US students protesting Gaza are emulating 1960s protests against war, injustice: Columbia graduate

As US students of the late 1960s and early ‘70s protested racism and the Vietnam War, university students now are “emulating” them by protesting US support for the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza, which kills Palestinians for Israel’s “political outlook,” according to a former student protester and current anti-war activist.

“The US wants them (Israel) to play a certain role in terms of what’s going on in the Middle East. And that means, unfortunately, that the Palestinians end up being killed for that political outlook,” said Beth Massey, 77, a graduate of New York’s Columbia University, which saw some of the first protests of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has so far killed some 35,000 people.

Decrying the US support for Israel’s war, she told Anadolu: “All he (US President Joe Biden) wants to do is to put some kind of a facade on what’s happening. He doesn’t want it to stop. He wants us to be stupid enough to believe that he wants it to stop. If he wanted it to stop, they wouldn’t have sent (Israel) the money. I’m not stupid, and I think this generation that is out there emulating what my generation did is not stupid.”

The demonstrations, starting at Columbia University on April 16 and spreading to various universities across the country in support of Palestine, bear a striking resemblance to the 1968 protests against racism, injustice, and US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Massey told Anadolu about her involvement in the 1968 Columbia University protests and their parallels to the current student protests.

The historic 1968 protests at Columbia lasted for days and were suppressed with police intervention.

‘No regrets’ over her political involvement

Massey said she’s originally from Pennsylvania but grew up in the southern state of Tennessee, when he father relocated there for his job as a coal miner, to a region where racism was more prevalent.

“I had grown up in the middle of the civil rights movement, and I would say that was the most important thing that shaped me in terms of the way I looked at the world,” she said.

In the late ‘60s, Massey enrolled in Barnard College, a New York women’s college affiliated with Columbia University.

Before taking part in the 1968 protests, Massey faced personal hardships, including losing both parents to illness, and endured financial and spiritual challenges.

“So there was a lot of insecurity, but in terms of what I was doing politically, I have no regrets, none whatsoever. In a lot of ways, it gave me a direction,” she noted.

‘They don’t answer why they continue to kill people in Gaza’

Massey stressed that in the 1968 student protests, they were dedicated to combating racism and opposing war, issues that persist to this day.

Martin Luther King “said that the US was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” she said, referring to the US civil rights leader and anti-war activist, who was assassinated in 1968. “I believe that to this day. I’ve seen so much evidence of it. Being an activist against war for 56 years, I’ve seen it in Central America. I’ve seen it in Vietnam. I’ve seen it right now.”

Massey also criticized Biden, as though US soldiers are not fighting in Gaza at the moment US weapons are certainly being used.

“I mean, they can hear (what) the media says, they should be peaceful. They shouldn’t go into buildings and destroy property. But they don’t answer why they continue to kill people in Gaza. That is the core question,” she said.

Recalling students’ occupation of university buildings as part of civil disobedience in 1968, Massey noted a similarity to recent events, including students occupying a building and police coming in and arresting many of them just last week, though she said the students were not doing anything illegal.

“I’ve been in the movement and been struggling around Palestine for many years. There have always been a large number of Jewish participants in the movement. Our media refuses to even acknowledge that,” she said, pushing back at claims that protests in support of Palestine are antisemitic.

US ‘is complicit’ in what Israel is doing

Pointing to the US’ long-standing support for Israel since its founding in 1948, Massey charged that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

“(The US) is complicit. I think they might even be the ‘brains,’ if we can use that term, behind Israel,” she said.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived peacefully in the region before 1948, she said.

“But the US wants them (Israel) to play a certain role in terms of what’s going on in the Middle East. And that means, unfortunately, that the Palestinians end up being killed for that political outlook and a need to be in control. The US has a tremendous desire, in my opinion, to be in control,” she said.

To today’s student protesters, Massey urged them to “stay strong, be united and open,” to engage with the broader “community,” and to explain their motivations to the world.

Despite the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in Gaza since last October, when the Israeli offensive in Gaza began, she said she is “hopeful” for the future.

“We have to keep struggling. It isn’t like it’s easy. They’re so much more powerful than we are. But we make up for it in numbers. So, I am hopeful. I know what’s right.”

(Source: AA)