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As Students Speak Out Against U.S./Israeli Genocide of Palestinians, Crackdown Intensifies

Since early October and the all-out Israeli war on Gaza, following the Palestinian organization Hamas’s surprise raid on Israel,1 college campuses across the country have erupted in widespread protest demanding an end to the U.S.-backed Israeli genocidal slaughter of Palestinians. There have been student and faculty marches, speak-outs, vigils, sit-ins, teach-ins, hunger strikes, banner drops, op-eds in campus newspapers, disruptions of reactionary speakers—from pro-Israel forces to war criminals like Hillary Clinton... and more. 

As the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian highlights in his social media dispatch Revolution #17:

...there is the vicious repression being brought down against people protesting the genocide in Palestine carried out by Israel, with the full backing of the U.S. government and both ruling class political parties (Democrat and Republican). Colleges, and especially "elite" universities, have been a focus of this repression—repression which has crudely violated supposed "rights of free speech" and "standards of academic freedom." Students and faculty have been targeted, and even university presidents have been driven out of their positions for failing to fully repress these protests.

The rulers and school administrators don't come out openly and say, “We're shutting you down because your actions are challenging our fundamental imperialist interests. See, we really need Israel as a military outpost in the Middle East, and we can't afford to look bad in the eyes of the world, so you need to shut up. We can't afford for you to get all out of bounds, so act like well-behaved children or face the consequences!” No, they don't come out and say that honestly. Instead, they distort, distract and lie... and send their police to really shut things down if that doesn't work.

The Bullshit Lie That Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism

One of the main ways they're trying to suppress and silence protest of Israel is by painting any criticism of Israel as if it's all anti-Semitism (bias against or hatred of Jewish people). This is a dangerous lie. 

Zionism is a racist, Jewish supremacist ideology that justifies the apartheid state of Israel. Israel is a nuclear armed oppressive state built on ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians whose policies are all-out genocidal. EVERYONE with a heart and conscience needs to oppose it. This attempt to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is especially sharp on the campuses where some school administrations and state governments are trying to silence all anti-Israel protest by saying it violates the civil rights of Jewish students, and creates “an unsafe environment for Jewish students.”

This is bullshit. While there have been some incidents of anti-Semitic attacks on campuses – and these need to be called out and opposed – this has been a very secondary counter-current. What is being attempted is to create a “no-go zone,” where the righteous and very necessary opposition to Israel is considered out of bounds by calling it all anti-Semitism.

A few examples:

** Last December, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on “antisemitism on college campuses” which targeted college presidents for not immediately suppressing any and all pro-Palestinian protest.  This hearing was a reactionary setup which set a dangerous precedent equating opposition to the genocide taking place now against Palestinian people with calling for a genocide against Jewish people. This hearing led to the resignations of the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.2 The Committee chair now plans to expand this reactionary witch hunt to other Ivy League and some public universities. 

Students at Harvard University, Boston, protest university repression, February 12, 2024.


Students at Harvard University, Boston, protest university repression, February 12, 2024.    Photo: Frank S. Zhou/Harvard Crimson

** There are a host of “pro-Israel advocacy groups” that are not only linked to Israel’s government but also work hand in hand with the U.S. ruling class who have long targeted student activists critical of Israel.3  Last fall, several of these groups sent letters to hundreds of university presidents and administrators calling on them to investigate and shut down chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and outlining repressive actions colleges could take, supposedly to ensure their compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination including anti-Semitism.4 

Outright Suspension of Campus Organizations

** At least five campuses—Rutgers, George Washington, Columbia, Brandeis, and Case Western Reserve—suspended their chapters of SJP which had been organizing many of the protests. Columbia also suspended the campus chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. Last Fall, Florida tried to “deactivate” all SJP chapters at public universities across the state. ACLU sued in response, and the chapters weren't banned, but the attempt was still a dangerous warning sign.5 

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers, New Jersey protest for Palestine, January 19, 2024.


The Rutgers University—New Brunswick chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) was reinstated March 2024. It had been previously suspended.    Photo: via SJPRutgersNB on YouTube

** On March 27, Texas' fascist Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order forcing colleges and universities to “review and update free speech policies to ‘protect against antisemitism,’” while raising punishments up to expulsion for those who violate them. Abbot's executive order specifically singles out the national organizations SJP, the University of Texas chapter of SJP and the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Pro-Palestinian organizations are denouncing Abbott’s action and vowing to fight it.6 

** MIT suspended the Coalition Against Apartheid for giving a one-day notice of a planned protest, rather than the required three. A recent letter to the New York Times on behalf of 30 MIT faculty members stated that “accusations of antisemitism are used to suppress free speech, particularly in support of Palestinian rights” and that “M.I.T. students advocating Palestinian liberation face doxxing, threats and false labeling as ‘pro-Hamas.’ Criticism of Israel’s government is wrongly equated with antisemitism, suppressing speech for Palestinian rights.”7

Campus Repression Shuts Down Protest and Free Speech

Across the country, campus administrations are using arbitrary campus rules to shut down righteous protest, at the same time as they are refusing to call out the attacks on students by reactionary organizations, on and off campus. Here are just some of the examples:

** American University in Washington, DC, instituted a ban on indoor protests, which has in turn been protested.  Organizers are demanding the University release a statement of support for Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students, condemn the doxxing (targeting individuals and exposing their personal information) and harassment students face, and affirm students’ rights to advocate for Palestine on campus. They condemn the University’s claim “that expressions of support and solidarity with Palestine are ‘hateful and exclusionary.”8 

** Barnard College has now prohibited students from putting any signs or stickers on their dorm room doors.

** Columbia University has banned any protest not authorized by the administration. On March 28, following an “unsanctioned and unapproved” event titled “Resistance 101,” which featured a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Columbia “immediately notified law enforcement,” launched an investigation, and “banned the outside speakers from campus.” Meanwhile, the administration has not come out forcefully against a “skunk chemical spray” attack where pro-Palestinian protesters were sickened. It is alleged that at least one of the people who sprayed the students was a former IDF soldier.9

** UCLA: On March 24, some 100 pro-Palestinian students and others came from all over California to protest the UC Board of Regents meeting. The protest was to demand that all California Universities divest their funds from companies that operate in or invest in Israel, and to protest a proposal being considered that would curb pro-Palestinian expression by banning political statements by university departments. The UC Regents were forced to water this down. The proposal now being considered is that departments can make statements, they just can’t put them on their website homepage. The night before the Regents meeting, students began to do a sit-in the conference center where the meeting was to be held and were met by dozens of brutal police. In defiance, students camped outside of the meeting for two days.10 

** Stanford University: On Feb. 23, Stanford students from Sit-in to Stop Genocide (SITSG) disrupted the University’s president during the opening of “Family Weekend.” “Throughout the panel, protesters stood, shouted and chanted at the panelists,” the Stanford Daily reported. “Around 45 minutes into the session, protestors unfurled two banners directly next to the stage and threw slips of paper from the balcony reading ‘29,000+ Gazans killed,’ ‘Israel bombs, Stanford profits’ and ‘Stanford uses scare tactics on your kids.’” Eighteen of the students were detained and cited. SITSG had occupied Stanford’s central plaza 24/7 for 120 days until the University shut down the overnight encampment on February 16. “[The sit-in] has always been about making sure that business cannot continue as usual,” said an organizer. “Making sure that on the most populated part of campus, everybody who stops by will be forced to be reminded of the genocide that is hurting Palestinians in Gaza.”11 

February 2024, Stanford University students unfurl a banner reading “Stanford funds apartheid and genocide” during a parents' weekend event.


February 2024, Stanford University students unfurl a banner reading “Stanford funds apartheid and genocide” during a parents' weekend event.        Photo: Courtesy of Steve Gu


While the U.S. bombs drop on Palestinian people, turning all of Gaza into a nightmare of rubble, death and starvation—it is very important that students in the U.S. are crying out “not in our name!” And in the face of all this ugly repression, that the movement to stop the U.S./Israeli genocide of Palestinians reach out even broader, growing stronger and more determined.

Here, all those courageously standing up need to understand the very real power and significance of their actions – in the fight to stop this genocide, and what this could mean in the fight to overthrow the whole capitalist-imperialist system that is enforcing this genocide. To quote again from Bob Avakian

...representatives of the ruling class in this country have a definite sense that if youth especially at “elite” universities begin to seriously question and act against what this system is doing—if the system “loses the allegiance” of large numbers of those students—that can be a big factor in creating a real crisis for the system as a whole, as happened in the 1960s: a crisis that, now more than ever, this system really cannot afford, when the whole country is already being torn apart by deep divisions, with bitter clashes right among the ruling powers. So, at the same time as they are bitterly divided, the ruling powers of this country are firmly united in their determination to punish and intimidate especially students at elite universities who have stepped forward to protest the genocidal slaughter of Palestinians. The ruling class is desperate to prevent opposition to its fundamental interests from spreading and involving masses of people, from all parts of society.

Vanderbilt Students Arrested, Suspended, for Protesting Administration's Cancellation of Divestment Vote

Vanderbilt University students protest for Palestine by occupying Kirkland Hall, February 2024.


At Vanderbilt University 25 students occupied Kirkland Hall as part of demanding that the university divest from business connected to Israel.    Photo: @nashvillescene IG

An intense battle broke out at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, the week of March 25. Four students were arrested early Wednesday morning after more than two dozen pro-Palestinian students refused to end their sit-in in an administration building that began on Tuesday, March 26. One local reporter was also arrested. At least 16 students have received interim suspensions, barring them from coming onto the campus pending an investigation.

The students began their action after the administration blocked a student vote from being held. The vote, held by Vanderbilt’s Student Government (VSG), would change their Constitution to bar student government funds from going to businesses that support Israel. (Such demands to divest from business connected to Israel are being actively taken up on more and more campuses.)

The amendment was proposed by Vanderbilt's Divest Coalition, which is made up of about 20 student organizations. The vote was scheduled to be held March 25, after a petition in support of the amendment gathered more than 600 student signatures.

One student told the campus newspaper Vanderbilt Hustler, “Vanderbilt claims to promote democracy... They invite war criminals like Liz Cheney to speak to campus about protecting democracy. And then, when students like ourselves use our voices to speak out against injustice, they try to silence us.”



1. Hamas’s raid involved both attacks on Israeli military facilities and soldiers, as well as attacks on civilian areas—most of the victims were actually civilian—as well as the taking of hostages and some of what appear to be atrocious crimes against humanity. Israel’s response has taken nearly 30 times the lives that Hamas’s raid did, in addition to putting two million people through a hell of near-starvation, constant bombardment, horrific wounding, and traumatization. The Israeli Defense Force has killed over 12,000 children in this war. Israel has occupied or controlled Gaza for over 50 years, creating what has been called an “open air concentration camp” in the process. [back]

2. Rafael Kadaris on the Fascist Clampdown on Pro-Palestinian Voices at Harvard, MIT, Penn & Nationwide,, Dec 18, 2023. [back]

3. These groups include the Anti-Defamation League, the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, the International Legal Forum, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, StandWithUs and the Israel on Campus Coalition. Joseph Howley, Campuses like ours are a second front in Israel’s war on higher education and free expression, Columbia Spectator, Feb 27, 2024; ACLU Urges Colleges Not to Investigate Pro-Palestine Student Groups, Inside Higher Ed, Nov 2, 2023. [back]

4. Student Protests For Gaza Targeted By Pro-Israel Groups For Alleged Civil Rights Violations, The Intercept, Nov 16, 2023. [back]

5. The 'Palestine Exception' to Free Speech, Defending Rights & Dissent's Substack, March 25, 2024. [back]

6. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott calls for universities to curb antisemitism, revise free speech, Austin American-Statesman, March 29, 2024. [back]

7. M.I.T. and the Gaza War, New York Times, March 25, 2024, letter to the editor. [back]

8. Palestine Legal calls on AU to cease the repression of Palestinian groups, 'AU does not uphold the values they claim to stand for’, The Eagle, March 8, 2024. [back]

9. Columbia establishes ‘Demonstration Areas’ and times, alters disciplinary procedure for students in violation of new event policy, Columbia Spectator, Feb 19, 2024. [back]

10. Stop the Repression of Pro-Palestinian Voices! Students & Others Stand Up Against UC Board of Regents Proposed Censorship, March 25, 2024. [back]

11. Pro-Palestine student organizers face crackdowns by universities, legal charges, Prism Reports, March 5, 2024. [back]

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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. 

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