After the October 7 attacks on Israeli citizens by Hamas and the resulting onslaught on Palestinians from the right-wing Netanyahu government, the world broke out into protests against the war. Young people have played a leading role in the movement in the US, and college campuses remain a hub of protests and organization against the violence. However, the ruling class is taking an all-out approach to pressure college and university administrations to stop students from organizing and mobilizing on college campuses against Israel’s war on Palestinians.
In December, the Presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT were called to a congressional hearing about anti-Semitism on college campuses. This was after these college presidents faced loud right-wing backlash about their response to the October 7 Hamas attacks, the Israeli government’s counter-offensive targeting Palestinians, and resulting protests on campus calling for an end to the violence. Alumni and wealthy donors said that these presidents’ responses to the attacks and resulting protests were completely inadequate, letting anti-Semitism build on campuses.
In reality, both establishment parties have treated any criticism of Israel or backlash against the rampant violence of Israel’s war on Gaza as anti-Semitic. While Hamas is a pro-capitalist, reactionary regime that should be condemned for its actions on October 7, the Israeli government’s brutality towards Palestinians has no limits, as they’ve continued an all-out assault with over 25,000 killed in Gaza and 65,000 wounded. Students should be able to organize and speak out against the history of violence and oppression fueled by the Israeli government for decades, as well as against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and attacks on working people, whether Israeli or Palestinian.
While Claudine Gay, who was for six months the first Black President of Harvard, and the other campus presidents faltered in their testimony in Congress, unable to condemn true anti-Semitic potential statements, the hearing was really to ensure that college presidents get in line with the ruling class’s position on the unconditional support of Israel. As we pointed out in December, it’s not just Republican politicians and right-wing members of the ruling class who support Netanyahu. Biden and the Democrats continue to send aid to Israel, without any conditions or qualifications. Now, two of these three university presidents have been pushed out, with the president of Harvard, Claudine Gay, resigning after allegations of plagiarism were used as the final straw to push her out. The last president standing, MIT’s Kornbluth, is facing mounting pressure to leave.
Harvard, and other elite institutions like UPenn and MIT, are training grounds for the ruling class, and as socialists, we do not care who is at the helm of one of the wealthiest institutions in the world. However, this campaign against the presidents of these colleges is really a tool to force college administrations to crack down on student organizing against the ruling class’s current pro-Israel agenda. It pressures administrations to silence student organizations, to stop protests for a ceasefire, and to bring the ruling class in line with a singular agenda of maintaining a good relationship with Israel.
Students should continue calling protests for a ceasefire and against the war, with no illusions in college administrations. To stop the brutal massacre of Palestinians, we need an all-out movement of the working class, organizing against Republicans and Democrats, in our schools, communities, and workplaces and supporting an international movement against this war. Only a program of socialist change can bring true freedom to working-class Palestinians and Israelis alike.