Written by: Hasan Mahareeq

For 209 days, a brutal war has raged against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, presenting the world with horrifying scenes of death, destruction, and devastation. These images shock the global conscience, pushing us to confront a reality where the scale of human suffering surpasses what the mind could conceive in the 21st century. This grim situation begs the question: Are we witnessing a return to the atrocities of crime, killing, and destruction without consequence or accountability, reminiscent of the First and Second World Wars in the first half of the 20th century? Consequently, in light of the profound impact on humanity, the world and its leaders have endeavored to establish charters, covenants, and organizations aimed at defending and safeguarding human rights. These efforts include implementing binding measures for nations worldwide to protect civilians and shield them from the perils of war.

The ongoing crisis in Gaza reflects a disturbing trend—the erosion of moral and humanitarian values within the current international system. This trend allows extremist, narcissistic, and racist elites to exert control over decision-making centers worldwide, leading to escalating tensions, wars, and the marginalization of entire populations. Today, we witness scandalous practices in wars worldwide, particularly in Gaza, which signify a collapse of global moral standards. This failure extends to all humanitarian efforts by intellectuals and activists to establish human values as the guiding principles for international relations, with the aim of reducing wars and promoting global peace and security. One could argue that this failure exposes the hollowness of claims regarding the advancement of human civilization in political, economic, social, and technological realms.

The war on Gaza has elicited a global response, with people worldwide expressing shock and dismay at the devastation inflicted upon the Palestinian population. Capitals across the world have witnessed large-scale protests, with thousands gathering in public squares to denounce the war and its impact. Protesters have called for an immediate end to the violence and for their governments to intervene to stop the killing and destruction. These demonstrations have been particularly prominent in countries where freedom of expression and civil values are central to their governance. In contrast, in totalitarian states with dictatorial regimes, such protests have been tightly monitored and controlled, as authorities fear they could escalate into broader demonstrations against their rule.

As the war entered its 7th consecutive month, protests evolved into student-led sit-ins at prestigious American universities, renowned as breeding grounds for Western social, political, and cultural elites. The movement began at Columbia University and quickly spread to other institutions such as Harvard, George Washington, and Yale. It eventually gained traction in European universities, with the Sorbonne being a notable participant. This shift in activism not only inspires hope among Palestinians but also resonates with oppressed peoples and marginalized groups globally who continue to face various forms of oppression, including political, economic, and social challenges.

The primary impetus behind these university sit-ins is the genocidal war faced by Palestinians, a cause that remains central to these protests. However, I believe that if these sit-ins and protests persist, they will evolve beyond the Palestinian cause to embody a broader rejection by student elites across various disciplines. This rejection stems from discontent with the global political and economic system, characterized by unprecedented levels of inequality among nations. Moreover, these actions signify a rejection of colonial and neoliberal values, as well as the monopolization and control of wealth by states. They also reflect a condemnation of the failure to uphold human rights and the right of peoples to self-determination.

These protests and sit-ins are poised to significantly influence global elites, compelling them to adopt a new, human-centered system and charter to govern the world. This shift aims to prevent humanity from being embroiled in regional and international wars and conflicts that fail to protect people, especially given the escalating threats of using devastating weapons, including nuclear weapons. The awareness exhibited by the student elites leading these protests in Western universities reflects a profound understanding of humanity and global interconnectedness. This awareness serves as compelling evidence of the nascent transformation in the international system and the foundational values guiding relations between peoples worldwide. I believe this movement holds the promise of success and continuity for three key reasons:

1.  Student sit-ins are occurring at prestigious universities renowned for their influence in international politics and the development of scientific knowledge in economic and social spheres worldwide.

2. These universities educate students who often come from elite and influential social classes, many of whom will eventually become part of the ruling regimes in various countries. Therefore, their activism represents a challenge to the existing power structures, aiming to dismantle their dominance and control, and thereby influencing decision-making processes.

3.  There is an urgent global desire for change, driven by a need to restore values of justice, peace, and cooperation among nations. This change is rooted in a commitment to human rights, equality, and a fair distribution of wealth. This urgency is highlighted by the current trend in the global economy, where individuals or international corporations possess the wealth and resources that should rightfully belong to entire nations.

The potential success of these sit-ins in achieving their goals could significantly impact the interests of global ruling elites, particularly those in the West, who often rely on their historical narratives and military strength. Consequently, the American government, followed by several Western European governments, has implemented stringent measures against these student movements on university campuses. These actions have included summoning university presidents, forcibly dispersing sit-ins, and issuing warnings that label the protests as anti-semitic and racist. Such tactics suggest the adoption of a new form of McCarthyism, characterized by a demagogic tone, which political forces are attempting to impose on university students.

In conclusion, the harrowing images of injustice, violence, destruction, and displacement from Gaza serve as a stark indictment of the current international system. These images have the potential to serve as a rallying point for global conscience and a catalyst for student protests not only in the United States but worldwide. They could ignite a period of intellectual, social, and cultural transformation. This evokes memories of the student protests witnessed in France and America during the Vietnam War, which later expanded to include diverse societal groups and garnered support from intellectuals and theorists globally. These protests ultimately led to a new era of intellectual and cultural change, emphasizing the importance of justice, equality, and the fight against discrimination and racism as fundamental values governing human relations among different peoples.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's views and not necessarily the Association's or donor's opinion.