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Pro-Palestinian Protests: The Limits of Free Speech in America

In recent days, some of America’s most prestigious universities mirror conflict zones rather than places of learning. A wave of police violence has followed a surge in pro-Palestinian protests on campuses nationwide. Forceful crackdowns by law enforcement on university students across America have drawn sharp condemnation from free speech advocates. The war in Gaza has sparked outrage among human rights groups and college students alike. If this war has shed light on one truth, it is the double standards practiced by the United States.

An unenthusiastic crowd greeted House Speaker Mike Johnson with boos upon his visit to Columbia University to address the unrest. After meeting with a group of Jewish students on campus, the Speaker of the House stated that the nonsense must come to an end. However, images of violent police crackdowns on pro-Palestinian students did little to ease the anger of the masses. 

America’s support for Israel in its indiscriminate leveling of Gaza has alienated even the most neutral of onlookers. The intentional targeting of Palestinian civilians by the IDF has elicited outrage from Americans and global citizenry alike. Furthermore, it has shed light on the hypocrisy of America’s tenure at the helm of global affairs. The so-called “rules-based order” is a platform to advance the interest of the American state and its allies, labeling those who contradict these interests as “aggressors” or “malefactors,” rather than an order whose rules are applied impartially across the board. Violating international law and engaging in war crimes is permitted so long as you’re a friend of the United States. Former Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby captured the essence of this hypocrisy when he insinuated that casualties happen when pressed about Israel's indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian civilians. When asked about civilian casualties in Ukraine, he opted to condemn Russia as an aggressor in violation of international law. 

Texas governor Gregg Abbott’s X (formerly Twitter) post called for student protestors to be arrested and expelled. American democracy provides everyone with a platform to speak out against policy. Whether the object of that policy is deemed integral to American interests by politicians in Washington should have no bearing on the validity of subsequent protests by the public. The interests of the state are not always that of the people. Our politicians have decried students across America as “antisemitic;” an unlettered remark at best. Recognizing Israel’s violent ethnic cleansing in Gaza does not equate to antisemitism, it simply appeals to a moral imperative that Americans across the country have adopted: The United States should not involve itself with a modern-day apartheid regime that intends to segregate, persecute and cleanse to make way for an ethnically homogenous state free of Palestinian Arabs. Conflating antisemitism with condemnation of American-Israeli ties and support for human rights is outright deceitful. It serves no purpose but to vilify those who might speak out against the war or the questionable nature of Israeli influence in the American government.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.

1 comentario

Jeff Hall
Jeff Hall
12 may

Very clearly stated. Anything having to do with Israel, Palestine and the Middle East tends to be complicated. I think you make a good case for how being anti-Israeli policy doesn't necessarily mean a protester is antisemitic. Many Jews don't like what Israel is going in Gaza. Still, it's hard to see how a ceasefire alone will accomplish much. In time, the cycle will repeat. Right now is an excellent time for a real, sustainable solution.

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