Are pro-Palestine university protests right?


Fact Box

  • On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian/Arab terrorist organization Hamas launched a terrorist attack on Israel, resulting in the massacre of 1,200 Jewish citizens, which included civilians and families murdered in their homes. Hamas continues to hold 128 hostages in Gaza, including two children under the age of five and several foreign nationals.
  • Almost immediately following the attack, pro-Palestine protests broke out onto college campuses and continued into the spring, mainly on elite institutions, such as Harvard University, New York University, Columbia, MIT, and Yale. 
  • This prompted the US Department of Education presidents to have the Harvard and New York College presidents questioned by a Congressional Committee about their initiatives to counteract antisemitism on their campuses.
  • A March 2024 Pew Research poll found that the majority of Americans, 58%, believe Israel has a valid reason to be fighting Hamas. Among polled Muslims, 49% believe Hamas fighting Israel is valid.

Luis (No)

What many students and activists have done in academic institutions across the US in the name of supporting Palestine isn't right. These campus protests have produced antisemitism, drifting into blatantly anti-Israel, anti-Jewish messaging and actual campus takeovers, even keeping Jewish students from reaching their classes or making them feel 'physically or emotionally safe to be on campus.' Chanting 'From the River to the Sea' and 'Globalize the Intifada' essentially calls for the extermination of all Jews and the Jewish State of Israel. 

Many of these protests have even furthered anti-Israel conspiracy theories, such as the claim that the terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas on October 7 on Israeli soil never happened, or that the Israeli government allowed the attack to have the perfect excuse to execute a military operation in Gaza to exterminate all Palestinians. These student activists have started spreading anti-Israel propaganda and disinformation generated by Hamas itself. This essentially destroys their causes's credibility, as they've been turned into a tool of a terrorist organization. Instead of standing by the injured party (Israel), protestors have effectively taken up the messaging and mission of Hamas to spread hate against Israel and Jews everywhere, recasting Israel as the oppressor and not the Palestinian terrorists who butchered innocent citizens in the only democratically free country in the Middle East. 

Finally, many of these protests have descended into riots and vandalism not only on the academic institutions' facilities but also on some private businesses and stores around the area. Ultimately, schools don't control Israel’s actions in Gaza, and these protests have only continued to cause more turmoil and strife. Protesting peacefully over a real injustice is a noble cause, but committing atrocious and hateful acts against one group of people in the name of 'justice' is quite another.

Joanna (Yes)

Despite criticism from President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu, pro-Palestine protests across American campuses are far from wrong. The right to protest peacefully is at the core of the First Amendment. This means students are within their rights to voice their dissent and assemble in public spaces as long as they don't stir violence or cause property damage. 

And they have done so peaceably on most campuses. In fact, statistics show that 97% of pro-Palestine demonstrations since mid-April have been peaceful until the involvement of law enforcement forces. The public may have been further misled by statements and videos painting these protests as 'antisemitic' when the protests actually aim to convince universities to divest from corporations contributing to the occupation and destruction of Gaza. 

Likewise, the fact that these protests are happening on college campuses alone make the action justifiable. The purpose of these institutions is to allow students the freedom to learn, explore, and speak as they evolve in their maturity and understanding of the world. Some institutions, such as NYU, take pride in being at the center of activist movements and social change. So, even if they aren't bound by the free speech rule, they shouldn't prevent it. 

Like the anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s, the pro-Palestine protests are proving to be a catalyst for change. Protestors have hope they can reach agreements with their universities that go beyond their demands for divestment of Israel in the Middle East. For example, Rutgers agreed to several positive steps including offering ten displaced students scholarships and establishing a student exchange program with a university in Ramallah. With the youth utilizing their voice for good to produce change, the only thing not right here is the backlash and violent crackdowns putting them at risk.

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