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Student protests in the United States UPSC NOTE

 US campus protests

  • Dread and urgency, once again, have driven students across campuses in the United States to protest against the catastrophe in Gaza

  • Today, with Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism so normalised in the U.S., university administrators are proudly aligning with this genocidal war

  • Armed police guard libraries, check-points have been placed across our campus and students are learning that a police siege of campuses is the new normal in the modern U.S. university.

  • Across the country, student protesters have a unified set of demands: Disclosure and divestment in corporations complicit in weapons manufacturing and the Israeli occupation of Palestine; “Cops off Campus”; and protecting pro-Palestinian speech and activism across the university. 

  • The call for divestment can be traced to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement beginning in 2008 that was inspired by the anti-racist, anti-apartheid student movement 

  • The call for “cops off campus” can be explained by the abolitionist critiques of the police as a racist institution amplified in the wake of the George Floyd protests of 2020, along with the fact that this generation in universities today were mobilised into activism against the gun violence that has plagued them in schools since childhood

  • Finally, the call for the protection of pro-Palestine speech and activism is a reflection of the history of university administrators’ complicity in the “Palestine exception” to academic freedom made especially evident since October 2023.

  • In New York University (NYU), students, whose leadership includes African-American, Arab-American, South Asian and anti-Zionist Jewish students among a multi-racial coalition, are educating each other on the history of the Levant and its diverse peoples and traditions in the region and the diaspora

  • They are convening teach-ins on the legacies of colonialism and racial violence and the fraught complexities of historic Palestine, post-Balfour, post-holocaust, post-Nakba, post-Oslo

  • They are studying apartheid as a technology of governance from native reservations, to apartheid South Africa to Jim Crow America, to settler colonial rule from Palestine to Kashmir

  • They are analysing the necessary distinctions between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism, between criticism of racism against Jewish people and criticism of the ethno-state of Israel

  • They are also learning about the history of Palestinian resistance — of political campaigns such as BDS and the Great March of Return, of the poetry of dissent by Mahmoud Darwish and Mosab Abu Toha, from the theatre of the oppressed to the Freedom Theatre from the Jenin Refugee Camp, of the meaning of terms that have been demonised by the U.S. and western media, such as intifada and ‘from the river to the sea’

  • They are studying the political economy of occupation and the money trail from Washington to Tel Aviv to Riyadh, from corporations’ profits from Israeli settlements to our university donors and trustees, from the university investments to the war that is being waged on the other side of the globe. 

  • The teach-ins and ‘people’s universities’ are about students taking back their right to education, speech and dissent from a history of repression of Palestine solidarity in the U.S., including, and perhaps especially, in classrooms and campuses

University actions

  • From the beginning of the war, many university administrators began instituting disciplinary procedures against expressions of pro-Palestine solidarity and activism directed against the state of Israel, while banning local chapters of national organisations such as the anti-Zionist Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 

  • As the war escalated, student protests proliferated, and university surveillance and crackdown of protests became ever more punitive

  • Meanwhile the Joe Biden administration doubled down on support for Israel’s war effort and right-wing politicians convened congressional hearings with university presidents to interrogate them on campus political culture. 

  • It is in this context, six months after the war began and even as the number of dead in that period had climbed to over 33,000, that students, feeling unheard and muzzled, channelled their protest into peaceful encampments in their universities. 

  • Even as the repression intensified, these de-occupation encampments spread to campuses across the country.

  • These protests can be situated in the specifics of the current historical conjuncture, but the use of the term “de-occupy” also speaks to a larger analysis of the university’s role in colonial, imperial and corporate extractivism

  • Thus, it invokes the histories and geographies of American military occupation from the American Indian Wars, to the occupation of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, to U.S. meddling in Haiti and across the Americas to the wars of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. 

  • In New York, this movement echoes the Occupy Wall Street Movement of 2011 against the grotesque inequality of U.S. society

  • These students know there is a bloody connective tissue between the economic and the military, between the war and the siege, between the bombs and the famine

  • From many universities across the country, the students chanting for divestment and against Israel Defense Forces abuses come to those demonstrations with deep knowledge about the history of racialized police brutality. 

  • Across the country, it is a movement that has been shaped fundamentally by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements that seek to dismantle the U.S. policing apparatus that disproportionately surveils, arrests and jails Black and Brown communities. 

  • Similarly, the Standing Rock movement against the Dakota Access oil pipeline that travelled through first nations territory, was crucial in raising generational awareness about settler colonialism and the links between the U.S. and Israel as settler colonial states, and the links between occupation and dispossession

  • Social media savvy and alert to the narrative wars, these students are raising the alarm, refusing big media spin and forging solidarities from Georgia to Gaza, Harlem to Hebron

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Student protests in the United States UPSC NOTE
Student protests in the United States UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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