By Margaret Kimberley, BAR Exec. Editor & Senior Columnist

May 1, 2024  Black Agenda Review

 

Campus protests in solidarity with Palestine have been met with brute police force and condemnation of the participants. Their mobilization is a threat to the political system, which cannot operate as the ruling class would like if large numbers of people engage in active dissent.

“As the ICJ [ International Court of Justice] is saying, there’s a possibility of a genocide happening. And we’re seeing our government continually sending more and more weapons, 2,000 pound bombs that are being dropped on whole neighborhoods. Schools being destroyed, hospitals being destroyed, and all our government can say is, ‘Well we’re going to ask the Israelis what happened in this situation,’ in situation, after situation, after situation. And there is no accountability for what we’re seeing with our own eyes. We’re giving him that Morehouse degree, that honorary doctorate saying you’re one of us. Now we’re complicit in what he’s doing. So how do you justify what you’re going to bestow on him on our behalf when he’s basically a war criminal at this point?” –

Morehouse College town hall participant speaking against the invitation to President Biden

The repression being carried out against students protesting Israel’s genocide against the people of Gaza encompasses many different issues and indicates that repression overall is escalating against the entire population. We see official efforts at censorship, the nexus between wealth and higher education, bought off elected officials obeying the dictates of imperialism, and evidence that any claims of substantive differences within the duopoly are fiction.

There are currently Palestine solidarity encampments on campuses throughout the country but Columbia University in New York City was the focus of much media attention. It was strange to see members of Congress from across the country opine on the actions of students in New York City. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson , even traveled to New York to meet with Columbia’s president and then held a press conference telling her to resign while also demanding that the National Guard be called to end the protests.

Of course, this issue is one that is near and dear to the hearts of all Congressional leaders which has been the case ever since Israel’s founding in 1948. Giving Israel financial and material support has long been an imperative for the duopoly. The recent allocation of $95 billion to be spent in Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan was the result of a bipartisan love fest which was openly celebrated by Democratic leaders Charles Schumer in the Senate and Hakeem Jeffries in the House. Both of them gave effusive praise to Mike Johnson and other Republican counterparts.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has secured her place as the fake progressive cover girl for Joe Biden, simultaneously endorsing him and also appearing at the Columbia University encampment in an effort to shore up support with those still foolish enough to take her seriously. We see outright compliance with a fascistic state and phony efforts that do the same but appear not to do so.

While Israel doubles down and its prime minister brags about attacking the city of Rafah where more than 1 million survivors are seeking refuge, the U.S. doubles down right along with its client state. Israel can depend on money and any other support needed to continue its campaign of ethnic cleansing while also relying on protection at the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Court.

Colleges, particularly the more “elite” institutions have received a great deal of scorn from elected officials and the corporate media because of their student involvement in Palestine solidarity work. It isn’t difficult to see why. Columbia and schools like it have endowments in the billions of dollars. They provide a source of well-educated servants for the ruling class. The relationship is clear when billionaires like Columbia alumnus Robert Kraft announce that they will suspend contributions. They are not giving away fortunes so that students can be radicalized. Their goal is to accomplish the opposite, to produce conformity and adherence to neo-liberal and imperialist policies which are given legitimacy with the stamp of approval from people with all the right credentials.

Politicians are also recipients of this largesse. The same people who fund their alma maters with big money are also funding political careers for the people who will be their errand boys and errand girls in times of need.

The students and their professors who are facing down the police are to be commended for their actions. They have become the most prominent group expressing public opposition to the U.S./Israeli genocide and that is also why they are being so thoroughly demonized. When those students among them who are in fact from the more privileged class find common cause with people who are being victimized by their government, there is a huge systemic problem. No one knows who they will identify with next. Perhaps there will be a repeat of the 2020 mobilizations in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Maybe they will encourage dissent among others. If not discredited they could possibly call the entire political system into question. It isn’t surprising that the Speaker of the House shows up to personally aide in the crackdown.

The issue of the Gaza genocide has accelerated calls for censorship as we can see in the bipartisan effort to force a sale of the TikTok platform. Open engagement is highly problematic and the possibility of millions of people being educated about their government’s role in war crimes is too great a chance to take. Censorship is the only option for a ruling class in crisis.

Students in the Palestine solidarity encampments are following in the best traditions of civil disobedience. Scenes of them pushing back against police, risking arrest and prosecution and suspension and expulsion, bringing this issue to the front of public consciousness must be supported in every way possible.

It is a good thing indeed that students at Morehouse College, one of the most prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities, took their president David Thomas to task for keeping an open commencement invitation to President Biden. Students expressed concern about being considered complicit in the genocide, being used as a Biden campaign stop, and about the public resources lavished on war while Black community needs are ignored.

While Black people are exhorted to vote for Biden lest fascist Donald Trump return to office, it is clear that the system is fascistic regardless of who occupies the White House Oval Office. Progressives vote for war, the people are threatened with the loss of free speech platforms, and students risk arrest if they protest, all while Trump is out of office. The treatment of the Palestine solidarity movement is an indicator that fascism is always on the agenda in this country.