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Some Questions for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement as Campuses Shut Down for the Summer

Editors’ note: This article by Paul Street, historian and author, originally appeared on May 13 at The Paul Street Report.

Columbia University students encampment for Palestine, April 15, 2024.


Columbia University students encampment for Palestine, April 15, 2024. Photo: Special to   

Revolution, anyone? 

With the academic year coming to an end at most colleges and with the academic year coming to an end, now is a good time for students who engaged in the remarkable and inspiring campus and off-campus protests of the US-Israel Crucifixion of Gaza to confront some critical questions I want to dig into below.

First, however, I want to congratulate those students. Their fundamentally moral movement against genocidal ethnic cleansing that has been carried out with US weapons of mass destruction has touched a US ruling class nerve. From coast to coast, the US capitalist-imperialist powers-that-be have felt compelled to viciously smear and repress this extraordinary  movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Those powers-that-be include college and university presidents and boards of trustees, whose complicity in the American Empire’s support for the Judeo-fascist occupation and apartheid state of Israel has been wonderfully exposed by student activists.

In doing so, the campus protesters have also helped uncover “liberal” Democrats’ “bipartisan” alliance with their Republi-fascist rivals when it comes to the American Empire’s backing of mass murderous and racist Israel.  

Along the way, they got some of the nation’s professors to get off their butts and out into the quads and streets — no small feat!

Well done!

Here now are nine questions to movement participants, who I will address as “you” even though I know it contains different tendencies.

1. What do you mean by Intifada revolution? I’ve heard many of you chant “there is only one solution, Intifada revolution” (and in fact I have joined in and helped lead that chant both in Chicago and Iowa City). What do you mean by “Intifida [an Arab word for mass uprising] revolution”? Does that apply only to Palestine-Israel or does it refer also to the United States? 

I pose this question with an opinion of my own. When I led this chant at an Iowa City rally recently I added that it applies even and even especially at home, right here in the belly of the US imperial beast. The ultimate criminal force here is in fact not Israel but rather its superpower sponsor, the USA. Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime could not last more than a year without the economic, military, and political-diplomatic backing and protection of the American Empire. That support has been given by Washington to Tel Aviv not because US policy is under the control of “the Israel Lobby” but because US policymakers long ago determined that Israel is a key strategic regional and global asset for the US empire. As the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA’s (the Revcoms) leader Bob Avakian noted last January:

“Why is Biden, and basically the entire government and ruling class of the U.S., supporting Israel in carrying out genocide against the Palestinian people, before the whole world? This is not because of ‘the power of the Jewish lobby’—or because of some ignorant, ridiculous and outrageous notion that ‘Jews are controlling everything.’ It is because Israel plays a ‘special role’ as a heavily armed bastion of support for U.S. imperialism in a strategically important part of the world (the ‘Middle East’). And Israel has been a key force in the commission of atrocities which have helped to maintain the oppressive rule of U.S. imperialism in many other parts of the world.”

Bulls-eye! And that by the way is the basic historical context for something critical that the US president you rightly call “Genocide Joe” famously said as a US Senator in 1986 and which he has repeated multiple times in the wake of Hamas’s October 7th terror attack: “if an Israel didn’t already exist, we’d [the USA] would have to invent one.” Think about what that means: Israel is a key strategic Washington asset on the world stage.

Judeo-fascist Israel may be the top recipient of US military assistance in the world but it is far from the only repressive right-wing government supported by and expected to behave as a client of the American Empire, which maintains more than 800 military bases in more than 80 countries. That Empire is dedicated to the infliction and enforcement of a global capitalist order that consigns billons of people to dire poverty while threatening humanity with extinction through ecological devastation and nuclear war. It’s relentless meddling in Eastern Europe has sparked a lethal and ongoing war that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths in Ukraine. It is provoking China in ways that could unleash a lethal conflict within and beyond Taiwan.

The concentrated cruelty inflicted on Gaza by the American capitalist-imperialist Empire and its twisted client state Israel since October 7 is shocking to a degree that chills the soul, to be sure. At the same time, billions of suffering people are victims of that Empire and the system it advances and protects. The American Empire and the domestic de facto class dictatorship it reflects needs to be overthrown in its very national homeland — the USA itself. “There is only one solution, Intifida revolution” must be understood to centrally and fundamentally include the parasitic and imperial superpower in which you reside.

2. Back to the “Middle East:” What does a Palestine-Israel “revolution” mean to you? When I’ve asked you this, your answers have been vague and eclectic. Some of you seem to mean the death of Israel and the sweeping out of its residents; some suggest a (obsolete) “two-state solution;” and others say nothing at all, turning away, as if the question is hostile. It isn’t. I think it’s a serious matter that needs to be seriously addressed. And here, again, I find Avakian highly persuasive and on-point:

“The answer is definitely not to ‘kill off all the Jews in Israel’ or ‘drive them into the sea.’ The answer is the abolition of the state of Israel, and in its place the creation of a revolutionary state in which the government and the laws do not promote any religion and do not favor one people over another, and instead there is equality between Jews and Palestinians…The answer is also definitely not the ‘two-state solution’ being promoted by the Biden administration. Such a ‘two-state solution’ would really amount to nothing more than a powerful state of Israel continuing to occupy land stolen from the Palestinian people, while the so-called ‘Palestinian state’ created with this ‘solution’ would be a bitter joke—a puppet state—merely a patchwork of separated small territories, surrounded and dominated by Israel, with the Palestinian people still subjected to terrible oppression and deprivation… The answer is the abolition of the state of Israel, and in its place the creation of a revolutionary state in which the government and the laws do not promote any religion and do not favor one people over another, and instead there is equality between Jews and Palestinians. The answer is that the fight against the state of Israel must be waged on a revolutionary basis, with the goal of putting an end to all oppressive relations and all inequality among people based on race and nationality, sex and gender, and all relations in which one part of society exploits others. And the urgent need is for a revolutionary force to emerge to lead the struggle on that basis…”

That force has yet to emerge. It needs to emerge.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators form a human chain on the UCLA campus, Los Angeles, May 1, 2024.


Pro-Palestinian demonstrators form a human chain on the UCLA campus, Los Angeles, May 1, 2024.    Photo: AP/Jae C. Hong

3. How much difference in this regard would it really mean if some universities rid themselves of investments in and programmatic connections to Israel? Would such changes do much if anything to unravel the American Empire and the world capitalist system, which are wired to essentially destroy all prospects for a decent future while already spreading misery and oppression to the four corners of the planet? Do you really think farmers, laborers, and shanty town residents facing imperialism-imposed immiseration and even famine in Africa, India, Latin America and East Asia could care less about your university’s investment profile vis-a-vis one of the United States’ many client states albeit an especially and shockingly mass murderous and racist one of those states? Would university disinvestment in Israel make much difference in the US-Israel relationship itself? Aren’t America’s elite universities essentially imperialist institutions in relation to the whole world?  Shouldn’t they be revolutionized in ways that would include an end to their participation in any and all forms of imperial oppression and domination?

4. Why did it take until the fall of 2023 and the spring of 2024 for a major campus protest movement against Israel’s oppression of Gaza to sweep the nation? After all, Israel has been torturing and terrorizing the open-air concentration camp that is (perhaps now I should say “was”) the Gaza Strip, murdering its inhabitants through siege and blockade as well as bombs and bullets for decades. Gaza has been a great humanitarian crime of the Israeli occupation from the moment that Israel captured it from Egypt in 1967.


Pro-Palestinian Columbia students confront NYPD, April 30, 2024.


Pro-Palestinian Columbia students confront NYPD, April 30, 2024.    Photo: AP

The answer to my question is of course the soul-numbing lethality and savagery of Israel’s collective punishment of the people of Gaza in response to the Hamas terror attack of October 7, 2023 — the slaughter of 40,000 people, mostly women and children, in plain global sight, replete with images of whole families buried in the smoking rubble of buildings collapse by US-made bombs…of hospitals turned into charnel grounds by fascist Israel and its superpower sponsor. There are unspeakable atrocities, part of a wicked and racist attack that humanitarian service providers call the worst “wartime” disaster they’ve ever witnessed!  The images and stories coming from Gaza since 10-7 have been too much to bear. They have struck a moral and humanitarian chord across the world.  The chord has resonated on US campuses where young adults have time and even at least some encouragement to see and understand the world as it really is.

Palestinian rescues a child wounded by an Israeli strike on central Gaza Strip, December 28, 2023.


 Palestinian rescues a child wounded by an Israeli strike on central Gaza Strip, December 28, 2023.    Photo: AP

There’s a parallel here with the George Floyd Rebellion. There was nothing new about white US cops unjustly killing yet another Black man in the US when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was captured on video crushing the life out of Floyd for eight minutes in May of 2020. But the stunning, open savagery of the murder was just too much to tolerate as videos of Floyd’s slow-motion asphyxiation shot across the Internet and struck a chord with millions of largely young people who had the time to go out into the streets thanks in no small part to the covid pandemic.

Mural of George Floyd, murdered by police, Minneapolis.


Mural of George Floyd, murdered by police, Minneapolis, May 25, 2020.    Photo: AP

But the fact remains that a vibrant and functional humanitarian people and “left” on and off campus wouldn’t wait for such graphic crimes to become sensationally visible before taking to the streets, public squares and campuses.

5. Is South Africa really a good role model for you? I have heard many of your leading activists cite the end of apartheid in 1990s South Africa as a role model for your calls for universities to disinvest in Israel. This is a bad take in my opinion. As Avakian has recently explained, South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s had nowhere near the same strategic significance to the American Empire as that possessed by Israel then and now. As Avakian writes:

“South Africa is important to the U.S. imperialists, particularly in terms of the assertion of U.S. dominance in Africa, but South Africa does not play the same kind of role that Israel does, as a heavily-armed bastion of support for U.S. imperialism in the strategic region of the ‘Middle East.’ Maintaining Israel as a ‘western-oriented’ state is of decisive importance for the U.S. imperialists, and in turn the Zionist (Jewish supremacist) nature of Israel is of critical importance in maintaining Israel as this bastion of support for U.S. dominance, especially in opposition to the influence of Iran—and beyond that Russia, and increasingly China—in this strategic region.”

The US was “okay” with letting the apartheid regime fall in South Africa, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union ended US threats of a new South Africa being incorporated into the Soviet bloc. But it made sure that that regime fell in “without an actual, thoroughgoing revolution,” and therefore, as Avakian notes:

The ending of apartheid in South Africa, in the early 1990s, did not lead to a fundamental change in the capitalist economic system of that country, and it has not brought liberation for the masses of African people from conditions of exploitation and oppression. The key government positions in South Africa are now held by elite African forces—yet the country continues to be marked by profound inequality, with the small white minority monopolizing the land and wealth, while the masses of African people continue to suffer in conditions of terrible poverty and degradation. And instead of righteous rebellion in opposition to apartheid in past generations, today the situation is marked by big-time criminal gangs preying on the masses of people—and the awful spectacle of African people in South Africa carrying out violent attacks on immigrant workers, brought in from other African countries to be viciously exploited in the mines and other workplaces of the South African economy.”

This, Avakian argues, disqualifies South Africa as a legitimate “role model” for the anti-Zionist movement. He’s right. 

6. What exactly is your take on Hamas? You are right to raise your eyebrows at this question: the American imperialist media and political class has played along with fascist Israel’s false description of the US-Israel Crucifixion of Gaza as “the Israel-Hamas War.”  It has refused to provide any serious historical context for the horrific and oppressive occupation, apartheid, siege, and terror conditions that made something like 10-7 (“Israel’s 9-11”) likely if not inevitable. And it has too readily and quite insidiously connected the US student protest movement to Hamas when in fact you have risen up out of a deeply moral concern for the everyday people of Gaza. So don’t get me wrong. 

But the question stands. When I have asked you what you think of Hamas, many of you have answered with blank stares and automatically assumed it’s a hostile question. It is no such thing coming from me. It’s an honest question and an important question. It is essential to understand that, as the Revcoms have insisted from the start of your inspiring movement, “Hamas is Not a Force for Liberation.” Long backed by Israel’s judeo-fascist and genocidal prime minister Bibi Netanyahu (tellingly enough!), Hamas is a deeply reactionary, Islamo-fascistic organization with profoundly revanchist ideas of male supremacy. It did in fact slaughter droves of innocent civilians on October 7, consistent with the antisemitic world view seen in its core doctrines. It is NOT in fact supported by most Gazans and it quite knowingly put millions of ordinary Palestinian people at grave risk by launching its fateful terror attack — something that many if not most Gazans know very well. And it has never in its history — which has included significant behind-the-scenes Israeli support — posed an actual or remotely revolutionary threat to the existence of Israel.  

7. Are you ready to drop the deeply anti-scientific identitarian cancel culture and “woke lunacy” (see below) that is so pervasive on US campuses? I recently learned that the student encampment at one major Midwestern university ended when the administration promised among other things to invite one Palestinian speaker to campus a year. “Gee,” I thought to myself, “what kind of Palestinian speaker? One who clings to the outmoded ‘two state [non-] solution?’ A mystic Palestinian or a material and Marxist one? One who aligns with women-enslaving Islamic fundamentalist doctrine? One who upholds Hamas? One who thinks that pressuring academic institutions to cut investments with Israel constitutes a revolution? Or one who understands that two state is dead, that Hamas is reactionary, that Israel and its imperial sponsor the United States need to undergo sweeping revolutionary socialist transformations on the path to the abolition of all exploitation and oppression?”

Identity itself is not truth and neither is experience. Truth is discovered from hard and scientific work that fleshes out the objective situation and digs beneath the surface to determine causation, the understanding of which is essential for positive action. Objective truth does not have a gender, nationality, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. Karl Marx did not need to be an Irish female textile worker in Manchester or a Black slave on a Mississippi cotton plantation to develop a revolutionary understanding of 19th Century capitalism-imperialism.

Are you perhaps dismissing my questions because they are being posed by a white male “Boomer” (Boomer 2, please, I was in fourth grade during the Summer of Love) who is quoting at length an even older white man (Avakian)? At one level, I almost kind of get that: there are tons of ridiculous bullshit flowing from the mouths, pens, and keypads of older white men in the USA. I’d say 75% of the inane criticism I get for having a revolutionary communist and antifascist orientation comes from older white US males. There are some really big political and intellectual problems with many people in that (my own) demographic. But there’s political and intellectual problems in all age, gender, ethnicity, class and race demographics and, again, truth is truth. It ain’t got a color, a race, an age, a gender, a nationality, or a sexual orientation. If some white guys like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, and Avakian used their race and gender privilege to spend their lives discovering and in some cases acting on revolutionary truths, take what you can and should from them (quite a bit in my view) and let the faux-radical academic cancel culture wallow in its authoritarian, identitarian, post-modern, and subjectivist stew, playing nonsensical “intersectional” games of “oppression Olympics” — games that go nowhere when it comes to the core communist task of confronting and ending all oppression. (Please look at this brilliant speech given last year at UCLA by the remarkable revolutionary communist Sunsara Taylor: “Woke Lunacy vs. Real Revolution.”)

Those of you who feel hung up on racial identity, for example, might want to review the horrific record of the United States’ first Black president Barack “The Empire's New Clothes” Obama, which included re-murdering Single Payer national health insurance, abandoning labor law reform, bailing out Great Recession-inflicting Wall Street overlords (while leaving working class Americans to drown), blowing up Libya, signing off on Guantanamo, giving George W. Bush a pass on torture, protecting a right wing fascist coup in Honduras, sponsoring and protecting an anti-Russian coup in Ukraine, killing international binding climate emission agreements (in Copenhagen), crushing the Occupy Wall Street rebellion, lecturing Black people on respectable obedience, signing off on escalated North American oil and gas drilling (fracking included), setting new drone kill records, murdering US citizens with drones, backing Israeli bombings of Gaza (by the way), rescuing the imperialist and corporatist warmonger Joe “We’d Have to Invent Israel if It Didn’t Already Exist” Biden from the ash heap of history, and more terrible to mention.

California: UC Berkeley students carry a Palestinian flag during commencement ceremony, May 11, 2024.


UC Berkeley commencement, May 11, 2024.    Photo: Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

8. Some of you graduated this year; more of you will graduate in the next few years. Have you thought about planning to resist that common Western syndrome of “I was radical and activist when I was young and had time and energy but then I grew up and had to focus on my career and family” thing? Capitalism-imperialism (whose sheer horror is on special display in Gaza) has brought humanity to the cliff of catastrophic eco-cide and/or global nuclear war while making future deadly pandemics likely and fostering fascism and other forms of iron heel  authoritarianism the world over, including inside the US itself. There’s no families and careers, no love, no beauty on a dead planet. We are right now where young Marx and Engels had us in 1848: it’s either “the revolutionary re-constitution of society at large” or “the common ruin of all…” This is no century for letting activism be just a youthful thing. Get more, not less radical with time so that your children and future generations can have a decent and liberating future here, there, and everywhere.

9. How are you going to deal this year with everything political in the US getting sucked into the masters’ latest crippling, corporate-crafted, candidate-centered, major party, big money, big media quadrennial electoral extravaganza? I recommend that we all — all human beings who care about humanity and the future regardless of what age, race, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation lanes we are said to occupy — grasp and reject the sheer unmitigated obscenity of a self-described “democracy” that offers you the pathetic choice between the bloody-jawed imperialist warmonger Biden and the vicious Amerikaner fascist Trump. That pathetic definition of “politics, the only politics that matters” is one of many symptoms of a society in dire need of radical reconstruction. The comedian Aamer Rahman said something powerful in London recently. He noted how white liberals are saying this to Black and brown anti-genocide activists who can’t and won’t vote for Genocide Joe this year: “is that what you really want? You want Trump to come back? You want Trump to win?… You think that’s a good idea? Cuz its’ your community that’s going to suffer if Trump comes back. People like you are going to suffer. What do you think of that?

“What I want,” Rahman told his audience, “is for you to not lecture us on how to respond to a genocide you didn’t try to stop, okay? I think that a political system that ultimately makes you choose between genocidal dementia and cheeseburger-powered fake-tan Hitler is a system worth overthrowing, okay? Maybe that is the conclusion you should be coming to instead of lecturing Black and brown people on why they should worship the Democrats.”

Right on. Equally instructive are the words of an online friend the other day:

We’re living in a sick, dystopian, Hunger Games world run by imperialists who are long past their use-by date and care nothing about humanity/planet. Look at the obscene Met Gala that took place the other night — celebrities, wealthy people dressed up in expensive clothing as the genocide in Gaza escalated. A ticket to that event was $75,000. One woman’s dress was so complicated that she had to be carried up the steps into the building. Props to anti-genocide demonstrators who disrupted that event, making it clear to the world that it was an obscenity, in spite of violent police repression. Eric Adams, the pig mayor of NYC is the Black Giuliani — another pig who serves the interests of this system that needs to be dismantled and gotten rid of.”

Damn straight. That’s what I call telling it how it is.

Notice that my friend says the whole “world,” not just Palestine. That is a call to dig into what capitalism-imperialism and US imperialism are doing to humanity and livable ecology in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Thailand, etc. Again, don’t get me wrong. I get why an ex-friend of mine — the friendship ended because of her ridiculous and insulting take on the Revcoms and her insistence that radicals stay silent on Hamas’s reactionary essence — says that “Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians is the litmus test” for proving one’s opposition to imperial oppression. She says that because of the particularly horrific way in which Israel tortures the Palestinians, the unmatched support the US grants Israel, and the extreme cover for criminality that Israel has long gotten from Western liberals and progressives thanks to its status as a Jewish state formed in response to the unspeakably evil Nazi Holocaust.  

But I don’t think we should be in the business of granting “litmus test” status to particular groups of imperialism’s many victims.  How about Haitians? How about Congolese? How about Guatemalans? How about the super-exploited sweatshop workers of India and East Asia? How about the women of Iran, the Islamist state that backs Hamas and Hezbollah?

The plight of the Palestinians is front and center right now for some very good reasons. Revolutionaries should of course defend students who go on the offensive against academic and other authorities who are invested in support of Zionist oppression and who have helped expose the vicious and repressive, bipartisan imperialism that controls the universities and state powers of this country across the lines of red and blue. But let’s be clear: we’ve got a whole world to win for revolution — a whole world in which to wipe out the capitalist-imperialist system that causes havoc and misery at home and abroad—and to replace that evil and exterminist system with radically reconstructed socialist systems that put humanity on the path to a sustainable, decent, and potentially beautiful existence beyond all oppression, inequality, and exploitation. 

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From the genocide in Gaza, to the growing threat of world war between nuclear powers, to escalating environmental devastation… the capitalist-imperialist system ruling over us is a horror for billions around the world and is tearing up the fabric of life on earth. Now the all-out battle within the U.S. ruling class, between fascist Republicans and war criminal Democrats, is coming to a head—likely during, or before, the coming elections—ripping society apart unlike anything since the Civil War.

Bob Avakian (BA), revolutionary leader and author of the new communism, has developed a strategy to prepare for and make revolution. He’s scientifically analyzed that this is a rare time when an actual revolution has become more possible, and has laid out the sweeping vision, solid foundation and concrete blueprint for “what comes next,” in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

The website follows and applies that leadership and is essential to all this. We post new materials from BA and curate his whole body of work. We apply the science he’s developed to analyze and expose every key event in society, every week. posts BA’s timely leadership for the revcoms (revolutionary communists), including his social media posts which break this down for people every week and sometimes more. We act as a guiding and connecting hub for the growing revcom movement nationwide: not just showing what’s being done, but going into what’s right and what’s wrong and rapidly learning—and recruiting new people into what has to be a rapidly growing force.

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