Generation Gap: What student protests say about US politics and support for Israel | Israel’s Gaza War News

Washington DC – U.S. campus protests centered on the Gaza Strip highlight generational rifts over Israel and demonstrate young people’s willingness to challenge politicians and university administrators across the country, experts say. .

They argue that the gap in public opinion, in which younger Americans are generally more supportive of Palestinians than previous generations, poses a risk to 81-year-old Democratic President Joe Biden’s re-election chances. There is.

It could also threaten the bipartisan support Israel enjoys in Washington.

“We’re already seeing evidence of a generational rift on Israel, and that’s going to be a long-term problem for Democrats,” said Omar Wassow, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Berkeley.

“These protests accelerate the generation gap,” Wassou told NDMT.

Students at New York’s Columbia University set up a Palestine solidarity camp last week, but the students are facing arrest and other disciplinary action after university officials called on police to clear the protest.

But despite the crackdown, similar encampments are popping up across the United States as well as in other countries.

Videos of students, professors and journalists being violently detained by police on various campuses have sparked outrage but have done little to dampen the growing protests.

“Moment of inflection”

Students primarily want universities to disclose their investments and extract funds from weapons manufacturers and companies linked to the Israeli military.

Major U.S. political parties, the White House and politicians from pro-Israel groups have accused the students of inciting anti-Semitism, a charge vehemently denied by protesters.

Eman Abdelhadi, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, said young people are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo on domestic and foreign policy issues.

“I think there’s a real frustration with the older generation, but more importantly with the system that they’re running,” Abdelhadi said.

He added that the protests signaled a broader “moment of transition” in American public opinion.

“Generally in American history, major shifts in public opinion have often coincided with or been triggered by large-scale student movements,” Abdelhadi told NDMT.

She said campus activism can be the basis for political change. “There’s a sense that this is the future.”

Protesters demonstrate near an encampment supporting Palestinians in Gaza at George Washington University in Washington, DC, on April 26. [Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

Biden’s predicament

For many years, public poll In the United States, it suggests that young people are more likely to be sympathetic to Palestinians and critical of Israel.

However, Americans as a whole are increasingly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including the ongoing war in Gaza.

According to multiple polls, a majority of U.S. respondents do not want permanent action in the besieged Palestinian enclave, where Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since the conflict erupted on October 7. Supports ceasefire.

But Biden has maintained staunch support for Israel, the United States’ biggest ally in the Middle East, throughout the war.

The 81-year-old president’s stance could be politically costly as Biden faces a tough re-election in November, when he is expected to take on his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Polls show that Biden will need to appeal to Democratic voters who are less united in support of Israel than Republicans.

Angus Johnston, a historian of the American student movement, explained that the generational rift over Israel is particularly pronounced among Democrats.

“At the national level, we’ve seen for some time that this is a disconnect between the values ​​of young voters and most Democratic politicians,” Johnston told NDMT.

“And what we’re seeing now is a similar disconnect between the young people on campus and many of the administrators who run these campuses, as well as alumni and donors. is.”

Sociologist Abdelhadi said law enforcement’s heavy-handed approach to solidarity protests in Gaza undermined Democrats’ argument that electing Biden would protect the country from President Trump, who denounces authoritarianism. He added that there is.

“The reality is that Democrats believe that young people need to save our democracy, we need people of color to save our democracy, and that to save our democracy we need to put aside all the bullshit about this administration. ,” she told NDMT. .

“But where is our democracy when state troopers beat students and faculty for protesting and the White House says nothing about it?”

Wassow also said protests and crackdowns against them could further increase apathy toward Biden.

“Democrats can’t afford to give people any more reasons to vote against Biden. In fact, this is one reason.”

Policy change

However, student demonstrators are not involved in US partisan politics. Rather, they emphasized that their demands were aimed at protecting the human rights of Palestinians.

So can the demonstrations help bring about changes in U.S. policy and achieve divestment demands?

Johnston, the historian, said that while it is unlikely that U.S. universities will divest from big business or the defense industry in the short term, calls for more transparency in investments are reasonable.

He added that long-term change is possible, but it won’t happen overnight.

“We’ve seen student organizations change policy time and time again, and it doesn’t always happen quickly and it doesn’t always happen in the way students wanted it to happen,” Johnston said.

“But we found that once student organizing reaches a certain intensity, it can have a big impact.”

For example, he said the university’s work against apartheid in South Africa began in the 1950s and grew over the years.

“I think there’s no question that anti-apartheid campus organizing in the 1980s was an important part of changing American public opinion and political opinion toward the South African regime,” he said.

Wasow studied the 1960s civil rights movementalso said demonstrations have the potential to shift public opinion, grow political coalitions around a cause, and build citizens’ capacity to move issues forward.

“Even if what’s happening now doesn’t lead to any policy changes, if it does lead to some civic capacity for younger generations to work around these issues, it will continue to have an impact in the long term.” I think so.”

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