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No, University Pro-Palestine Protests are NOT "This Generation's Vietnam"

The Similarities and Differences

By Natasja RosePublished 3 days ago Updated 3 days ago 5 min read
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The Pro-Palestine campus protests currently sweeping the Western World is far from the first time that students have united for a cause. From the Student Rebellion made famous by Les Miserables, to lesser-known riots in 19th Century England, to the Anti-Vietnam and BLM protests, Activism is as commonplace in universities as Frat Parties.

This is the first time I've looked at the protestors as reactionary morons, their activism performative and ill-informed, instead of something to be admired.

Recently, I saw a news article calling the Columbia protests "This Generation's Vietnam" and nearly burst out laughing.

I wish that the “Pro-Palestine” protestors had a fraction of the convictions that Protestors against the Vietnam War did. Or the Sufferagettes, or the Greenpeace activists of the 90s, or pretty much any other well-known cause in history.

By Taylor Brandon on Unsplash

Protestors against the Vietnam War could and did go to jail for rejecting conscription if they couldn’t come up with a good enough argument for why they shouldn’t be sent (usually on Compassionate or Breadwinner grounds). They knew the risks and protested anyway.

When they were arrested, they went to jail, because they believed in their cause enough to say "This is my stance. This is the Hill where I make my eternal stand, and whatever consequences I face, I will endure gladly for my beliefs."

At Columbine, Protestors broke into Hamilton Hall, held three University employees hostage for hours, then complained that they were being “tortured” and having their human rights violated because the university wouldn’t send them water and snacks.

In University encampments across America, Protesters who were warned about the consequences if they continued to violate university policy are sobbing to News Outlets and TikTok about being homeless after being suspended and barred from University premises. They claim that being arrested for tresspassing after being told to clear out is a violation of their First Amendment rights (Freedom of Speech isn't Freedom from Consequences), and do everything they can to get released on Bail.

In the Vietnam protests, the message was clear: “War sucks, we never should have gotten involved in this one, and Conscription is wrong”.

Few people ever actually want war, and with two World Wars in living memory at the time, everyone remembered losing half of a generation to death or crippling injury or PTSD. Ending the Draft had a lot of popular support as a result. Most of the protestors were returned soldiers who knew how much of an unwinnable shitshow Vietnam was, and students for whom it was a matter of months, weeks or days before they or their loved ones would be conscripted into a war they wanted no part of.

Most of them had already lost friends or family members to war. They didn't want to be forced halfway around the world, only to come home in a box.

No one was reasonably going to say “Yes, the government should be able to force you to go fight and die in a foreign land!” There had been resistance to conscription and the Draft in Was I and II, as well, so this wasn't a new argument, either.

The USA has no boots on the ground in Gaza, they're only supplying Military Aid and Intelligence to Israel, and Humanitarian Aid to Gaza. These student's aren't at risk of being sent over to the Middle East against their will, dying in their thousands before they ever had the chance to live.

I would suggest that "Queers for Palestine" go over to Gaza and see how welcome they are there, but I don't actually want them to be executed via defenestration for the crime of being LGBTQ+, so I'll refrain.

By Shai Pal on Unsplash

In the current university protests, there is too much mixed messaging, and a lot of “Fad Activists” optics.

Asked about October 7th, many of them flounder, or try to justify why killing Civilians is fine, actually, as long as the victims are Israeli. Asked to explain the meaning of "From the River to the Sea", most of them have no idea.

They scream for “Ceasefire NOW”, while holding up signs for a Global Intifada. Those things are mutually exclusive, though since Hamas has broken every Ceasefire Israel has agreed to in the past, it’s easy to see why they’d be confused. Israel has repeatedly said that they'll agree to a Ceasefire, as soon as Hamas returns the rest of the Hostages.

They want universities to immediately withdraw from any and all investments concerning Israel, without seemingly any awareness for what those companies are and the fact that divestment isn't a Say-Today-Done-Tomorrow process. (SodaStream is an Israeli company, BTW.)

Most investments will be contractually bound to quarterly, yearly, or multi-year terms, and you have to either wait until the next renewal, or wear the loss of that investment money. For a university, that could mean amounts in the millions of dollars. They have to research and negotiate alternate investments, too, in order to replace the revenue they’ll lose divesting from Israel.

They cry for equality, and demand leniency for missed classes and assignments, while harassing and blocking Jewish students and professors from entering university buildings. Why target Jews who have probably never been to Israel and have nothing to do with the current conflict?

Why care about Palestine and Arabs now, when there was dead silence during the Syria and Yemen Civil Wars, conflicts with a far higher death toll?

I’m old enough to remember seeing the carnage of the First and Second Intifadas on TV, as well as the other Palestine/Israel conflicts since then. I saw bombs that deliberately targeted children and teenagers, eschewing military targets in favour of civilian ones. Hamas and Hezbollah have a long and detailed history of demanding that their Victims toe a line that they deliberately trample.

I’m old enough to have cheered for the Good Friday Accords that were supposed to end the Urban Warfare of the Irish Troubles. Gaza is not my first sight of how bad Urban Warfare can get.

Most of the students protesting probably weren't even born until after 9/11 and the resulting Iraq War took up all the media attention in the Middle East. They’re either unaware of this history, or think that it doesn’t count, somehow.

It does, and the majority of people cheering Israel on are old enough to remember those past conflicts, which Israel didn't start, but certainly finished.

By Pontus Wellgraf on Unsplash

In Primary School, I marched with several others in my class against Nuclear Testing in the Pacific. We got in trouble with the School District over it, and wore that proudly.

I've protested against multiple governments that did not have the good of their people as their goal. Arrests happened at those protests, too, and the ones who got carted off in a police wagon didn't claim it was unfair.

Durig the Covid Pandemic, I marched with my fellow Healthcare workers for a livable wage and minimum staffing ratios. I'm pretty sure it contributed to being put on a Performance Improvement Plan a month later, but I knew the consequences when I marched, and it was worth it.

Maybe that's an expression of my own Privilege, but I'm firmly of the belief that if you want your cause to be taken seriously, you have to take it seriously.

That means not letting your cause get hijacked by Bad Faith Actors like Neo-Nazis and outside agitators and open Anti-Semites. That means standing by your convictions, and being able to articulate what they are, not just repeating Social Media buzwords. That means educating yourself on what you're protesting against, and being willing to weather the consequences of your protest.

politicseducationdefensecontroversiesactivism
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About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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Comments (4)

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  • Deasun T. Smyth2 days ago

    Incredible, this is well written. I agree completely with many of your topics, and there is so much to be said about the "encampments". Well done. 👍

  • Andrea Corwin 3 days ago

    Well said Natasja - a very complex situation- I do not agree with the Israeli bombing continuing because it is past revenge. Hamas conducted terrorism. The students seem to just want to be in the mix and aren’t educated on all of this like you said. There are troublemakers jumping in. Students can choose to leave the university if they don’t like the investments; why they think it is their right to demand divestment is strange. You are right about contracts, etc!! Your points are all very good and you covered it all. I just wish humans could get along; I wish religion didn’t cause so much strife. 😖

  • This is so wrong and I'm disgusted by your words and will be unsubscribing from you.

  • Kendall Defoe 3 days ago

    You have hit the nail on the head with this one! I am in Montréal, wondering what happened at my campus - McGill University - with the recent encampment, and most of what I heard is still performative as you said (people are just there without really thinking about what they want). I say we free Palestine...from Hamas. We all know why this nonsense started. Why doesn't the rest of the world get its act together?

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