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Young people are making a difference

Published by the STL American - May 2, 2024

In the initial attack by Hamas on Israel last fall by Hamas, reportedly 1200 Israeli citizens lost their lives, hundreds more were injured and hostages were taken. These violent acts were condemned by most of the world. However, what has unfolded since October 7 has literally rocked the world. The massive retaliation by Israel on Gaza would have not been possible without the $4 billion annually from the U.S. government. This fact has not been lost on students across the country.

In addition to pro-Palestinian protests in the streets, there are spirited student protests going on from coast to coast. Young people want to make a difference in this war. They are playing a critical role in organizing protests, vigils, encampments, and rallies. Their efforts are helping to document this moment in history; what was the American people’s response to the Palestinian genocide?

 

The retaliation by the Israeli forces had been unparalleled. The well-trained, well-armed Israeli army has been relentless in its attacks against the Palestinian people. This has resulted in nearly 35,000 deaths, thousands of injured and tens of thousands displaced.

Reports by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and World Health Organization have put the lopsided losses into focus. Over half of Gaza’s homes have been destroyed or uninhabitable, 90% of school buildings have been hit and a third of the thirty-five hospitals are inoperable. Places of worship have not been exempt from the bombings. The intensity of the destruction is unprecedented.

Retaliation by university administrations has been swift. There have been arrests, injuries and student suspensions. Some campuses have even cancelled graduation ceremonies. The general demands by students include a ceasefire, the end of U.S. military aid to Israel and the divestment of university funds that benefit Israeli aggression. Wash U student demands to their administration were specific —cut ties with Boeing immediately. The St. Louis-based aerospace giant has a long history with Israel and provides the weaponry being used against the Palestinian people.

 

This heavy-handed approach by both the Israeli forces and militarized police at home has motivated even more protests around the world. Those who initially sought to remain neutral have been knocked off the fence.

We have witnessed the unholy alliance between the Zionists in Israel, always claiming anti-Semitism as their justification, and the white right wing in the US who have gone after Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) with a vengeance.

Visuals from the war-torn areas of Gaza and the West Bank are powerfully convincing that Israel will not stop unless the nations of the world intervene or until Gaza is a pile of rubble and Palestinians are forced from their homeland.

The students are organizing around the key demands of disarmament and disinvestment. They saw how an international campaign during the U.S. anti-apartheid movement was successful in bringing South Africa apartheid to its knees.

We don’t know the end to this saga. We can predict that as the academic year comes to a close, student protests will probably dissipate. Their voices and actions have energized the militant responses to Israeli attacks and elevated discussion of their unjust war in righteous ways that only young people can do. They are definitely having an impact on contemporary history.

Jamala Rogers is a columnist for The St. Louis American and one of the founding members of the Organization for Black Struggle based in St. Louis.

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