We are seeing a rise in anti-imperialist consciousness

Police clear encampment as they crack down on students protesting against the US' policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict, at the University of California, in Irvine, California on May 15, 2024. Photo: VCG

Police clear encampment as they crack down on students protesting against the US’ policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict, at the University of California, in Irvine, California on May 15, 2024. Photo: VCG

Editor’s Note:

As the Israel-Palestine conflict continues, pro-Palestine student protests on US campuses are calling attention to US policies in the region and challenging university administrators to divest. Why such protests erupt from the political spectrum to university students? What does it show about US policy and US image? Global Times (
GT) reporter Wang Wenwen talked to Jason Cohen (
Cohen) from City University of New York and student advisor Brandon Gonzalez (
Gonzalez) over these issues.

GT: Why do you participate in the encampment? 

Cohen: As part of the Gaza consolidating campaigns, what we aimed to achieve was to push the university to recognize the rights of Palestinian nationals and the legitimacy of the Palestinian national struggle. Because at my university, the head wouldn’t even say the word Palestine. All he uses is Hamas or Gaza. We have been just protesting and protesting and there’s been no movement at all by the administration. All they’ve done is send more cops at us, whether on the university grounds or in just the public streets. The other goal is to force them to divest from companies that make profit from expansion of Israeli settler colonialism and kill Palestinians, and also to disconnect our university from all imperialism of the US. We also called for the end of the CIA being on campus, because it’s all part of the same struggle. 

Gonzalez: There are a lot of us who are ready and willing to pull those funds that we provide those schools until they disclose where their money is going, essentially divest from the war machine and imperial aggression in the world and divest from the sort of the projects that are consistently being built in our universities where they’re funding and creating programming for whether it’s imperial aggression in East Asia, in the Middle East and in South China Sea. We’re trying our best to disclose that information – where those funds are going and where they come from, and following up with their escalation tactics and with these escalation tactics, we’re hoping that we’re just hoping for the best in that strategy and a free, liberated Palestine.

At least with the South China Sea, the imperialist aggression of the West, specifically the US and its hegemonic partners in the region who have positioned themselves as the sole champions of human rights and world democracy. But the US is just a global machine, a global police force that is consistently hounding and brutalizing and bombing and slaughtering civilians, whether it was during the Korean War militarizing that peninsula or militarizing the strait between Taiwan and Chinese mainland or militarizing borders at our southern border with Mexico. 

All of these are inherently violent and imperialist in every sense of the word. It’s not an exaggeration. Even before the start of the War on Terror, but specifically with the War on Terror, the way that we’ve surveilled our own civilians who are Muslim, Arab black or Arab civilians has just shown that the brutality that we detest globally is the same brutality and the same tactics we use here at home and abroad. 

So with that contradiction, it’s up to us as students and as people here in the imperial core to call that out, shame that and demand an end to a complete cessation of imperialist aggression. Specifically in the case of China with the tariffs that this government has imposed is an aggressive act, just as its aggressive acts against Russia in the Ukraine war, and its aggressive acts in funding and arming Israel and its brutality against Palestinians even before October 7 but since 1948, the inception of the Zionist Entity.  

GT: What do you think of the US policy toward Israel and the Middle East?

Cohen: The US supports Israel because Israel acts as a beachhead in the Middle East for imperialism and destabilizes the Iraqi, Iranian and other progressive governments that are trying to break away from the unipolar US world. 

The US policy in the Middle East has completely failed. Maybe for the US itself and the bourgeoisie, it has shown a lot of profits. But overall, it is a dying policy, because no matter what the US can continue using its drones to either attack Yemen, or to continuously try and subvert other states using color evolution tactics, we are seeing a rise in anti-imperialist consciousness, not just in Palestine, but even throughout Jordan, Saudi Arabia and so on, and that the people are supporting the axis of resistance and the governments that will protect them and will lead to a separate development, not necessarily constructed by US interests.

GT: We have seen some US officials resign because of the US policy of Israel. And now this protest wave has spread to the students. What do you think of this trend from politicians to students? 

Cohen: I think it reflects that within the US, there is a definite change in consciousness and a definitely change in our knowledge of what the real basis of US policy and what so-called US democracy has historically and contemporarily brought to the world. It shows that the Palestine solidarity movement on the ground, no matter what the oppression has been and the repression by the state apparatus has been, we are actually kind of winning in the media war and showing that the Palestinian national struggle is a moral and legitimate struggle. I think many in the US have seen it.

Our movement has shaken the US image on the world stage. We’re always supposed to have those bourgeois democratic rights, free speech, free demonstrations, and free press. The US always comes out with the ridiculous words that “we need to protect the rest of the world for freedom and democracy.” How can you continue to claim that and then be telling to Israel that we’ll give you more weapons?

Gonzalez: I definitely think it has to do with the class consciousness that was being built in 2020 with George Floyd. And then even prior to that with the recession, when we saw the Occupy Wall Street movement. All of these things happen not just in a bubble, but are cyclical. 

And we have to thank our predecessors for being bold enough and brash enough to denounce our violence, whether it’s Vietnam, whether it’s the bombing of Cambodia and Laos, any of these conflicts that we’ve been engaged with even before, when we decided to become the global police and the global hegemony. It’s our moral obligation as working people of this country to denounce that violence and terror that’s used with our money. Imperial aggression is no longer going to be accepted. The US is not a moral nation and has never been an immoral nation since its inception. 

GT: How does the global response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Palestine conflict contribute to building multipolarity of the world?

Gonzalez: This trend of building multipolarity is exactly what we as the Global North need. The imperial core here, us in the belly of the beast, especially here in New York, being in the financial capital, it is our obligation to support and build that multipolar world. The anti-imperialist movement and the anti-war movement isn’t necessarily a call for continuing of the same singular peace of the US being the main power on the stage, but it’s to incorporate other nations and making sure that we have equitable infrastructure with each other and everything is equitable across the border and that the US isn’t the sole beneficiary of everything and anything as it relates to capital, and that we’re sharing in this global market, not global market in terms of economics, but global market in terms of just us as human beings like that internationalist approach to each other and humanity.

Campus protests against US’ Gaza policy spread beyond borders, expose country’s hypocrisy on democracy

Pro-Palestinian supporters and students from Emerson College block an alley where they have set up an encampment as police move in to clear it in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 25, 2024. According to Boston Police, 108 people were arrested and 4 officers were hurt as they broke up the camp. Photo: VCG

Pro-Palestinian supporters and students from Emerson College block an alley where they have set up an encampment as police move in to clear it in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 25, 2024. According to Boston Police, 108 people were arrested and 4 officers were hurt as they broke up the camp. Photo: VCG

Pro-Palestine protests spread to more countries as of Saturday amid arrests of more than 550 demonstrators on American campuses as the US’ policy on the ongoing conflict in Middle East triggered boiling anger.

The law enforcement actions on peaceful demonstrators, and sometimes on passersby, have exacerbated the tension rather than appease the situation, with analysts underscoring the hypocrisy of US democracy and human rights.    

At the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris, a sit-in by students was seen as an intensifying expression of pro-Palestine sentiment, according to media reports. 

“Students were inspired by what’s happening in several American campuses, whether it’s Columbia or Harvard,” a student at the scene told Abu Dhabi-based the National News. 

Similar protests were held on British campuses including the University College London, per media reports. 

Renewed clashes between police and students opposed to the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza have broken out again after the mass arrests at Columbia University last week. A Reuters tally said that nearly 550 arrests were made across major US universities. 

Columbia has switched to hybrid learning and some universities and the University of Southern California have canceled the grand commencement ceremony set for May 10, according to Washington Times. 

Footage showing police officers kneeling on  protesters, and sometimes passersby, has gone viral on social media platforms. Reuters reported that police have deployed tasers and tear gas against student protesters at Atlanta’s Emory University. 

US Senator Josh Hawley had demanded the mobilization of the National Guard to calm the situation, but concerns are mounting that such a move would also backfire, just as the law enforcement actions at Columbia triggered more protests nationwide. 

Analysts said such anti-War protests are the natural result of the widening discrepancy between the US’ continuous support for Israel in the Gaza war and public sentiment and belief in basic human rights and democracy. 

The Biden administration is in a dilemma, as a shift on policy regarding Israel is unfeasible while continuing the support means a high possibility of more widespread and more violent protests, Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

US State Department Arabic language spokesperson Hala Rharrit, after serving in the department for almost two decades, resigned in opposition to the US’ Gaza policy, becoming at least the third resignation from the department over the issue, per media reports. 

The raging domestic protests and similar international actions proved the isolation and unpopularity of the US’ stance over the issue, and the treatment of student protesters exposed the hypocrisy of the US government over democracy and human rights, experts said. 

Since this round of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed by Israel’s retaliation to a Hamas attack on October 7, 2023 which killed 1,139 on the Israeli side.