Pro-Palestine university rallies sweep across the globe, echoing national sentiments – experts

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The burgeoning pro-Palestine protests across the globe, particularly involving top US universities, signify a significant awakening among the youth, said foreign policy analysts.

Political scientist Johan Savaranamuttu told Scoop the current wave of protests holds profound significance, as students embody the aspirations of society and the nation.

“They embody the values of educated and intellectually engaged individuals, as they are the ones actively engaging with current issues,” he said.

“The scale of these protests is unprecedented, especially with prestigious institutions such as Columbia University joining in.

“I think that the students recognise that it is American money, ammunition and their support that is causing the havoc and incredible genocide that is taking place against the Palestinians (right now).

“Which is why I think (the student movements) are significant. The campuses are ablaze, as you might say, with protest.

“It certainly is telling the American administration and president that they are unhappy (and want a change of stance in the ongoing war),” he said.

In many ways, the youth are also sensitive to flagrant injustices, he added.

“American society, in my view, is at an important crossroad (now) where the young are disaffected or even disturbed by the current political elites and their politics.”

Regarding the potential impact of the pro-Palestinian student movement on US foreign policy, Johan emphasised that it ultimately depends on the administration and its leadership.

“The US’s foreign policy has been very stable for a long period.

“There are only minor differences between Democrats and Republicans. Often, though, who becomes president does make a difference.”

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Meanwhile, foreign policy and geopolitics expert S Munirah Alatas said that the movement exposed the “vulgar hypocrisy” of US foreign policy.

“Student movements have always played a key role in social and political change throughout history.

“Student movements have not usually been violent – they become violent when the government and state-sanctioned enforcement agencies decide to violently crack down on peaceful demonstrations.

“The student protests on US campuses have pushed the global momentum to expose the inhumanity, cruelty and genocidal behaviour of the state of Israel.

“American students and professors have continued to protest the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians and are calling for the right to a Palestinian state.

“Their protests have definitely helped to further expose the complicity and evil nature of American foreign policy. Just like during the Vietnam era, universities and students in America have always played a very powerful civil society force in raising consciousness,” she said.

She further highlighted that the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters only worsens global perceptions of US foreign policy.

As protests spread to Europe and Australia, Munirah emphasised that the world can no longer ignore the hypocrisy exhibited by the so-called “leader of the democratic world”.

“I am not optimistic (about policy change). One way US foreign policy might change is if the Zionist state of Israel collapses and a legitimate, globally recognised state of Palestine is created.

“Maybe then the US will realise the damage their foreign policy has done and that they have no choice but to change. They may realise they cannot remain a global bully forever.”

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The ongoing pro-Palestine demonstrations in universities across the US have now extended to Europe and Australia, as reported by Scoop.

In the second week of protests demanding a ceasefire in Israel’s conflict with Gaza, Al Jazeera reported thousands of students urging universities to divest from Israel.

The global movement has witnessed additional participation from universities such as the City University of New York and Columbia University.

However, some universities have been compelled to cancel graduation ceremonies, while others have seen entire buildings occupied by protesting students.

Despite efforts by university leaders to suppress demonstrations, police intervention and arrests of students and faculty members continue to escalate.

The student-led protests have faced criticism, with accusations of anti-Semitism.

However, demonstrators reject these claims, with Jewish activists and Orthodox Jews expressing solidarity. – Scoop

Johan Saravanamuttu and S Munirah Alatas a both Aliran members.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
30 Apr 2024 8.43am

University students are not allied to politicians of the day unless they are holders of scholarships which prevent them from taking such active student political activities. Often they serve as an independent voice for the public, and it behoves the politicians of the day to heed their voices, as they act independently for the citizens of the nation. Not hearing them out may cause the end of the government one day.