Observations on a visit to a college campus


Observations on visiting college encampments in the U.S. and a look into the wretched hypocrisy of the U.S. and Germany.

I went with some friends to the University of San Francisco and San Francisco State University a few days ago to meet and talk with students who have set up encampments to support Palestine and oppose the Gaza genocide. 

Both encampments were large, active, and well organized. We were greeted in both places by students who spent time with us discussing their goals, what got them involved, how they see the issues in Israel – Palestine and more. It was uplifting and informative. These are college kids who understand what they are struggling for and aware of the historical context in which they operate. And they are happy to be able to to put their moral outrage at injustice into action. And their determination to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people by demanding an end to college investment in arms and apartheid is clearly being demonstrated. They also understand, especially since the vicious attacks at Columbia in New York, UCLA, and other colleges, of the dangers they face. They do not seem intimidated. In fact their encampments are growing, both within the colleges themselves, and to other colleges in the U.S. and internationally, to Britain, France, Australia, Canada, and Japan. 

The major mainstream news media seem befuddled by the whole movement —a conscious and purposeful befuddlement. These “news organizations” that can’t figure out if these encampments are run by outsiders or hardened antisemites have either not spoken to the students themselves or purposely distorted what they have found to serve the reactionary interests of the militarist government they serve. But it takes no great insight to see what’s happening and why this scares the s__t out of the Trumpites, Bidenites and the rest of the loyal guardians of the empire.

Yes, they are losing the loyalty of the youth and the powers that be are looking desperately to figure out how to stop this from happening. The charge of antisemitism is so completely fake it is truly laughable. But what else do they have? Oh, yes. “Outside agitators.” I guess that was us, bringing tarps and water and sleeping bags, and solidarity. One of the students said they have received so many donations of food that it has become a problem and they have to make runs to the Tenderloin district in San Francisco where a lot of homeless people congregate, to donate the food the students can’t use.

When we were at USF a teach-in was taking place with speakers representing different communities devastated by U.S. imperialism. One from the Haitian action committee. Another from the struggle in Myanmar. Others from the Philippine struggle. All of them talked about the role U.S. imperialism has played in spreading militarism and racism and supporting anti-democratic regimes (while undermining or overthrowing democratic ones).  No wonder Biden chose to make a special public statement essentially condemning this burgeoning protest movement.

At SFSU Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, one of the first women rabbis in Jewish history, described her evolution as a supporter of the Palestinian struggle which began back in 1966 with her first visit to Israel. Having been influenced by the Civil Rights movement here she could see racial discrimination in Israel against Palestinians, and she has opposed this racist Zionism ever since. Rabbi Gottlieb led a Shabbat service for 50 or more students, many Jewish, others not. It was a very moving service, drawing from the rich history of Jewish struggle against oppression, a part of Judaism which has and continues to be crushed under Israeli tanks or blown up by U.S. bombs dropped by Israeli pilots. 

“Return of the Names” march in Munich
“Return of the Names” march in Munich 

The Agenda behind all the Horror

And this takes me to a point that has become much clearer to me off a recent trip I had to Germany and considering this rising student movement in the U.S. Consider that the Likud Party, and other rightist Israeli parties led by people like Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu have been in power for decades. Not once, in all the time while they have carried out their murderous, unjust, and illegal policies against the Palestinians, has the U.S. government done more than verbally criticize them. And more than that. Even as Israel has repeatedly violated international law regarding the conduct of occupiers, the U.S. has continued to fund Israel and shield them from efforts to enforce international laws and norms. All the while the weapons and other aid have continued to flow. Why? Not because Trump, Biden, Pelosi, and the rest of that crowd cares about Jews. Quite the contrary! But because they have found in Israel a willing enforcer of interests of the U.S. and other imperialist powers such as Britain, France, and Germany. 

The German example is quite stunning and revealing. It is the official German policy to oppose  antisemitism. But you need to take a close look at this. From the standpoint of millions of Germans, this is a genuine point of view. I have come to know a number of German historians and activists who have devoted much of their professional lives to keeping in the public eye the crimes of Nazism and the legacy of Jews in Germany. While in Munich this past April, I marched with thousands of Germans, holding large signs with the pictures and stories of people, Jews, Roma, LGBTQ people, socialists and communists murdered by the Nazis in an event called The Return of the Names*. As part of that event I spoke with Germans from a neighborhood who brought their children to the former residences of these victims of Nazism including to the former apartment of my grandparents so their children could learn about this history of discrimination and persecution. I witnessed the constant effort by ordinary Germans to remind the public of the deadliness of Nazi racial and social policies. 

And then there’s the German Federal government. Their opposition to antisemitism is of a totally different character. These are the people who ordered German police in Berlin to break up a conference in April organized by the Jewish Voice for Peace and other groups, including Muslim groups, to discuss bringing justice to all of those living in Israel/Palestine. This was not a mistake. Neither the Germans, nor the U.S. government or other imperialist powers want the bloody, genocidal conflict between Jews and Palestinians to end!!* The only way to keep a militarized Israel armed and active is to keep the conflict going. The big powers have stoked the fires of conflict to USE JEWS AS CANNON FODDER in a military and political apparatus that has, for decades, served U.S. and European interests—whether it be their control of fossil fuel resources, to suppress or undermine struggles against their imperium, or to combat the influence of rival imperialists (Russia, China, for example) who threaten the domination by the U.S. and European powers. This whole farcical charade of charging “antisemitism” to discredit people working to bring justice to Palestinians and peace and justice to that part of the Middle East, is actually meant to keep an armed, frightened, and angry Jewish population in Israel as a willing and motivated CANNON FODDER for U.S. and European imperialists interests. 

German police breakup meeting in Berlin
German police breakup meeting in Berlin

Invoking one genocide to justify another

It was like a scene out of the Godfather. On May 7 President Biden spoke solemnly at the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Day of Remembrance about past genocide, invoking the call of “never again.” Meanwhile his Israeli partners carrying out today’s genocide were ordering their tanks into Rafah. This was an was obviously a coordinated political move—Biden and his neo-con advisors invoking the Holocaust to justify the mass murder of Palestinians. 

Bidens Holocaust speech was full of misinformation and historical deception.  For example, Biden condemned “the perils of indifference, the complicity of silence,” which accompanied the Nazi attacks and eventual Holocaust against Jews. The United States was the main country that, at that time, was in a position to do something to safeguard Jews in the pre-Holocaust days and it did not. This was not due to indifference but a conscious and systematic policy by the U.S. State Department to prevent the immigration of Jews trapped in Germany. And this led directly to their deaths in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands.* This, in addition to the infamous case of the ship the St. Louis, loaded with 900 refugees seeking safety from the Nazis turned away by U.S. authorities as it sat off U.S. shores in the 1939. And then later, during the height of the war when word came to U.S. officials that the Nazis were running trains to death camps filled with Jews and others, the U.S. and Britain refused to bomb those tracks which would certainly have slowed down the mass killing.

Having lied about the Nazi Holocaust Biden went on to lie about the origins of the current genocide. 

Silence in the face of “Standing Together”

If antisemitism is defined as policies that do harm to Jewish people then it is clear who those antisemites really are: The U.S., German, British and French and other governments. They arm the racists and fascists in Israel. They underwrite the apartheid apparatus and relentless attacks against Palestinians which feeds the anger and enmity between Jews and Palestinians that has led to this bloody horror show which has now become one of the worst genocides since World War II.

And furthermore, the U.S. and other powers ignore and suppress evidence that another road, another possible pathway but mutual hatred and conflict is possible. In _____ representatives from Israel from a group called Standing Together came to the S.F. Bay Area. They appeared in at least two venues, the synagogue _____ in Palo Alto and Sherith Israel in San Francisco.  

If there is a way out of this madness, one place it will be found is among the growing encampments of awakened youths in this country and around the world. And by others who join them. And by a movement to put an end to this imperialist madness to bring into being a world a growing number of the world’s youth aspire to: One that respects ALL OF HUMANITY and the richness of life on this planet and who do not aspire to produce bloated wealth off its plunder. 

These youth have taken courageous steps to bring more justice to the world. We should defend them and support them!!!! And, in whatever way we can, JOIN THEM


Contact me

If you have questions about the Author please fill out the form below.