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In Gaza: West Lost all its Honor even that of Academia

Since World War II, numerous students have strived to challenge the dominance and militarism of their own countries in the Western world. Each of these endeavors has contributed to raising awareness among more Westerners about the true nature of these warmongering policies. However, the invasion of Gaza by the Zionist regime, in particular, has prompted Western academics, especially those in the US, to oppose this invasion; because the Zionist regime blatantly disregarded international laws and laid bare the hypocrisy of Western human rights rhetoric.

In April 1968, more than a thousand students at Columbia University, reacting to the US Army’s actions in Vietnam, attempted a sit-down strike in the university buildings to stop the university’s scientific collaboration with the US military. Fast forward over fifty years to April 2024, where the Columbia University campus in New York saw student protests aimed at cutting ties between the university and companies linked to the Zionist regime. Echoing the spirit of the 60s, students adorned their pitched tents with the phrase “liberated zone.” The suspension and detention of students have remained unchanged since the 60s. What occurred today at Columbia University has been repeated countless times in various universities across the US and Europe in recent decades.

The array of university protests against the warmongering by the West and its allies raises two crucial questions:

1. Why do Western students feel such a strong sense of responsibility?

2. Despite these historical protests, why hasn’t there been much change in the policies of the West and its allies?

To address the first question, we need to acknowledge the pivotal role of universities in Western society. As modern states emerged, universities took on substantial responsibilities, shaping various aspects of daily life. Depending on the nature of the state, universities assumed roles in either providing or supervising areas like food, healthcare, education, security, and commerce. The rise of modern states and their extensive duties largely rests on the shoulders of universities as the very institution of modern science. For instance, within a modern state’s military structure, universities handle everything from methods of training soldiers and setting strategic goals to organizing military structures and developing weapons. This is why socially-conscious students in Western universities can’t ignore the significant influence universities wield over their nation’s decisions and work to bring about change through activism.

Swimming against the current

Addressing the second question starts on a somber note: “Students who protest for the people of Vietnam one day, for the people of Yemen the next, and today for the people of Palestine are swimming against a strong current in the river.” Here, the river symbolizes the university institution and its strong current, embodying the goals and objectives of Western civilization for this establishment.

In his book “Development and the Foundations of Western Civilization,” Martyr Morteza Avini posits economic growth and development as the ultimate objectives of Western civilization. Drawing on perspectives from Western authors both in support and opposition of the global political order, such as Alvin Toffler in “The Third Wave” and Ivan Illich, he concludes that since the Industrial Revolution, the expansion of capitalism and imperialism has created a fundamental demand for skilled labor. Consequently, this has reshaped the educational landscape within universities, now geared towards achieving “unlimited economic development and growth.” As a result, the direction of Western universities is influenced not by internal factors but by external capitalists. Ivan Illich, an Austrian thinker in his work “Deschooling Society,” characterizes the Western education system as driven by an ideology where economic growth takes precedence. Additionally, Ayatollah Khamenei, in his speech on April 7, 2024, while addressing students, identified a flaw in Western universities for their inability to “give direction to the education of scholars and the production of science.”

The limited resources and the domineering attitude of Western capitalists have driven them to encroach on the resources of other nations, aiming to accelerate “economic development and growth” by utilizing tools developed within universities. A prominent example of modern colonization is the establishment of the Zionist regime by the UK, and its reinforcement and support from the US. Initially settling in Palestine during World War I and fighting the Ottoman Empire, the Zionists have now become allies of the US in the region, to the extent that Joe Biden, the current President of the US, views the Zionist regime as “the single greatest strength of America in the region.” With the presence of the Zionist regime, the US has been able to manipulate the region’s oil resources and suppress the efforts of the region’s people seeking independence. Throughout its history, the Zionist regime has played a pivotal role in furthering the colonial objectives of the West through military operations and the targeted killings of scientists and prominent figures in the region.

University in the service of slogans

Two factors— “producing scholars and knowledge without directing them” and “the exploitation by capitalist interests”—have turned Western universities into agents of colonization and the oppression of vulnerable nations. The utilization of university resources extends across various fields, from humanities to engineering. Activities such as orchestrating coups, conducting media and cultural invasions using anthropological research, and even facilitating genocide in Gaza and Palestine through weapon development sciences, have all been facilitated by universities. This exploitation of academics, akin to other colonial endeavors, presents an enticing facade that captivates both the colonized populations and certain colonial actors. Human rights rhetoric and calls for freedom in Western nations have been used to deceive people in the region and to mobilize domestic support, particularly among scientists. Military interventions in Vietnam, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, under the pretext of promoting freedom and democracy, were actually undertaken to safeguard capitalist interests. The Zionist regime’s attack on Gaza following Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, and the subsequent genocide aided by Western countries resulting in the martyrdom of approximately 34,000 individuals, serves as another instance of capitalist imperialism and warmongering disguised as counterterrorism and the legitimate defense of a democratic nation.

Will Gaza make a lasting change?

Since World War II, numerous students have strived to challenge the dominance and militarism of their own countries in the Western world. Each of these endeavors has contributed to raising awareness among more Westerners about the true nature of these warmongering policies. However, the invasion of Gaza by the Zionist regime, in particular, has prompted Western academics, especially those in the US, to oppose this invasion; because the Zionist regime blatantly disregarded international laws and laid bare the hypocrisy of Western human rights rhetoric. The scale of Israel’s colonial project and its significant benefits for the US, and the West in general, have emboldened them to detain, arrest, and suspend protesting students and professors without hesitation, thereby undermining the academic integrity and autonomy of their institutions. It appears that Western academics may not achieve significant results from these justice-seeking activisms until they fundamentally reconsider the direction of their universities. It remains to be seen whether Gaza’s resistance can imprint the slogan “liberated zone” on the doorsteps of Western universities, rather than just on a campus courtyard or within a single department.

About Ali Teymoori

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