Opinion | How protesters can actually help Palestinians

Student protesters: I admire your empathy for the people of Gaza, your concern for the world, your moral ambition to make a difference.

But I am concerned about how peaceful protests have turned into occupations of buildings, risks to construction starts, and what I see as undue tolerance for anti-Semitism, chaos, vandalism and extremism. I fear that the more aggressive actions could harm the people of Gaza that you are trying to help.

My thinking is shaped by the Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. Students who protested at the time were right: the war was unwinnable and was fought in a way that was reckless and immoral.

But these students did not shorten this terrible war; Instead, they probably extended it. Left-wing activists failed to achieve their goal of electing peace candidate Gene McCarthy in 1968; Rather, the unrest and more violent protests contributed to the election of Richard Nixon, who promised to restore order—and then dragged out the war and expanded it into Cambodia.

I think history is worth remembering today. Good intentions are not enough. Empathy is not enough. I'm sure we can all agree that results matter. So the question I want to ask you is: Are your camps and victims – so far more than 1,000 protesters have been arrested and unknown numbers suspended or expelled – actually helping the people of Gaza?

Since last fall, I have sharply criticized Israel's behavior in Gaza and President Biden's unconditional support for the war. While my heart is in this, it seems to me that the unrest on campus has distracted from, rather than drawn attention to, the crisis in Gaza.

Because what are we talking about? There is no hunger in Gaza. This is not a possible invasion of Rafah, which, as the UN humanitarian chief said this week, would be “an unspeakable tragedy.”

Instead, we're discussing the student leader at Columbia University who said in January, “Zionists don't deserve to live.” He was extraordinary and later apologized – but he greatly discredited the cause. I fear that the fervor within the protestor echo chamber may lead activists to make such appalling comments or excuse them, alienating people.

A thought: humility is an essential tool for persuasion (not that I always get that right!). The challenge is to maintain an unwavering moral stance while acknowledging that you may eventually be proven wrong. Holding on to this contradiction dampens the tendency towards self-righteousness and the impulse to shout down others – neither of which have convinced anyone so far.

Many students peacefully draw attention to the injustice in Gaza and combine passion with humility. I believe unnecessary violence by police is also inexcusable and makes this campus crisis more difficult to resolve.

Despite it. At Yale, protesters set up tents and cordoned off a “liberated zone” in a public space that, for a time, people were only allowed to enter if they were “committed to Palestinian liberation” and related principles, according to the Yale Daily News. It seems ironic to me that one of these principles was zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

Let us also acknowledge that Hamas is a misogynistic, homophobic, and anti-Semitic terrorist organization that is currently holding American and Israeli hostages. Hamas has been a disaster for the people of Gaza, and I find it difficult to understand why anyone who supports the Palestinians would tolerate them or violence.

Someone vandalized The district office of Rep. John Carter, a Texas Republican, spilled fake blood and painted “Free Gaza.” This certainly didn't help the people of Gaza and probably reduced support for them – yet I was impressed by the number of online commenters who sympathized with the vandalism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is probably thrilled that such people exist.

The demonstrators are demanding, among other things, divestment and the severance of relations with Israel. But ending relations with Israel does not help Gazans; on the contrary, it is useful for universities to engage with a wide range of places, including those whose politics we do not share.

Meanwhile, the divestment will neither hurt Netanyahu nor help the people of Gaza — but it may result in reduced returns for foundations. So do students prefer higher tuition to cover this, or less financial aid for marginalized students? And if universities sell all financial instruments linked to Israel, does that mean that since the US government sends aid to Israel, they must also sell all their US government bonds?

I don't want this to sound as angry as it probably does. Please protest!

Protest itself is a good thing: Students can write letters to the editor, circulate petitions, hold peaceful rallies, and call their representatives in Congress (or flood the comments section of this column!). I support calling for more humanitarian aid to Gaza and suspending the supply of offensive weapons to Israel until it complies with humanitarian law, as well as a major push for a Palestinian state.

Finally, I would like to make two concrete suggestions about how we can meaningfully help the Palestinians without occupying university campuses, getting kicked out of college, and risking a prolongation of the war.

First, collect donations for organizations that actively help the people of Gaza, such as Save the Children, Gisha or International Rescue Committee. This may seem dauntingly modest, but it will help real people in desperate need.

Second, this may sound crazy, but how about raising money to send as many of your student leaders as possible to the West Bank this summer to learn from the Palestinians (while interacting with Israelis on the way in or out). )? Observers in the West Bank say Israel's recent crackdown on foreigners helping Palestinians, by denying entry or deporting people, has made it more difficult but not impossible.

Student visitors must be careful and careful, but could learn Arabic, teach English and volunteer with local human rights organizations. Palestinians in parts of the West Bank are under siege, regularly attacked by settlers, and in need of monitors and advocates.

Those students who return at the end of the summer would have a much deeper understanding of the issues and could help. It would be life-changing to get an education as rich as the one you get on campus.

It would also be activism that is not performative but can actually help Palestinians live better and safer lives.

Anna Harden

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