The University Student Movement – CAIR Florida
Wednesday, 12 June 2024

The University Student Movement

May 5, 2024

 

Addressing the university student movement in the U.S. from a proud International Relations alumnus from Kent State University, and humanitarian professional.

First of all, the story is Gaza and the West Bank.  The student protests sweeping the nation, and making world news, are in response to 7 months of protests for Palestinian human rights being ignored by their school administrations, and the U.S. government.  Any attempt to frame this story about something else disrespects the students, and the lives they are trying to honor.

 

Secondly, our country has a storied history of resistance on college campuses.  We also have a history of those in power, trying to quell the resistance and revolution.  Causes that we now celebrate, each were demeaned and criminalized at the time.

 

Student sit-in and protests in the 60’s and 70’s for the Civil Rights Movement, against war in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Apartheid in South Africa.

 

Nelson Mandela was on a terrorist list.  Now he is celebrated.

 

Malcolm X was on a terrorist list.  Now he is celebrated.

 

Students were murdered at Kent State by the National Guard.  Now those students are revered.

 

Martin Luther King Jr. was followed and investigated by the F.B.I. Now he has a beautiful monument in our nation’s Capitol.

 

The police have been called in by college administrators to shut down the very students they taught to think for themselves, about history, law, political science, and human rights.  We ask our students to stand up for what is right, what is just, what is equitable, and then arrest and abuse them when those truths threaten the powerful stakeholders in this country.

 

In Florida alone, we have seen a rise in persecution of students for demanding human rights for Palestinians.  We have lawmakers attempting over and over to create laws that they KNOW are not constitutional.  The Supreme Court has upheld freedom of speech, assembly, and boycott time and again, and yet, the current Congress and Governor DeSantis are illegally trying to restrict students’ rights.

 

This week at the Univesity of Florida in the MLK Plaza, a peaceful protestor had a police offer kneeling on his head to arrest him. Tear gas and rubber bullets were shot at a group of protesters, students were violently thrown to the ground. All of this happened as President Law and her staff refused a request to hold a meeting with community advisors, that would have quelled this escalation.  They wanted this to escalate. It strengthens their resolve if it escalates. And the students can be demonized.

 

Congress is pushing a bill  that will criminalize Palestinian human rights support as tantamount to supporting terrorism.  Another redundant antisemitism bill just passed the House that makes criticism of Israel illegal.  Greenblatt of the ADL and elected officials defaming peaceful groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine as “terrorism supporters and Hamas supporters.” If Congress succeeds in putting human rights groups on the U.S. Department of State official terrorist list, millions of students will be at risk, and our world-renowned academic institutions will no longer be free to teach the truth.

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights has written a compelling paper on how anti-terrorism laws have been centered on Palestinian human rights for over a decade when the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement began.  In fact, several states have illegally outlawed BDS, despite boycott being a Constitutionally protected right.

 

Our elected officials are ignoring activists, they are ignoring established law. They are ignoring their voters, they are ignoring their constituents. They are focused on pressure from pro-Zionist, pro-Israel stakeholders, demanding unwavering support.  Ask yourself, why does Israel, a foreign government, have complete control of our government and academic institutions? Why are our tax dollars going to a foreign government? Why are our universities invested in a foreign government instead of American companies? Why are our cities buying bonds from a country committing human rights atrocities?  Why is a foreign state being given government contracts for cyber security and advanced surveillance?  And why has our government sent armed police and snipers to our campuses, arresting, and abusing unarmed American students and professors?

 

What is harder University Administrations? Fighting and destroying your legacy by attacking your students, or divestment?

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