From Campus Activism to Global Solidarity: The Resurgence of Pro-Palestinian Movement

The luminescent rainbow sparks of the spontaneous, eclectic and sublime fire of youthful rebellion has spread across the West, and beyond to Japan, Latin America, Canada and Australia. However, it is the wonderful season of ‘Convocations’ in top American universities, and the only words which seem to resonate across the campus landscape night and day are ‘Gaza, Free  Palestine, Stop the Genocide and Ceasefire Now’!

At  the prestigious Columbia University campus, where the prairie fire originally started and spread like a wild storm across the vast and empty American landscape, the famous Hamilton Hall which witnessed the early protests against the Vietnam War in the 1970s, was renamed as ‘Hind’s Hall’, after the students captured it. So who is Hind? And why should her name be adorned on the walls of Hamilton Hall? And why should she become famous all over the world?

Hind Rajab was a beautiful six-year-old girl who was murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces in cold-blood. One among the 15,000 or so kids murdered in Gaza, among the almost 40,000 massacred over the spell of a few months. Students in Columbia were remembering her, paying her a humble tribute, deeply mourning for her. Indeed, she, like the other little daughters and sons, even babies in the incubators, could have lived, should have lived; and why did they die like this — with Israel using American bombs and guns supplied by ‘Genocide Joe’ – who is still pumping billions in the Israeli arms establishment?

The tent homes of ‘Gaza encampments’ in ‘occupied’ Columbia, like in almost every campus, were repeatedly dismantled by police squads, which reflected, after years, the brutish face of the State Repressive Apparatus in democratic America. Students and professors were beaten up, dragged, packed off to prisons. Many teachers have reportedly lost their jobs and students have been debarred or punished.

That is why ‘Convocations’ are the flavour of the season in campus after campus. Thereby, students defy the paraphernalia and pomposity of the occasion, and the conformism of the university establishment, and flaunt the black and white Palestinian ‘keffiyeh’, carry  placards, shout slogans on the stage, and even record their protest through their mobiles on the big screens displayed on the stage. They walk in rows carrying Gaza posters, sing songs, shout slogans, and march through police cardons to take their university degrees. And these students come from across the academic disciplines: IT, marketing, business management, political sciences, the arts, social sciences, the sciences, you name it.

The entire audience in these packed halls join them, whistling, screaming their hearts out, shouting slogans, singing and dancing, playing drums. It’s a kaleidoscopic carnival out there happening, magnificent and magical, and social media is overflowing with these reels. Surely, old and doddering, Joe Biden’s second tryst with destiny is in a slippery quagmire. Clearly, the millennial hate him, as they hate Donald Trump, with such expressed intensity.

For instance, ‘’ reports (May 26, 2024),the incredible story of Indian-American student, Shruti Kumar, born amidst the cattle ranches of Nebraska.  An over-achiever, she worked on health inequities and public health, yoga, Indian classical dance and poetry. In her graduation speech on May 22, at Harvard, “she went off script and blasted the prestigious university for its treatment of pro-Palestine student protesters”.

She took out a piece of paper with off-script remarks, which was hidden up the sleeve of her crimson gown. “As I stand here today, I must take a moment to recognize my peers – the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 that will not graduate today,” she said. She was referring to the university’s decision to bar 13 seniors from the ceremony in the wake of campus protests against the genocide in Gaza.

According to the ‘Harvard Gazette’, her original speech was titled ‘The Power of Not Knowing’. It asked the students “to embrace uncertainty” – as they would move on from school. Instead, it became a clarion call against the punishment meted out to dissenting students and larger censorship. “I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus,” she said. “The students had spoken. The faculty had spoken. Harvard, do you hear us?”

She received a glowing and boisterous standing ovation for her fabulous speech of rebellion.

‘The Intercept’ on May 7 reports that there is a witch-hunt on in American campuses, very similar to the Cold-War phenomenon of McCarthyism in the past, when dissenters were hounded around the country, an condemned as communists, including writers like Arthur Miller, and certain actors and directors in Hollywood.  The report says that those professors who are committed to the liberation of Palestinian can no longer hold on to their jobs. Many of them have already been sacked.

“These educators have little in common. They live in different cities and states and hail from different countries. Some have been teaching in their institutions for decades, some were newly hired. Some taught at private universities, others in public. They have varying degrees of job security, from a tenured professor to the most precarious adjunct contracts. And they are racially, ethnically, religiously, age, and gender-diverse.”

Many of these protesters were only reminding the American university system that all the 12 universities in Gaza have been totally ravaged. They are now a vast terrain of endless rubble in ruins, like the hospitals, residential quarters, churches and mosques. This destruction of the universities is now called ‘Scholarsticide’ – a Genocide of the Temples of  Scholarship and Knowledge.

The report claims that since the brutalization of Gaza has begun, academics in the disciplines of  sociology, public health, politics, mathematics, education, Latin American, Caribbean, Middle East and African studies, and Japanese literature, have been routinely sacked or removed, due to a certain dissenting discourse they would have done against Israel, or in support of Palestine.

This is now also called the ‘Age of New McCarthyism’ in the American university system.

Columbia University, also called the ‘Activist Ivy’, is now being haunted by the ghost of Joseph McCarthy. Its president was castigated by the Republicans and powerful Israeli lobby; she was condemned as being too soft and that she should take a hard line against the students and faculty who were being branded as anti-Semitic.  This is another self-defense propaganda chosen by the powerful Israeli lobbies inside the Democratic and Republican parties. They choose to brand all forms of dissent and support for human rights as anti-Semitism.

Despite that, the counter-narrative has become much more stronger: it states that you don’t have to be pro-Hamas to seek immediate ceasefire and a stop to the massacre of ordinary citizens; that a free Palestine is an universal longing and demand across the world, and that it is not anti-Semitic to seek freedom for the caged and condemned people of Gaza and the West Bank.

One of the reasons Tik Tok has been banned is because the establishment wants to block this counter-narrative of liberation and critical thinking. That is precisely the reason that Facebook etc., renders all Gaza posts and pictures – immediately invisible. As if they don’t exist. However, they do exist, and they are often ‘live’.

That is why, the social media posts, the pictures and videos, the text and sub-text, the news reports and audio-visual stories, the song and dance, the graffiti on the walls, the relentless struggle, and the police action, the encampments and the ‘Convocations’ of protest degrees, are all over the place – almost always live, recycled and resurrected, again and again, umpteen times, via Tiktok, on whatsapp, on Facebook, via short reels, among other social media. Like images, visuals, still pictures and stories from Gaza, despite more than 100 journalists, along with doctors and nurses, having been killed by the Israelis, often by sharp-shooters and snipers, targeting particular journalists and their entire families.

A commentator writes in ‘’ (May 7, 2024): “When the protests reached my niece’s campus at the University of Wisconsin, I sent her a concerned text, as I saw images of police in riot gear battling students there. She responded saying she was shocked by the police raid. She elaborated saying, a Neo-Nazi march last semester on an avenue in Madison had seen no police intervention. She was shaken by the violent response towards peaceful protesters.” (This is exactly what happened at the famous UCLA, Los Angeles.)

He writes: “No doubt there have been incidents on campuses where students have faced threats and verbal abuse for being Jewish. But, to dismiss a legitimate student movement spreading across the nation as anti-Semitic, or as a stir-up radicalized by ‘professionals’ and ‘outside agitators’, or calling students pro-terror or pro-Hamas as ‘New York Post’ and ‘Fox News’ often do, is not only dangerous but also disingenuous, despicable and tone deaf… Similar language was used during the civil rights and other anti-war protests. Peaceful protesters were labeled terrorists, agitators, and communists to delegitimize their demands and suppress dissent in the most brutal manner…”

Amidst this ongoing witch-hunt, the movement is becoming stronger. Many times more stronger than the anti-Vietnam war movement in American which inspired epical movies like Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’. Anyway, these protests, which began in the late 1960s, had spread to far-flung countries across the world, from Berkeley in the US, Sorbonne in France, to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India, acquiring their indigenous character in each country.

It also created an anti-establishment counter-culture in terms of avant garde movies in Europe, the flower children and hippie movement in the US, the great musical festival of Woodstock, which penetrated across the globe, including among the young in cities and towns of India. This is yet again happening in the West, but in a magnitude and with a ferocity and consistency, unprecedented in the history of students’ movements in the history of the world.

Students are marching in Tokyo. Students are marching in Berlin. Students are marching in Switzerland, Spain, Belgium and Norway. Students are marching in London and Paris. Artists are turning street signs into Gaza signs in Naples, Italy. Frida Kahlo has become a Palestinian in a wall poster. Jesus Christ too. Students are marching in Amsterdam, Sydney, Montreal and Ottawa. Students are being bashed up in Berlin. Students are in solidarity with their pro-Palestinian government in Ireland.

Football stadiums in Scotland have turned into a huge ocean swarming with the flags of Palestine. The football team of Chile was seen wearing the flag of Palestine. Sportspersons are openly dancing the Dubka – the song and dance of Palestine, in front of global audiences. Cate Blanchett, fabulous actress, wore a dress which depicted a Palestinian flag, at Cannes. An Indian offbeat actress, with an award, walked on the stage at Cannes, holding a bag designed like a colourful water melon – the symbol of the flag of Palestine.

Indeed, it is beautiful, ironical and liberating. The Palestinian flag might have disappeared from the West Bank, Gaza and Raffah. However, it is now flying on the campuses across America and the West, and other parts of the globe. Hind Rajab is dead. And Hind Rajab is still alive. Not only at the Hamilton Hall in Columbia. She lives and pulsates, inside the beating hearts of the beautiful young, in tens of thousands, wearing the ‘keffiyeh’ on top of their formal gowns at the Convocations, waving the Palestinian flag, singing the song of freedom and solidarity, dancing the ‘Dubka’.

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