Violent suppression of student protests defines US democracy

Police advance on pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles on May 2. — AP

A TASTE of American democracy is being rolled out currently with the violent suppression of student protests across campuses all over the United States.

What started with a handful of colleges and universities had spread like wildfire, and at the time of writing, reached 75 institutions in all.

The students are protesting American involvement in the genocide being committed by the Zionist regime in Gaza. It comes after continuous protests across America particularly in the east over the carnage that is taking place in Gaza since Oct 7, 2023 committed by Israeli occupation forces, seems unstoppable. Not only that those protests that drew tens of thousands of people to the cities did not in any way deter the US administration including Congress from supplying more and more weapons to the genocidal Tel Aviv regime with the latest military aid being approved just very recently despite Israeli prime minister threatening to attack Rafah soon.

So, this time around, it is the turn of the young to raise their voices against the Israeli regime’s actions. They are just asking for their respective university administrations to divest from companies that have links with the Zionist entity so that at the very least the university community would not be party to the horrendous killings of men, women and children in the Gaza Strip which represents the largest open-air prison in the world – a fact attested to even by the UN.

What is particularly surprising is the manner in which these protests are being handled or “manhandled”. One would not have expected the type of reaction by the administration to these protests which simply display the hypocrisy being practised when just a few days before the crackdown on these students (and now also including faculty members), Secretary of State, Antony Blinken had released the US’s version of human rights conditions in other countries which lambasted many countries for their human rights record including the right to free speech. The US usually prides itself as a beacon of democracy where free speech is supposed to be the core value. What unfolded on the grounds of college campuses around the country simply did not demonstrate the “democratic values” supposedly cherished by that nation.

Videos of uniformed police attacking defenceless students on campus grounds have been circulating on social media over the past week. There have been so many violent scenes of police actually pinning students to the ground and using batons to herd them. In one of the videos even a woman professor is seen being brought down and pinned to the ground as the police begin to handcuff her. It seems that they would not tolerate the protests.

Of course, all this could also be seen as an affront to the “freedom of speech” clause under the American constitution. Yet, does this matter? It does not because Israel is the proverbial “sacred cow” that cannot be touched in America, free speech or no free speech.

To make matters worse, criticism of Israel is readily branded as “anti-semitism”. In other words, no one can criticise Israel’s actions because that would fall under the category of “anti-semitism” probably a crime more severe than the dropping of bombs on children or women. Genocide may also be seen as a lesser “crime” as opposed to “anti-semitism”.

One may also ask why the US administration is exceptionally brutal towards students protesting Israel as well as their own government for blindly supporting the Zionist regime. There can only be one explanation – the hold the Zionist lobby has over Washington.

Anyone aspiring to be a successful politician on both sides of the political divide, must be “endorsed” and be amply “rewarded” by Zionist lobbies like the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). So deep and rampant is political corruption in the US that it would put much “lesser democracies” of some third world countries normally associated with the practice to shame.

The politicians in Congress like the House Speaker who went down to address the protestors a few days ago and threatened to unleash the National Guard upon the students, obviously know which side of the bread is buttered.

Hence, the violent response from the authorities.

And for the record, there is no issue of any form of semitism here. So many Jewish students have joined their counterparts from all ethnicities and races to protest their institutions involvement with Israel – whether academic, economic or sociocultural. How could they, they feel, that their institution could be working with a regime that has murdered more than 35,000 civilians in Gaza on a genocidal spree? How could that be simply defined in semitic or anti-semitic terms?

And perhaps due to the rising number of universities and colleges experiencing such student protests which is sure to impact the political situation in an election year that the US announced that an offer for a ceasefire for 40 days would probably be made by Israel to Hamas at talks in Egypt.

One wonders what happened to the UNSC ceasefire resolution that was passed recently.

Dr Abdul Latiff Mohd Ibrahim is Head of Research and Publications Division at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia. The views expressed here are solely the writer’s own.

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students , Gaza , protests , US


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