How has the US antiwar movement changed since 1967-1968?

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By Creative Media News

  • Past protests foretell future campus demonstrations
  • Antisemitism accusations amid protests against Israel
  • Political tensions escalate over Middle East conflict

Schools have concluded, and summer vacations have been established. However, suppose the past is any indication of the future. In that case, demonstrations will erupt once more on university campuses in the United States this autumn, accompanied by the unavoidable violence and arrests that will inevitably result if Israel continues its assault on Gaza.

On October 21, 1967, I reported on my initial antiwar demonstration. I marched with nearly 100,000 individuals across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into Virginia and onto the Pentagon as a 19-year-old junior reporter for a local Washington, DC, radio station. They were a diverse group. The primary objective of the majority was to conclude the Vietnam War and return the more than 380,000 personnel who were currently engaged in combat. However, some appeared to advocate for the Vietnamese communists to emerge victorious. I became acquainted with Walter Teague, a 29-year-old protest leader bearing a Viet Cong flag. Norman Mailer, the renowned novelist, subsequently profiled Teague in his book Armies of the Night, describing him as a longtime “revolutionary” who believed in the communist “liberation” of Vietnam.

That evening, I observed 700 young individuals being physically restrained and apprehended by US marshals outside the Pentagon’s gates. I departed the United States two years later to cover the conflict in Vietnam.

The Viet Cong flags carried by antiwar activists, such as Teague, provided the administrations of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon with an excuse to attack the demonstrators. It enabled them to assert that all demonstrators were communist sympathizers who desired the enemy’s victory.

In the past few months, another generation, which has advanced 56 years, has conducted antiwar protests in a dozen US cities and on university campuses.

In the same way that the demonstrators of 1967-1968 were perceived as communist sympathizers, those who are currently protesting Israel’s war in Gaza are depicted as anti-Semites and terrorist supporters.

The narrative is defined by a segment of the Israel lobby and radical right Republicans, who promote a conflated logic.

In the era of social media and traditional media that is significantly more radicalized, the assaults on antiwar demonstrators present today are exacerbated.

The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch, published a story on May 19 under the headline “Hamas flag proudly waved at NYC anti-Israel demonstration: ‘Marching for terrorists’.

The article was accompanied by images of a solitary masked figure waving a Hamas flag. In a shocking and disturbing display of solidarity with terrorists, a pro-terror protester triumphantly waved the Hamas flag at a weekend rally in Brooklyn, according to the Post. The police disbanded the protest, and a dozen men who appeared to have participated in a radical offshoot of a succession of daylong peaceful demonstrations across Brooklyn were arrested.

When I contacted one of the individuals who had marched from the Bay Ridge neighbourhood to the Brooklyn Bridge, he stated, “I did not observe any Hamas flags.” I was one of approximately 10,000 individuals who urged Israel to cease the conflict in Gaza. Among our demonstrators were Jews, including Hasidic Jews who harbour animosity toward the Netanyahu government for divergent reasons. Everyone merely desired a truce, an end to the conflict.

The three university presidents were summoned by a Republican-led congressional committee on May 23 to be questioned, or rather, lambasted, for permitting antisemitism to spread on college campuses.

The session was convened by Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina congresswoman who also led the attack.

Over weeks, universities have suddenly erupted in anti-Semitic chaos, a powder keg of pro-terror campus fervour that has been a shocking spectacle for the American public,” Foxx stated in her opening statement.

Although the three college presidents defended their actions in an attempt to peacefully terminate campus protests without police intervention, none of them questioned the committee’s stated premise.

Fox News exacerbated the exchange: “University presidents are accused of yielding to “antisemitic, pro-terror encampment organizers” during congressional hearings.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, which is one of the most influential Jewish lobbying groups in the United States, contributed to the narrative by expanding the definition of antisemitism in early 2022. He criticized individuals, including Jews, who expressed their opposition to the Israeli or “Zionist” state. He declared, “Anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”

It has become increasingly challenging to express criticism of Israeli policies or the Netanyahu administration without being accused of antisemitism.

Young people in their encampments at Columbia University in New York or the University of California in Los Angeles had placed targets on their backs with their pro-Palestinian sympathies and anti-Zionist slogans. The origins of their protests were rooted in the demands to terminate Israeli military action against Gaza and US government support for it, to advocate for Palestinian rights, and to eliminate their suffering. The students denied that they had forgotten about the Hamas atrocities of October 7. Were there individuals among them who harboured animosity toward Jews? Possibly. However, Jewish students were the most vocal in their denunciation of the false equivalence between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and they assisted in organizing sit-in movements.

Several Jewish students at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, decided to leave a speech delivered by Greenblatt this year. They condemned him for his adoption of “political Zionism.” They contended that such an ideology ” negatively impacted the lives of millions.” The students wrote that such Zionism “cannot be separated from the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, the sustained violence for the last 75-plus years, or the current genocide in Gaza.

In the same way as their parents or grandparents were in the 1960s, the demonstrators have become a critical component of a close and bitter presidential campaign, regardless of their beliefs.

The radical right, which is affiliated with Christian fundamentalists and is commanded by former President Donald Trump, now asserts that they are the genuine protectors of Israel.

In April, they supported Netanyahu’s condemnation of student demonstrations. It was inevitable that they would condemn the growing number of progressives and Democrats who identify as pro-Palestinian rights and antiwar.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the 82-year-old senior leader of the Progressives, made a strong debut last month. “No, Mr. Netanyahu, it is not anti-Semitic or pro-Hamas to emphasize that your extremist government has killed 34,000 Palestinians in just over six months.”

Sanders continued, “I am a Jew whose father’s family was exterminated by Hitler, and I find it outrageous that Netanyahu is attempting to conceal his outrageous military behaviour behind the terrible image of antisemitism.

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US President Joe Biden is in a lose-lose situation as a result of the Gaza conflict. Last month, Sanders cautioned Biden that he may lose youthful voters. According to pollsters, the Palestinian-American vote in Michigan, a critical battleground state, may have already been lost by him. Additionally, he may risk losing crucial older Jewish voters in Pennsylvania, another battleground state in the upcoming presidential election in November.

The 2024 election will not be determined solely by the fractures resulting from a foreign conflict, as was the case 56 years ago. Arguably, the fractures in contemporary America are more severe and dangerous. However, the remarkable aspect of 21st-century America is the ease with which political operatives and their social and mass media supporters establish the narrative, distort facts, and establish deceptive equivalencies to the detriment of all.

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