United States

US Students Are Protesting The War On Gaza: What Do They Want?

Protesting students across college campuses in the United States are demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, an end to US military assistance for Israel and university divestment from arms suppliers and companies profiting from the war.

AP/Jose Luis Magana
Pro-palestine Campus Protests in US | Photo: AP/Jose Luis Magana

Across the United States, college campuses are witnessing a surge in protests against Israel's war on Gaza. The protests, which began at Columbia University in New York, have spread to campuses in Los Angeles, California, and Atlanta, Georgia, among others. 

Over 400 students have been arrested so far, according to The New York Times, as police interventions have sought to contain the growing movement.

What Do Protestors Want?

The protesting students have issued a clear call to action: a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, an end to US military assistance for Israel, university divestment from arms suppliers and companies profiting from the war, and amnesty for students and faculty members disciplined or fired for protesting.

Videos of the protests showed students chanting "The students, united, will never be defeated," as they waved Palestinian flags and held signs demanding a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Activist Mimi Ziad of the Palestinian Youth Movement told Al Jazeera: "This entire encampment was made with every single messaging to be around the genocide in Gaza and to revolve around centering all of the demands on Gaza.”

“This isn't about the students. This is about Gaza. This is about all of Palestine."

Who Are The Protestors?

Pro-palestine Campus Protests in US |
Pro-palestine Campus Protests in US | Photo: AP

The protesters themselves come from diverse backgrounds, including Jewish and Muslim students, united in their call for Palestinian rights.

Organisations such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace have played a key role in organising the protests, which have featured teach-ins, interfaith prayers, and musical performances. 

While organizers have disavowed violence against pro-Israel counter-protesters, some Jewish students have reported feeling unsafe on campus and have expressed concern over chants they deem antisemitic. 
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When Did Pro-Palestinian Student Protests Begin?

Activists have been supporting Palestinian rights for decades, but the Hamas attack on October 7 and the ensuing Israel-Gaza war have brought a new sense of urgency to the movement. Over the past six months, student protests have ebbed and flowed, often flaring up after news from Gaza. 

The recent discovery of mass graves at Gaza's Nasser Hospital and the al-Shifa Hospital complex, as well as the growing fears of an Israeli offensive on the city of Rafah, which is currently home to over 1.2 million displaced Palestinians, have further galvanised the protests. 

The death toll in Gaza has now surpassed 34,000, with the majority of victims being women and children. In Israel, 1,200 people have died in Hamas-led attacks, with dozens more held hostage.