Who Benefits From The Pro-Palestine Encampments On University Campuses? – OpEd


The images shown in recent weeks from many universities in North America depict protesting students wearing Palestinian keffiyehs, chanting against Israel, and setting up protest camps on campus and Recently, a judge in the Canadian province of Quebec rejected McGill University’s request to dismantle the pro-Palestinian student camp.

At various universities across the United States, students have made numerous high-flying demands such as an immediate and permanent ceasefire, an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine, cutting academic and scientific ties with Israeli universities, severing connections with companies and institutions accused by students of being complicit in “occupation, genocide, and apartheid against the Palestinian people,” and even cutting ties between universities and police departments. Of course, the demands of their Canadian counterparts are more reasonable, with protesters demanding that the school divest from companies connected to “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.”

The first and foremost point here is that protecting freedom of speech is both difficult and fundamental. Freedom of speech and belief become relevant when expressing dissenting opinions, and even disagreeable and offensive opinions should be allowed to be heard. To quote George Orwell, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear…”

However, the main question is whether, given that it seems unlikely that the authorities in Ottawa and Washington, D.C., will change their pro-Israel stance due to the establishment of student camps, the use of freedom of speech by students and such protests will have any impact on Israel’s actions in Gaza, and more importantly, who benefits from such measures?

Beijing in Pursuit of Long-Term Benefits

Although the Chinese Communist Party has established close economic relations with Israel, Beijing sees the conflict between Israel and Palestine as ideological. Mao Zedong, the founder of the Communist Party of China, compared Israel to Taiwan and called it “the base of Western imperialism.”

Meanwhile, The realization of the dream of a new world order in the eyes of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin requires the cooperation of other actors. For this reason, Beijing has tried to increase its role in the Middle East over the past years. In fact, China is rewriting the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East region and engaging in creeping competition with the United States for dominance in this region.

After the October 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens, Beijing did not call this attack terrorist and did not condemn it. Instead, it showed its desire to align with Hamas in the hope that this support will resonate among the Arab countries of the Middle East, which have a Muslim majority. Beijing even hosted representatives of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) and Hamas in recent months.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after a bloody battle with Fatah. Now, the Communist Party of China is trying to end their deep differences by leading negotiations between the two groups. The spokesperson of the CCP Foreign Ministry also emphasized that both sides have the firm support of China.

Undoubtedly, the Beijing authorities do not want the Gaza war to end with the destruction of Hamas. Militant groups like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas are the Chinese Communist Party’s playing cards against the West.

 In fact, these groups can be used as pressure levers for Beijing to gain points from the Western world.

The Kremlin is Happiest

The terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023, which killed 1,200 people and abducted another 250 Israeli citizens, shocked the world. This attack, along with Israel’s response and the subsequent series of events, pushed the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the sidelines, making the main topic in political and news arenas the war in Gaza. Even Ukrainian President Zelensky, who always wants the Western world to pay more attention to Russia’s encroachment on his country, expressed concern about this issue and warned of its consequences.

Multiple reports, citing security sources in some media outlets in recent days, indicate that Russia has been trying to exploit the divisions over Israel in the Western front and has also made online efforts to intensify protests at universities.

Although there is no direct evidence of Russia’s military and financial support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Kremlin authorities openly support these groups. In late October of last year, following Hamas’s bloody attack on Israel, a high-level delegation from Hamas traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian Foreign Ministry officials.

Subsequently, in March 2024, Hamas officials once again traveled to Moscow, thanking Russia for its “position in support of the Palestinian people.” This visit occurred after Russia invited approximately 14 Palestinian groups, including prominent terrorist organizations engaged in conflicts with Israel, namely Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for a conference. The Palestinian groups are divided between the terrorist-aggressive approach of Hamas and the moderate approach of Fatah Group in the West Bank of the Jordan River.

The Kremlin promotes “Palestinian dialogue” in order to bring these rival groups together. Russia’s goal is to present a united front and exert pressure on Israel, the United States, and the Western world as a whole. Supporting these terrorist groups also helps Vladimir Putin advance his geopolitical influence in the Middle East, strengthen Russia’s position in the Islamic world, and undermine the interests of the West. Currently, this approach is working well.

Ayatollahs regime in Tehran

In recent years, the Ayatollah regime in Iran has suffered numerous blows from Israel. The country endured multiple strikes from Israel. The Israeli army almost weekly targeted IRGC bases and paramilitary groups supported by Tehran in Syria, with almost none of these attacks met with a response from Tehran. Even sensitive drone and nuclear sites within Iran were not immune to Israeli attacks, with several such attacks taking place. Though Israel has never claimed responsibility for these attacks, many experts believe Tel Aviv was behind them.

Iran’s government, which lacks popularity among its Arab neighbors and strongly opposes these countries normalizing relations with Israel, had repeatedly criticized such actions. Even Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, referred to normalizing relations with Israel as “betting on a losing horse” in a public speech.

The United States and Saudi Arabia, considered Iran’s main rivals in the Middle East, were negotiating a security pact, with Riyadh’s joining the Abraham Accords being part of it. The Abraham Accords were a roadmap initiated during President Trump’s administration to normalize relations between Arab countries and Israel, a path continued by President Biden.

The first result of the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel was that the fate of the Abraham Accords fell into uncertainty. Following this attack, Israel’s harsh response and ground invasion of Gaza, Arab countries found themselves in a position where they could not prioritize normalizing relations with Tel Aviv.

The Tehran regime, built on anti-Westernism and the destruction of Israel, prefers that Muslim countries’ relations with Israel remain in a stalemate and welcomes any minor or temporary disagreements in Western countries

On the other hand, the Iranian government is one of the main supporters of various terrorist groups, both small and large, in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and numerous paramilitary groups in Iraq and Syria.

Hamas and Hezbollah in the Role of Moscow and Tehran Soldiers

Although other players benefit from the continued turmoil in the Middle East, so far, the Tehran government, along with Moscow and Beijing, are the primary beneficiaries of the recent tensions in the region. Nevertheless, one should not forget the numerous terrorist groups in the Middle East.

On the other hand, the Iranian government is one of the main supporters of various terrorist groups, both small and large, in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and numerous paramilitary groups in Iraq and Syria.

Recently, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, stated that there are at least 70,000 armed personnel affiliated with terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad present in Gaza. Additionally, Hezbollah in Lebanon, considered the most influential paramilitary force in the Arab world, has over 100,000 armed personnel and possesses a massive arsenal of weapons.

 These groups, listed as terrorist organizations in most Western countries, including Canada and the United States, receive financial and arms support from the Iranian government. Multiple reports have confirmed leaders of these terrorist groups admitting to receiving money from Iran and having all their needs provided by Tehran.

Undoubtedly, many students wearing keffiyehs and chanting for the freedom of the Palestinian people have good intentions. However, many of them are unaware that the people of Gaza, in the first place, are held hostage by the terrorist group Hamas. A significant number of residents in this area have been killed for expressing dissent against this group. The result of student protests in Canadian and American universities is to support the continuation of these terrorist groups, which essentially means consenting to the suffering of oppressed people in Gaza. These individuals have been trapped for years in a narrow strip, surrounded by Israel and denied the right to leave. They are also held hostage by Hamas and other terrorist groups within, with no control over their own destiny.

Arash Yavari

Arash Yavari is a seasoned political analyst and writer with 24 years of experience in news and journalism in Persian language press inside and outside of Iran, specializing in the Middle East region. With a deep understanding of the complex political landscape, Arash has developed a expertise in crafting insightful articles and analyses on political issues related to Iran and the Middle East.

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