Biden's Support Among Young Voters Tested by Israeli-Palestinian Solidarity

"Antigenocide camps" have sprung up on dozens of campuses across the US. It demands a halt to the Israeli shelling of Gaza and a halt to the occupation

by Sededin Dedovic
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Biden's Support Among Young Voters Tested by Israeli-Palestinian Solidarity
© Michael M. Santiago / Getty Images

Campuses of American universities have been high-temperature zones in recent weeks. Many young people have taken them over. They show solidarity with Palestinians and face accusations of antisemitism. Some of them want to point out how one can witness "live genocide" from Gaza while the "democratic president of the United States fully supports it," explains Leigh Raiford, a professor of African American studies at Berkeley.

"There is a whole generation of people who will not vote for the Democratic Party, will not vote for Joe Biden," she says reports DeutscheWelle. This is a turnaround from the situation four years ago when Biden was buoyed by young voters and the chants of protests under the Black Lives Matter slogan.

For Biden, it's a tightrope walk to ensure that his military support for Israel doesn't cost him his stay in the White House. He has tried to balance, insisting on a ceasefire in Gaza. "Anti-genocide camps" have sprung up on dozens of campuses across the United States.

They demand an end to Israeli shelling of Gaza, which began after Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Germany, the European Union, the United States, and others, carried out unprecedented massacres in Israel. In the past seven months, 35,000 people have been killed in Israeli reprisals.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, led by Hamas, almost half of those killed were children. Although Biden officially says that the protests cannot shake his support for Israel, according to Axios, the White House has allegedly paused a shipment of ammunition to Israel.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators stand beneath a projection of President Joe Bidens face on a American flag at George Washington Un© Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

Under pressure from upcoming exams and wealthy donors allergic to any criticism of Israel, many universities have cited security reasons when calling the police to break up protest camps.

So far, around two thousand people have been arrested across the US. Police in Georgia, Texas, and New York have been accused of using excessive force, while in Los Angeles, they have been accused of not doing enough when masked pro-Israeli demonstrators attacked pro-Palestinian camps.

Mutual accusations are multiplying. From stifling any words in favor of Palestinians and any criticism of Israel on campuses to, on the other hand, Jewish students in the US being targeted with threats and violence. Some claim that protesters on campuses are indirectly connected to Hamas.

Or that they are not even students. For example, the New York Police Department arrested 282 people at Columbia University and City College. At the former, 71 percent of those arrested are students or have justification to be on campus.

At the latter, which is public, there were 40 percent, while the rest came from outside. "Such accusations of 'foreign agitation' are very dangerous," said Professor Raiford to DW, noting that such discrediting of protests has a long tradition.

She lists that even anti-war protesters in the sixties and seventies were called Soviet agitators, and that even Martin Luther King was labeled a "foreign agitator." Legally, universities are caught between two fires. Freedom of speech is a top priority in the US, but laws also protect security and free access to education.

There is a legal obligation to "fight against discrimination and the responsibility to maintain order," wrote Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, in an open letter to universities. But he added that it is "crucial not to sacrifice the principles of academic freedom and free speech that are the core of the educational mission of your esteemed institutions." According to Professor Raiford, the mission for students to learn moral ideals and the idea that they "should change the world" in America clashes with a higher education system that serves the "consolidation of power of the ruling class." Gregory Payne, who heads the communication department at Emerson College in Boston, says the US is in a similar age of division as during the anti-war protests of the seventies.

"Just like then, today we have a leadership fiasco from top to bottom," Payne told DW. Emerson is a small college, but it sees large protests. Boston police arrested more than a hundred people near the campus in late April.

On the other hand, Biden and state governors are under pressure to involve the National Guard in breaking up demonstrations. As Professor Payne says, it's almost a miracle that no one has been killed yet. And that reminds us of earlier times.

In May 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on anti-war protesters at Kent State University. Four students were killed, nine wounded. "Basically, today we need the same thing we needed then - and what we need every day - dialogue," Payne added, according to DW.

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