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The Senate Is Demonizing Pro-Palestine Protests at Universities — They’re Scared of Our Power

The Hawley resolution, passed unanimously in the Senate, demonizes students, faculty and staff organizing at universities to end the genocide in Gaza and for a free Palestine. U.S. politicians are demonizing the university movement because they are afraid of the power of anti-imperialist students, faculty and staff.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

November 1, 2023
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Students protesting outside Harvard University. The banner reads "STOP THE GENOCIDE IN GAZA". October 2023.

Just one day after over 100 college campuses organized protests to end the siege in Gaza, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution, led by hard-right bigot Josh Hawley, condemning pro-Palestine protests. This comes as Israel begins a ground invasion and, for over 24 hours, completely cut off all electricity in Gaza. Over 8,000 Palestinians have been murdered in this latest chapter of Zionist ethnic cleansing, 

The Hawley resolution is not actually about antisemitism or protesting Jewish people. It’s about attempting to crush an insurgent student movement that has taken center stage in the struggle for Palestine. 

Genocide and the Hawley Resolution

The Hawley Resolution states: 

Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) fully and completely condemns the outrageous terrorist attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel, which resulted in the mass murder of civilians, including babies;

(2) denounces the rhetoric of anti-Israel, pro Hamas student groups as antisemitic, repugnant, and morally contemptible for sympathizing with genocidal violence against the State of Israel and risking the physical safety of Jewish Americans in the United States;

(3) acknowledges that Israel has the right to exist and defend itself;

(4) emphasizes that Jewish Americans have the right to safety and security in the United States;

(5) encourages the United States Government to fully and completely support Israel and its right to exist and defend itself.

In his speech promoting the resolution, Hawley argued that protests for Palestine “call for genocide of Jews,” despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the protests and the fact that a Jewish people, especially Jewush youth are mobilizing as part of the protests through organizations like IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace. Hawley went so far as to suggest that Jewish students get escorted to class by the National Guard and declared that saying “genocide is wrong [isn’t] that hard.” 

Hawley is right that there is a genocide. And it’s being committed by the state of Israel with the active support of the United States and Senate resolutions like this one. 

Just look at the facts.

Over 8,000 Palestinians have been murdered by Israel. 

Half of the homes in Gaza have been destroyed. 

The IDF is dropping chemical weapons and the Israeli regime is keeping aid out of Gaza.
There is no clean drinking water.

Antisemitism Is Real, and It’s Not Anti-Zionism

Pointing out the genocide that is being committed against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. As Jewish Left Voice member Sam Carliner explains, “As long as there has been Zionism, there have been anti-Zionist Jews.” Judaism long predates Zionism — which was created in the last 19th century — and was for decades, a marginal ideology among Jewish people. The Zionist state of Israel was created in the 1940s as an imperialist foothold for western powers in the Middle East and exists as an apartheid ethnostate which enacts on-going and horrific violence against the Palestinians. Opposing that does not mean hate or discrimination against Jewish people.

Indeed, a key defining aspect of this current movement for Palestine has been that hundreds of thousands of Jewish people all over the country are making clear that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism through participating in protests, leading mass civil disobedience actions, and releasing statements. They are standing on the side of Palestine and saying clearly “not in our name.” Not in our name, the genocide. Not in our name, the Hawley resolution. They are standing up and getting arrested for speaking out and protesting this genocide.

As I explained in a speech last week

Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. Any attempt to conflate the two is a disingenuous attempt to make excuses for the brutality of the Zionist regime. But yes, anti-semtism is real. But it’s not coming from the Palestine protests, it’s coming from the white supremacists who are against trans youth, who are against abortion, who attack Black Lives Matter and perpetuate Islamophobia.

Antisemitism is coming from the multiple white supremacist organizations that stormed the Capitol on January 6, which Josh Hawley saluted and supported. It is the utmost hypocrisy to speak out against the Palestinian protests while building alliances with white supremacist and antisemitic groups. 

Josh Hawley is not on the side of Jewish people. That’s not what this resolution is about. If Hawley wanted to protect Jewish people, he would condemn the white supremacist groups on January 6 and the far-right groups that support him. The Hawley Resolution is about the fact that a new student movement is growing more than at any point in recent decades and is on a collision course with the imperialist interests of the U.S. in Israel and the Middle East. 

Democrats and Republicans Are United In Supporting Israel

Hawley’s resolution passed unanimously in the Democratic Party-controlled Senate. Even Bernie Sanders signed onto this absolutely reactionary resolution that vilifies whole sectors of his own voters who are protesting the atrocities in Gaza. In the midst of a genocide, Sanders has refused to call for a ceasefire, even as almost 300 former members of his staff pleaded for him to so so. The letter to Sanders states: 

Many of us, your former staff, are Muslim and/or Arab, and were inspired to support your campaign because of your calls to end the ‘Forever Wars’ waged against people who look like us and worship like us,” they wrote. “We felt proud to serve a candidate who acknowledged the plight and humanity of Palestinians and who spoke out against the Israeli occupation. Many of us, your former staff, share your Jewish heritage. Like your family, many of our families had entire sections erased from existence by Nazi barbarism in the Holocaust. It is our duty to stand up and say that our pain and sorrow at the losses on October 7 will not be weaponized to justify the ethnic cleansing or genocide of Palestinian civilians.

While many supported Sanders due to his stance against political elites and criticisms of U.S. imperialism, his stance during this genocide of Palestinians is an outright betrayal of these members of his staff and many of his supporters. The most Sanders mustered was a “humanitarian pause” — falling short of even the ceasefire demand.

Democrats and Republicans, from Bernie Sanders to Marco Rubio, are united in unequivocal support for Israel and for Zionism. They are united in attempting to curb all anti-Zionist organizing and have been united in their mass funding for Israel. The few Democrats who have spoken out against the genocide, like Rashida Tlaib, have been maligned both inside the party and by Republicans. 

They Are Scared of Our Movement for Palestine 

This Senate resolution is part of a witch hunt against pro-Palestinian activists being organized accross the United States. People are being harassed and fired from their jobs for speaking out for Palestine. Zionists are harassing and doxxing students, faculty, and staff at universities. New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov brought a gun to Brooklyn College’s campus to intimidate protesters, something the President of Brooklyn College has not denounced.

Ron DeSantis banned Students for Justice in Palestine from the state of Florida. Joe Biden is perpetuating the myth that anti-Zionism is antisemitism by releasing the first national strategy to counter antisemitism, specifically targeting anti-Zionist activism. 

And there there has been direct violence against Palestinian-Americans and pro-Palestinian activists. A 6-year-old, Wadea Al Fayoume, was murdered after being stabbed 26 times by his Islamophobic landlord.

The attempts by the state to shut down the movement for Palestine have not deterred the movement. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets all over the United States, joining millions around the world in an international movement to end the siege on Gaza. College campuses have become a hub of organizing, which is why they are being targeted and attacked. 

Colleges have played a central role in left and anti-imperialist organizing in the past — from protesting the Vietnam war, to protesting apartheid and fighting for civil rights. As college campuses begin to rise up for Palestine, the Hawley resolution is the latest sign that the Democrats and Republicans are afraid of the radical potential of young people standing up against imperialism. They are afraid of college students uniting with the various faculty unions and departments that have put out statements for Palestine to build a strong anti-imperialist movement that could challenge U.S. interests in the Middle East. 

They are criminalizing us because they are afraid of the radical potential of the new student movement. In that context, we must stand together to fight all of these attacks on students, faculty and staff and on our right to speak up and fight against oppression, alongside our struggle to end the siege, to end U.S. aid to Israel, and for a free Palestine. 

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Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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