://twitter.com/BonsaiSky/status/1784358664771367193

Responses from Arab world
Journalist Bisan says that she feels new hope: https://www.instagram.com/p/C6OsxlbsSjD/
Yemenis chanting for students: https://twitter.com/MintPressNews/status/1783933900114239883

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