Pro-Palestinian Protests Are Petering Out

Image credit: The Daily Progress

by James A. Bacon

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the Grounds of the University of Virginia showed signs of losing enthusiasm Thursday, even as organizers demanded that the University administration divest investments from Israel and cut off all ties with Israeli universities.

As students entered exam week, the number of protesters gathering at the UVA Encampment for Gaza protest diminished to roughly 50 Thursday, about half the level the of previous day. The ad hoc group with about 1,600 social media followers includes some students but also many left-wing activists from the Charlottesville community.

While many pro-Palestinian demonstrations have turned disruptive and violent nationally, the protests at UVA have remained orderly. UVA officials have also enforced rules designed to prevent protesters from disrupting the right of others to go about their business. A separate demonstration, organized by Dissenters and UVA Apartheid Divest, broke up Wednesday as scheduled. Pointedly, neither those groups nor their ally Students for Justice in Palestine, have endorsed the Encampment for Gaza.

The Encampment for Gaza event got off to a rocky start Tuesday evening when UVA officials ordered protesters to take down what were the beginnings of a tent city similar to those found at “liberation zones” at demonstrations elsewhere. The inability to erect tents removed the most visible symbol of the protest.

The event continued as a sit-in on the grass. As The Daily Progress reported, “The itinerary Thursday included qigong exercises and group yoga. UVa graduate students from multiple departments circulated through the so-called liberated zone throughout the afternoon offering assistance to student protesters with papers and studies. ”

The anonymous organizers issued a press release describing the University of Virginia as being “complicit” in the “genocide” against Palestinians and demanded that the administrators of the UVA endowment divest institutions “materially supporting or profiting from Israel’s apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine. Likewise, the statement called for UVA to withdraw from all study-abroad programs, fellowships, research collaborations, and all other collaborations with Israeli research institutions.”

Finally, the press release insisted that UVA allow faculty, staff, and students to continue their support for Palestine without risk of suspension or other administrative discipline.

“We demand a public response from the University by 12:00 PM May 3rd,” the press release said.

Meanwhile, the University’s Task Force on Religious Diversity and Belonging hosted a dialogue Wednesday featuring Dartmouth professors Tarek El-Ariss and Susannah Heschel, who chair the Middle Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies departments at Dartmouth, respectively, reports The Cavalier Daily.

As the student newspaper described the event, “In their discussion, the two guest professors cited examining shared histories and learning about different religious perspectives as two important steps in fostering productive dialogue surrounding the Israel-Hamas war.”

“[We should] recognize how important it is for us as human beings to not just understand our own religion, but to understand it more deeply by engaging and studying other religions.” Heschel said.

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14 days ago

it should be noted that the encampment is largely non-students. some faculty and a bunch of townies

J. Swift
J. Swift
13 days ago

According to the Daily Progress, the protestors erected tents last night after they deemed that their “demands” were not met. So the situation has changed.

Quote –

Organizers called UVa’s response “shameful” and wrote that they would “not debate nor negotiate genocide.”

“We will not back down. We will stay until the University meets our demands!!” they wrote.

Hours later, as the sun began to set over Grounds, protesters pitched their tents.

That move is a direct violation of university policy, policy which protesters had obeyed until Friday evening. For days, tents had laid flat on the ground, unassembled but ready to be pitched at a moment’s notice. The decision to erect the tents comes as rain is expected over the next week.