A Different Night From Any Other

Renee Parsons

What began initially as a sparsely attended event at Columbia University in NYC in support of a ceasefire in Gaza quickly grew into a widespread national protest throughout every major college campus in the country.  As if a powder keg waiting to ignite, the protests were immediately labelled to be  ‘anti-semitic’ by President Biden while the media claimed that Jewish students were in jeopardy; nothing could be further from the truth.    The protests were never about shaming or separating from Jewish students.

Those protests evolved into a powerful expression of ecumenical political civil liberties when Jewish students and non-Jewish, Christian students joined together in protest.  As 18 year old voting Americans,  the protestors are eligible to become a major political force in the 2024 Presidential campaign, imploding over an obscene war that every major candidate supports.    One difference between the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza is that there is no, zilch, nada opposition to the war in Gaza while the war in Ukraine has been contentious from the outset as well as the existence of a historic geo-ethnic controversial relationship in Palestine. 

What has especially marked these protests is the exquisite timing as college campus tent cities became the scene of Jewish students sharing their Passover tradition with non-Jewish students in preparing a Seder dinner truly making this holiday ‘a different night from any other.  On the eve of the Seder, the protestors marked the recognition of Hebrew liberation from slavery in Egypt as they considered the plight of the Palestinians.  

Seder dinners became a recurring theme while students at the  University of Pennsylvania held Passover Seder service wearing ‘not in our name’ tee shirts.   Approximately 300 protestors were arrested after pro-Palestinian Jewish groups rallied near Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn home after Seder dinner.  They were demanding an end to military aid to Israel as one Jewish Voice for Peace identified Israel as a “76 year old colonial apartheid state.”  

The MIT Jews for a Ceasefire hosted a Shabbat dinner at their encampment after eating the bitter herbs that represent the bitterness of slavery at their Seder     

One Jewish student offered that Passover has always taught me to think about who is oppressed and what we can do to fight for their freedom.  A member of Yale Jews for Ceasefire related that “We as Jews have this idea of ‘Tikkun olam’ — to repair the world as a guiding principle for me … recognizing where there is injustice and suffering and working to repair it any way possible  while another student reiterated thatA belief in justice and a belief in doing the right thing, a belief in human equality and dignity has been instilled within me, in keeping with my Judaism,”


As Pepe Escobar has already noted the ‘new student protest movement is on a roll.” As @realdonald trump posted a notice demanding “ Stop the Protests Now,” further proving that American politicians have seriously underestimated the heartfelt passion within the student movement and misread the political tea leaves.   Thousands and thousands  of American students gathered to skip classes, to sleep in encampments as they shutdown campus and shared their opposition and deep revulsion about the fate of the Palestinian people in Gaza.  To date, over a thousand nationwide students have been arrested for trespassing while contemptuous wealthy academic donors pressure university administrators to cave to their political influence as they threaten funding. 

Student demands also include that companies divest of stocks and profits made from the Israeli war in Gaza.   American universities were never meant to be a shadow of the police state but to be bastions of unequivocal free speech for all opinions citing that it is not anti semitic to condemn genocide or to denounce US vetoes at the UN. 

As if giving American politicians direction, on April 24th  Israel President Netanyahu was quick to demand  what  is important now is for all of us who are interested and cherish our values and our civilization, to stand up together and to say Enough is Enough.”   

As many anemic American politicians will follow Netanyahu, House Speaker Mike Johnson accompanied by a phalanx of Republican House Members visited Columbia which was ground zero for the national protests.  All were loudly booed as he called on the University President, who was not sympathetic to the protestors, to resign.  More than one hundred students had been arrested at Columbia, handcuffed behind their backs for several hours as punishment before being suspended by Columbia’s president.

As if Johnson had not dug himself enough of a hole, the Speaker went on to promise he would speak to Biden about stopping the protests and to call up the National Guard if necessary which set off a new round of boos.  

Not yet satisfied with ruining his day, Johnson continued that Members of Congress from both parties were preparing legislation to sanction ICC officials unless they back down from issuing Israeli arrest warrants as well as reports that some Members were supportive of arresting ICC Judges if they follow through with warrants for Netanyahu’s arrest.   

Johnson repeated the Times of Israel report that “if challenged by the Biden administration, the ICC could create and assume unprecedented power to issue arrest warrants against American political leaders, American diplomats and American military personnel, thereby endangering the country’s sovereign authority.”   Adding fuel to the fire, it is rumored that the US will impose SANCTIONS on the ICC if they issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Officials as the Congress threatens the International Criminal Court and says arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials will be met with US retaliation. According to Al JazeeraThe USA says it does not support the International Criminal Court to charge Netanyahu with War Crimes.   

At the University of Texas with police and law enforcement in full riot gear, they  were liberally assaulting and arresting students.  Gov Abbott declared that “no encampments would be allowed, instead arrests are being made.”  Alleging that the protests were antisemitic, Abbott has also called for expulsion of students who participated in the protest. 

 At Virginia Commonwealth University, students were being teargassed while students at Harvard and Brown University set up new encampments in solidarity.  

Two of AIPAC’s favorite Members of Congress,  each of whom receive substantial campaign funds from AIPAC, have announced they plan to introduce ‘monitors for hate speech at all federally fund universities” spreading further encroachment against the First Amendment.  

 With over 34,000 killed, including 13,000 Palestinian children and 77,000 injured,   ‘generalized accusations of antisemitism against pro-Palestinian protesters are being used as an excuse to disparage the protest message and to shut down very legitimate protests and grievances about what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. 

Meanwhile, Shiraz University in Iran is offering scholarships to American and European University students who have been expelled for their free speech.

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