Friday, February 27, 2009

On the Barricades – and Loving It

A new generation of protesters find a cause: Palestinians in Gaza, and a new enemy: Israel. And a new generation of troglodytes objects. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

On the evening of Feb. 19, 24 hours after some 70 students forcibly occupied a cafeteria inside New York University's Kimmel Student Center, a kaffiyeh-draped crowd gathered at Washington Square Park to show its solidarity. There were all the telltale signs of elite student struggle: homemade banners about democracy; radical 'zines about the prison-industrial complex tucked into jacket pockets; cigarettes and coffee; a letter of support from Noam Chomsky; and the requisite Palestinian flag. NYU's "feminist ninjas" came out in the afternoon to show their support by going topless. (Better than to let the mild February weather go to waste.)

Chomsky is still at it, denouncing imperialism every chance he gets.

Also among the NYU crowd were students who had shlepped from the University of Rochester, where, earlier this month, they occupied buildings on that upstate New York campus to demonstrate solidarity with Gaza. At Rochester, nine hours of occupation by Students for a Democratic Society led the university administration to capitulate to their demands. The university will now send school supplies and humanitarian aid to Gaza, and will host a forum to disclose any university investments in Israel.

There is more, and the writer of this piece disdanis that, too.

Take Back NYU!'s grab bag of no fewer than 13 demands reveals the obsessions of today's campus leftists: the establishment of a student-elected, socially responsible investment committee (first order of business: "an in depth investigation of all investments in war and genocide profiteers, as well as companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian territories"); donations to the Islamic University of Gaza; a tuition freeze; and, for good measure, public access to the university library.

Their naive idealism is reminiscent of my own generation, and the writer's attitude and tone also reminds me of the "establishment" back then.

By last Friday morning, the 18 students still barricaded in the cafeteria were approached by university administrators and NYU public-safety officers. No demands would be met, and the students would face suspension. The singular theme of the interaction, captured on video by a student negotiator, is not the protesters' passion for any cause, but their desire for martyrdom in the face of no real threat.

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