University campus protests in USA & Biden’s bid to remain in the White House

It’s an open secret that the Israeli Lobby enjoys, arguably, the maximum political, financial & academic clout in USA. It also commands enormous Influence in the media, both the print media & the electronic media and, now, in diverse social networks. No Presidential candidate can hope to win the race if the American Jews turn […]

It’s an open secret that the Israeli Lobby enjoys, arguably, the maximum political, financial & academic clout in USA. It also commands enormous Influence in the media, both the print media & the electronic media and, now, in diverse social networks. No Presidential candidate can hope to win the race if the American Jews turn against him or her. So, it wasn’t surprising that following Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on 7th Oct 2023 in which they killed 1200 Israelis and took over 200 hostages, there was countrywide expression of solidarity with Israel and Shock & outrage against the Hamas for their heinous crime and the brutality they engaged in. The President & other senior members of his Govt loudly declared that they stood behind Israel. Conversely, there was, understandably, an air of coolness and unmistakable anger against the Palestinians in general.

But six months on, Netanyahu’s obsessive mission to obliterate the Hamas for ever has reduced Gaza to a “death yard”, killed over 34 Palestinians including more than 15000 children and pushed 1.6 million Palestinians on the verge of starvation. His repeated threats to attack Rafah which is bound to result in further loss of Palestinian lives has been publicly opposed by many Israeli friends, including the US President Biden and his Seceretarty of State Blinken as well as European allies. Relatives of the hostages have been coming out on the streets accusing Netanyahu of pursuing his political objectives and not doing enough to get the remaining hostages released. The plight of helpless Palestinians who have nowhere to go and the haunting visuals of the humanitarian crises in Gaza have moved conscientious citizens world over including those who were initially horrified and outraged by the brutality of Hamas terrorist attack.

In this backdrop, it isn’t surprising that the youth, especially the students on the University and college campuses in the US have burst out protesting against the senseless killing of Palestinians in Gaza. These protest, arguably the most extensive since Civil Rights protests and the Protests against the Vietnam war in mid 1960s aren’t confined the Columbia university where more than 200 students have been arrested and their encampments have been demolished and UCIL & University of California but have spread to several other prominent universities and colleges leading to arrest of over 2000 students so far. The world has watched with dismay and concern tv coverage of clashes between anti and pro-Palestinian protesters and protesters and the Police whose action has come in for a lot of criticism for being highhanded.

Joe Biden, the oldest and perhaps the strongest supporter of Israel, faces one of the toughest tests of his presidency. He has to attempt a delicate tight rope walk. He keenly wants the protests to be brought under control as prevailing disorder might show him in bad light in the election year and tarnish America’s image internationally. But while quelling protests, the Security personnels shouldn’t create scenes reminiscent of what happened in Tiananmen square in Beijing in 1998! If he is seen not to be doing enough to stop the Israeli operations in Gaza, thousands of Palestinian/Arab Americans are likely to vote against him. And if Israeli Americans feel that he is siding with Palestinians, he might lose their votes which might cost him his bid to return to the white House for the second term. The opinion polls reveal that 71% Americans disapprove of his handling of Israeli-Hamas conflict; this disapproval rises to 81% among Americans under 35 years of age.
This must be worrying his campaign managers. Though anti-Vietnam war protests were much more extensive and emotionally charged up thanks to strong opposition to military drafting and the loss of over 58000 American soldiers, the Current protests might be evoking ghosts of 1968 in the minds of many Democrats when Vice President, Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon.

Notwithstanding the plummeting approval ratings and rising protests, no sane observer can find fault with Biden’s following statement: “I understand people have strong feelings and deep convictions……In America, we respect the right and protect the right for them to express that. But it doesn’t mean anything goes. It needs to be done without violence, without destruction, without hate, and within the law.” “We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent……” “The American people are heard”.

While in response to a pointed question from a journalist if the US Policy was changing in the light of unprecedented humanitarian crises in Gaza, Biden uttered only one word: NO, the US policy has been slowly evolving since 7th Oct 2023 without shifting the basic foundation: it still stands with Israel. Many analysts believe, the US is, as usual, playing a double-faced policy. For blunting growing criticism of failure in preventing or containing the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, it has accelerated delivery of critical humanitarian assistance and is building a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza. On the other hand, more weapons and ammunitions have been flowing into Israel since Oct last year and only last month, Biden has succeeded in getting US Congress’s nod for Aid to Israel worth US$ 26 billion!

It will be foolhardy to conclude that these protests are taking place only on the University & college campuses in USA; protests are taking place in the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan which are friendly with USA. But protests are also taking place in Columbia, Iran & Turkey which aren’t too friendly to USA.As a matter of fact, the Turkish President, Erdogan has decided to break relations with Israel and has accused it of committing genocide following in the footsteps of the South African President Ramaphosa who has dragged Israel to the ICJ for having committed genocide in Gaza.

The seven-month-old Israel-Gaza conflict has exposed utter irrelevance of the UNSC to establish peace and security in the world. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as the P-5 with veto power seldom agree on measures to avoid eruption of violence and loss of human lives. The Palestinians including women, elderly and children in Gaza who have seen the worst missile, bomb and drone attacks by Israel reducing their homes to rubbles and causing death of thousands their relatives and loved ones see death staring in their faces 24×7! What kind of life the survivors lead? What future holds for those children whose mothers, fathers, brothers & sisters have perished in the ongoing war? Who cares?

It’s just amazing and unbelievable that in this age and time when we talk of driverless cars, AI & setting up colonies in space, human life has become so worthless: just a number. And those who have means, resources and authority to save human life just turn their heads away. Is it a technology driven world or an animal farm?

Though the Spokespersons of the State Dept and the White House have refrained from commenting and Israel has not officially announced it’s acceptance and has instead carried out some air strikes in Eastern Gaza, Hamas have declared that they have agreed to a three phased truce brokered by Egypt which will result in cessation of Israeli attacks & eventual withdrawal of Israeli troops and release of all the hostages by Hamas and release of agreed number of Palestinian prisoners by Israel.Apparently, Israeli PM Netanhayu and his right wing Ministers still favour an attack on Rafah camp and consider the proposed agreement far short of their demands.But under tremendoud pressure from the US,they have agreed to send a delegation to meet the Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

The agreement still shrouded in uncertainity has been greeted by the Palestinians in Gaza with jubilations. Let us hope,their hopes and euphoria aren’t too short lived or misplaced.