Freedom of speech on Israeli-Palestinian conflict suppressed on US campuses

As clashes between Israel and Palestine continue, another tension is rising on the other side of the globe – on US college campuses. An increasing number of reports reveal that US university students are deeply divided over the conflict. The truth is, this issue is not solely about clashing viewpoints in universities, but rather about the suppression of freedom of speech and the diminishing tolerance for open discussion in the US.
After three dozen student organizations at Harvard University signed a joint statement earlier this month, holding Israel responsible for the unfolding violence, and pointing out that Hamas’ attack “did not occur in a vacuum,” they have faced intense backlash. Lawrence Summers, a former Harvard president Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, “I am sickened. I cannot fathom the Administration’s failure to disassociate the University and condemn this statement.” Billionaire hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman and several other business leaders are demanding Harvard University to release the names of students whose organizations signed on to the letter “so as to ensure that none of us inadvertently hire any of their members.”
At Yale University, there is a call for a professor to be fired because of her anti-Israel and pro-Palestine social media posts.
As the conflict continues, the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian issue becomes increasingly apparent. It cannot be solved by condemning one side at a certain time point for a certain single event. However, any act involving the killing of civilians, whether by Hamas or the Israel Defense Forces, should be opposed. Taking sides will not solve the puzzle. The top priority is to achieve a ceasefire, stop the conflict as soon as possible, abide by international humanitarian law, and fully guarantee the safety of civilians, before working toward a just and lasting settlement that shall respect the rights of both sides.
However, a concerning trend has emerged among American universities, where expressing support for Israel is safe while being pro-Palestine has become a taboo. Showing sympathy to the Palestinian people or voicing that they have the right to resist can be labeled as supporting “terrorism” and must face consequences. Take Ackman’s wording, he was basically saying – If you are anti-Israel, you can have freedom of speech, but at the cost of your future career on Wall Street.
These incidents raise concerns about American universities, which were once seen as bastions for freedom of speech, robust debate, and radical thinking. However, now they seem to only echo a unified voice with a single stance and a predetermined ideology, as required by American elites, or the ruling power behind them. Are they trying to transform the renowned universities, which produce real elites and independent thinkers, into workshops that churn out thoughtless robots?
While some analysis suggests that the US is currently in a difficult position because it does not want the conflict to escalate, the American political circle keeps strengthening their political posture – supporting Israel in a strong manner. Noticeably, the EU is taking a slightly different approach, emphasizing “the importance to ensure the protection of all civilians at all times in line with International Humanitarian Law.”
Since the Vietnam War, there has been a tradition in the US where college students tend to hold a skeptical attitude toward their government’s decision on any participation or supportive action in wars in other parts of the world. However, as American politics has become more and more conservative, and the US elites have gained stronger control over public opinion, skepticism has become scarce in the mainstream media. Consequently, American universities are no longer places for exchanging independent views, but rather where independent thinking clashes with capital forces, Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
It seems future American elites are expected to be mere parrots who can mimic and puppets who can be manipulated. This could be a sign that highlights the dumbed-down state of American education and a precursor to the decline of the US. –The Daily Mail-Global Times news exchange item