Who pays for college Gaza protests?

University of Calgary's Pro-Palestine protest encampment. Photo: Jo Horwood/CBC

Barry Cooper, Western Standard, May 7, 2024

From UCLA and UBC on the west coast to McGill and Columbia on the east coast, the student and non-student occupations of North American university campuses have advanced at least four common demands.

First: No repercussions to be imposed on the protesters for their behaviour, even if it was illegal and violent. No surprise there. Participants are members of the snowflake generation. At UCLA they had an additional non-negotiable demand, the provision (for free) of vegan meals and non-gluten sandwiches. No demand for kosher grub, however.

Second: A freeze on any academic and financial contact between the various universities with Israeli universities and with Zionist money.

Third: The indulgence of pro-Hamas activities via the Palestinian Youth Movement and Samidoun, which in turn are affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP,) listed by both Canada and the US as a terrorist organization.

Fourth: Occasionally (as at UBC, the U of T, and McGill) the organizers rope First Nations into the act as well.

In sum, these persons wish with impunity to tell the universities involved what to do. Thus, the protesters are first of all on an intoxicating power trip. To make sense of these events, let’s start by considering their motivations.

Begin with a by now commonplace sentiment, first articulated by the young romantic poet, William Wordsworth, regarding the French Revolution:

            Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,

            But to be young was very heaven.

Today’s romantic children also like to see themselves as heavenly. Greta Thunberg first showed them the way. Indeed, for many, the protest encampments may be their first taste of community. For years the poor dears have been addicted to their screens.

More seriously, they think they care for the miserable lot of the Palestinians. That’s what they say — or chant — after all. But they seem to forget about the effective agent of that misery: Hamas.

Is this why so many cover their faces with leftover and otherwise useless COVID-19 masks or keffiyehs, made famous as the sartorial trademark of the terrorist statesman, Yasir Arafat?

They say they do so to avoid the intrusion of facial-recognition software. But here is where the professed motivations get dicey.

Why do they care if they are recognized? If they had the courage of their convictions, they wouldn’t. But they don’t. They are basically fraidy cats, chickens for whom the whole purpose is to make an anonymous gesture of moral superiority with no implications for their future employment prospects. Such is the appeal of posting on social media about living in an allergen-free tent.

In commonsensical terms their motives are corrupt. They know full well that terrorists, not the IDF, are behind the misery of the Palestinians and, secretly, they are ashamed of themselves. But they can never admit it.

Some commentators have drawn a parallel between the protests of today and those of 1968. At Sciences Po in Paris a sign went up a week or so ago, “Gaza = Vietnam.” Aljazeera and the New York Times agreed.

I remember Sciences Po in 1968 and I vividly recall the “events,” as we called them, of ’68. Yes, I was a sixty-eighter, un soixante-huitard, and I can tell you it was nothing like the current activities.

1968 was about a genuinely unjust and stupid war, not the imaginary injustices of the world, the West and the Jews. There was no nonsense derived from cultural Marxism where the imaginary dialectic of oppressor and oppressed replaced Marx’s imaginary dialectic of bourgeois and proletarian.

In fact, back then, most of us agreed with Senator William Fulbright, that American interests were not involved in Vietnam and that the so-called domino effect — if Vietnam “fell” to the commies all Southeast Asia would follow — was rubbish. Even more important, you could debate and discuss the several sides to the Vietnam War without wanting to cancel or extinguish anyone on the other side.

Unfortunately, that is no longer true. The combination of self-righteousness, siloed opinions, ignorance and echo chambers means it’s impossible to recollect complexity as an attribute of reality.

Comparing today to ’68 reminds one of Marx’s statement in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,” that history repeats itself — the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Worse, the cowardly responses of university administrations have further undermined personal agency and personal responsibility. Embracing fanatical identity politics was bad enough, but then proclaiming rules, which were seen by the children as threats, but not acting to enforce them solidified the administrators’ moral turpitude

This is why when Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, announced that classes would be held remotely for the balance of the term, she really was announcing that she was no longer running the university. She rewarded the rioters who occupied Hamilton Hall (which houses what is left of Columbia’s once great classics department) and penalized students, who pay more than $68,000 (US) to attend.

In the Globe and Mail, Marcus Gee applauded Shafik’s response and advised her Canadian colleagues to follow her pusillanimous lead.

“Let campus protesters be,” wrote he. Doing so, as events at Columbia showed clearly enough even for Marcus Gee to apprehend, constituted an invitation to professional chaos-agents, agitators, and organizers to join the naïve children and escalate the protest to a criminal riot.

One administrative response should be applauded.

University of Florida president, Ben Sasse, said: “the University of Florida is not a daycare and we do not treat protesters like children.” Protesters had to face the consequences of their acts. That meant enforcing the law, expelling students who refused to leave, and deporting non-citizens. Such were the consequences in ’68 as well. Some of my friends had to deal with them.

Two additional thoughts.

First, of the 26,000 students at Columbia only a few hundred (fortified by non-students) took part in the disruption. Such a tiny minority is likely replicated around the continent.

That they were a tiny minority was attested by the election of Maya Patek as president elect of the School of General Studies, one of Columbia’s four undergraduate colleges. Ms. Patek is a former member of the IDF and proud to be an Israeli.

Good for her. But the real message is to Columbia’s administration and to their counterparts in Canada. You can crack down on idiot protesters and no one will criticize you. It’s safe to do the right thing even if it’s not courageous.

A second thought: who paid for the tents? And for a group of people who couldn’t start a lawnmower, let alone a revolution, who paid for the organizers to organize them?

Howard Levitt reported in the Financial Post that Canada has become a major venue for money laundering from the Middle East, especially Qatar. To which the Wall Street Journal added such well-known terrorist groups as the PFLP, a shadowy outfit called “Students 4 Gaza,” and the bizarrely named International Marxist Tendency.

The New York Post wrote that many of the organizers were on the payroll of the Open Society Institute funded by George Soros. The Jerusalem Post said that was absurd because Soros is Jewish. That strikes me as more identity politics.

All these conduits point to Iran, the chief beneficiary of campus disruptions and the chief sponsor of global terrorism. This also explains why Shiraz University in Tehran has offered any expelled students scholarships at their esteemed institution. We should encourage the children to accept. They might learn something.

Barry Cooper is a professor of political science at the University of Calgary and a Senior Fellow at the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy. Author of 35 books and 200 studies, his book on terrorism was recovered by Seal Team Six during their visit to the Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad in May 2011.

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