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‘Gaza encampments symbolise a rising tide of global support for Palestinian liberation’

June 16, 2024 at 9:00 am

University campuses around the world have become hotspots for escalating student protests, demanding academic institutions divest from companies supplying arms to Israel. Launched on US college campuses, these protests have now spread to universities across the UK, Europe, Lebanon and Jordan.

Students assert that their actions are a stand against what they describe as their universities’ complicity in Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has resulted in over 37,300 deaths. More than 3,000 individuals have been arrested or detained on US campuses, drawing global media attention and reactions from Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

The global student protests, especially the encampments set up by students in support of Gaza and Palestine have been a source of cautious optimism for Basil Mari, a fifth-year computer engineering student at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

“It was definitely a pleasant surprise,” he says. “I was filled with some optimism regarding the future of the Palestinian cause because these movements are more important for what they represent and what they are working towards than their current achievements.”

“Even though their goals of achieving divestments from their universities are excellent, the real goal is where this might go in the future,” he adds.

In many instances, faculty members have joined or supported student protesters, while police and universities have responded with force.

At Berlin’s Humboldt University, police violently raided the campus and arrested over 100 students. During the confrontation, one officer grabbed a student, repeatedly punched her in the head and kicked her, causing her to suffer a concussion and be hospitalised.

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Basil criticises these violations, remarking that they illustrate government complicity in the genocide and their unconditional support for Israel’s crimes.

However, he also stresses that the focus should be on student movements and the populations in these countries. “We should urge the Palestinian movement in these countries and the Palestinian student movement to continue to create repercussions for these administrations and governments for their complicity.”

While acknowledging the limited immediate impact of these protests, Basil highlights their symbolic importance. “The student protests themselves at this point have no mechanism of pressuring for the end of the war on Gaza, but what they represent is ultimately hopeful for the fate of the Palestinian people.”

Since Israel launched its bombing campaign in Gaza in October 2023, schools have been bombed or turned into shelters for displaced people, leaving Gaza’s estimated 625,000 school-aged children unable to attend classes. All 12 of Gaza’s higher education institutions have been destroyed or damaged, leaving nearly 90,000 students stranded, and more than 350 teachers and academics have been killed, according to Palestinian official data.

Palestinian students in the occupied West Bank also face challenges as violence has significantly worsened with increased settler and army attacks on Palestinians, particularly those commuting between cities.This has forced many universities, including Birzeit, to shift to online and hybrid teaching methods.

“Danger and threats against students are ever-present here but have really increased since October 7, especially for students commuting between cities and areas designated as areas B and C. A student was shot by an Israeli soldier and died while commuting to university about a month ago,” Basil recounts.

Despite these threats, Basil emphasises that the population of the West Bank must resist this danger, refuse to be confined to these Bantustans and enclaves designated as areas A and B and assert its presence in areas C, where settlers or Israeli soldiers roam or threaten people.


The Palestinian struggle, he explains, forms part of the global movement which has recently ignited. “If this global opposition to the Zionist occupation continues to deepen and widen, it could achieve some of the necessary prerequisites for the dismantling of the Zionist entity,” Basil says. “The ultimate goal is full Palestinian liberation, and these protests are steps toward that future.”

In addressing the feelings of helplessness that many are experiencing after the bombing of Gaza continues unabated for the ninth month, Basil emphasises the importance of sacrifice and active participation in the struggle. “The remedy for the feeling of helplessness is believing in sacrifice,” he asserts. This conviction is especially pertinent in the West Bank, he notes, where fear and hopelessness have often stifled resistance.

He argues that prioritising personal safety and ambitions over the collective struggle is a recipe for failure.

“We cannot shy away from confrontation or from existing in our land without any apologies, fear, or hesitation,” Basil insists. He calls for a renewed commitment to the struggle, emphasising that the sacrifices made by the resistance and Palestinians in Gaza should serve as an example for all.

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Basil also stresses the need for greater awareness of the complicity of various governments in the ongoing genocide. While global awareness of the atrocities in Gaza has increased, he believes there is still a lack of understanding about the roles different governments are playing in supporting the Zionist occupation through trade and other means.

“Countries that claim to support the Palestinian movement, like Turkiye, who is providing food and goods to the Zionist entity, need to be pressured to stop their complicity,” he urges.

“I’m not only speaking about Western governments who we know are allied with the Zionist entity and the Arab governments, who are allowing their air spaces to be used to conduct strikes against the resistance. I’m talking about countries that are supposedly not – countries like China and Turkiye who continue to trade with Israel.”

As Basil prepares to graduate, his reflections offer a burning reminder of the sacrifices required for the Palestinian liberation struggle and the resilience and determination of Palestinian students who continue to pursue their education and fight for their rights despite overwhelming odds.

Through their sacrifices and the growing global solidarity, there is hope that justice and liberation for Palestine will one day be achieved.