Source: Shayoni Mitra/X

Protests against Israel’s American-backed genocidal onslaught in Gaza are escalating on campuses across the U.S.A. On April 17, students at Columbia University in New York City set up the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,” demanding the university divest from Israel and companies that profit off the slaughter. The protest coincided with Columbia President Minouche Shafik’s appearance at a Congressional hearing aimed at slandering the Palestine solidarity movement as antisemitic.

The next day, Shafik called in the NYPD. A phalanx of police in riot gear stormed the encampments, arresting over 100 students. The campus hasn’t seen this kind of repression since the NYPD violently crushed anti-Vietnam protests in April and May of 1968. Student activists have also faced discipline from the university, including suspensions. This repression has only inspired further action and students continue occupying the campus’s South Lawn. On Monday, April 22, Shafik canceled in-person classes and hundreds of teaching staff demonstrated against Shafik and the NYPD raid.

Protests are spreading as thousands of students around the country have set up tents of their own. Hours after Shafik moved Columbia online, 47 activists were arrested when cops shut down an encampment at Yale University in Connecticut. They failed to break the will of the students who continue to demonstrate at a nearby intersection.

Similar actions have hit the Boston area at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts, and Emerson. Anticipating solidarity protests, Harvard’s new interim President, Alan Garber, has closed the campus until Friday, April 26, and suspended the Palestine Solidarity Committee. Further demonstrations have hit Brown, Princeton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miami University, Ohio State, Northwestern, Temple, CUNY, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Ivy League unmasked

Prestigious Ivy League institutions like Columbia pose as paragons of liberal virtue and free inquiry. Relentless attacks on basic democratic rights in the months since Israel’s invasion have exposed their hypocritical perfidy. Students and workers have no say over how these institutions are run. Administrators with seven-figure salaries decide everything. In turn, these administrators are the loyal servants of billionaire donors who treat universities as their personal playthings.

Back in November, Columbia’s administration banned pro-Palestine student organizations Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine in the name of protecting Jewish students. In light of events at Columbia, “Genocide Joe” Biden had this to say: “This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous—and it has absolutely no place on college campuses or anywhere in our country.”

It is profoundly ironic that scores of Jewish students have played a prominent role in the Palestine solidarity movement and have received much of the backlash. One Jewish Columbia student told CNN:

“Columbia students organizing in solidarity with Palestine—including Jewish students—have faced harassment, doxxing, and now arrest by the NYPD. These are the main threats to the safety of Jewish Columbia students … Saying that student protesters are a threat to Jewish students is a dangerous smear.”

Protests against Israel’s war on Gaza have nothing to do with hatred of Jews. Young people are sickened by agonizing scenes of parents crying over the lifeless bodies of their children. Official figures show the Israeli regime has massacred over 34,000 people, the vast majority of them women and children. Famine and disease, actively orchestrated by the Zionist state, are spreading rapidly.

And how do the imperialist powers respond to this unfathomable suffering? By declaring their unconditional support for Israel—and backing their words with billions of dollars. The students’ disgust is only compounded by the shameful complicity of college administrations, which have launched their own repressive campaigns to complement those of the capitalist state and corporate media.

Seven months of marches and demonstrations have failed to end the bloodletting, so students have turned to encampments and occupations in an effort to escalate the fight against imperialist killing. They are not alone. On the same day the NYPD stormed Columbia, 28 Google workers were fired for occupying offices in New York and California in protest against the tech giant’s assistance to the Israeli military.

Only communism can end the horror

Israel’s murderous offensive is one more confirmation of Lenin’s dictum, “Capitalist society is and has always been horror without end.” Support for Israel is nearly universal among both Democratic and Republican politicians and in all capitalist institutions because of the vital role Israel plays in helping the American imperialists control the Middle East’s valuable resources and markets.

The struggle for Palestinian liberation, which has inspired tens of millions of workers and youth, strikes at the core of American and world capitalism. In the belly of the beast, college campuses have become a central mobilization point for the protest movement, echoing the great upsurge of students and workers against the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ‘70s.

History has proved, more than once, the revolutionary potential of students. But that potential can only be realized when students link up with the working class. In recent days, workers and students have adopted similar tactics but, so far, their efforts are too isolated and uncoordinated to strike a serious blow. A communist party is urgently needed to organize students and workers for a determined struggle to overthrow the bankers and billionaires.

When organized, there is no greater force on earth than the working class. Workers alone have the power to shut down production, take the economy in hand, and starve the Israeli war machine. Dockworkers in India, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, and South Africa have shown the way by refusing to handle cargo that might aid Israel’s genocidal assault.

Preparing for a successful socialist revolution in the U.S. is the single greatest step American students and workers can take toward Palestinian liberation. It would also transform educational institutions from forces of oppression into forces for genuine liberty and learning, under the democratic control of students and workers. The only way forward is through the power of the working class, organized into a communist party to overthrow capitalism and imperialism in the U.S. and around the world.

Free Palestine!

For student-worker solidarity!

For socialist internationalism and world revolution!

Intifada until victory!