May 6, 2024

Outside Agitators

The news has recently been dominated by reports of demonstrations supportive of Palestinians at U.S. colleges and universities. It is distressing that many seemingly peaceful protests have been shut down by police at the invitation of school administrators. In some cases, civil authorities have in part justified police action by asserting that “outside agitators” were among the demonstrators. Often, the “agitators” have been quite literally outside, which is to say not on campus at all.

I am greatly distressed by the term “outside agitators.” I remember this term as one used by racist Southerners to identify the brave souls from northern states who risked their lives to take a stand against Jim Crow. The present “outside agitators” may be non-students, but we have seen no evidence that they are “agitators” rather than citizens in sympathy with the goals of student demonstrators. Among this group may in fact be a few agents provocateurs with disreputable motives—not an established fact—but damning every non-student as an “outside agitator” is unfair.

As for the student demonstrators generally, I think they may be seeking the wrong objective. Imploring their institutions to disinvest in Israeli enterprises is an obvious goal, but it is difficult for the schools to implement and an objective with considerably less than universal appeal. It means to punish Israel but will not be particularly helpful to the Palestinians about whom the students purport to be concerned.

Unfortunately, President Biden seems incapable of taking any action that might discourage bad behavior by Benjamin Netanyahu. The students should adopt a more useful objective: insist that the United States cease providing any and all military and financial support to the state of Israel pending resolution of the current war against Hamas, a war that seems increasingly like a war against the Palestinian people. A less extreme objective might be to obtain an immediate ceasefire by all combatants.

Students have missed an opportunity here and, as of tonight, Israel seems to be proceeding with its military plans against Hamas and the inhabitants of Gaza.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are not allowed. All comments are moderated by the author. Gratuitous profanity, libelous statements, and commercial messages will be not be posted.