Israel, Gaza, and Social Unrest in America: Is There Any Hope?

By Shenalyn Page | Posted April 29, 2024

Surging student protests have rocked college campuses across the United States this past week. Demonstrators gathered to chant anti-war slogans and wave placards protesting Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the loss of civilian life. 

Though students claim they are exercising their right to free speech peacefully, violence and antisemitic rhetoric have often accompanied their protests.

Campus rallies in support of Gaza began almost immediately after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, 2023, but they intensified when Israeli security forces began armed retaliation. Connected by social media, students have been able to organize and form nationwide coalitions, such as the Students for Justice in Palestine.

The most recent wave of protests began at Columbia University in New York City on April 17. The timing was not coincidental. On the day the House Committee on Education and the Workforce was to grill university president Minouche Shafik about the growing antisemitism on campus, students created the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on the university lawn, setting up tents and declaring they would not budge until their demands were met.

The next day, Shafik asked police to clear the encampment. More than 100 protesters were arrested. Shafik stated that she requested police intervention because the protests had created a “harassing and intimidating environment” for many students. Almost immediately, however, other students took their place and set up the encampment again. 

It seems the arrests only added fuel to the fire. Rachel, a 19-year-old student, explained, “I think that was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back because students had already been feeling incredibly suppressed and censored by President Shafik.”

Demands and Crackdowns

Students across the USA and around the world say they are protesting what they believe is a “genocide.” According to some reports, Israel’s offensive has led to more than 34,000 civilian deaths, displaced 80 percent of the population, and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation. 

As part of their list of demands, students want universities to divest from companies doing business with Israel. “This is what we are here for—calling for an end to genocide and for Columbia to financially divest from the violent Zionist settler entity,” a student who identified as “W” told CNN. “We are putting our principles into action.”

Though students have been protesting since October, this recent push has garnered near-constant media coverage, partly due to the escalation of violence and the schools’ crackdowns. Increasingly, universities are calling on the police to disband the rallies. Hundreds of students have been arrested and suspended from school. 

University and government leaders have become increasingly willing to condemn the protests. U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia University on April 24, stating, “A growing number of students have chanted in support of terrorists. They have chased down Jewish students and mocked and reviled them. They have screamed at those who bear the Star of David.” 

He then told protestors to “go back to class and stop the nonsense” and mentioned that there is “an appropriate time to bring in the National Guard” if the unrest does not cease.

The Moral High Ground

Of course, each side believes it has the moral high ground. 

Student protestors feel that they are defending the thousands now suffering in Gaza. 

Others stand in support of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to defend their land.

For their part, university and government officials claim they are trying to quell the protests out of their concern for safety and the disruption of academic life. 

Early last week, media reported that an Israeli airstrike on Gaza fatally injured a woman named Sabreen al-Sakani al-Sheikh, who was 30 weeks pregnant. Doctors delivered the baby girl from her mother’s dying body. Sadly, tiny Sabreen Rouh, named after her mother, died just days after her birth. 

For a brief moment in the chaos, baby Sabreen shone as a flickering beacon of hope in a conflict with no end in sight. She serves as a reminder of another baby born two thousand years ago—just 45 miles from the Gaza Strip.

Jesus was born amid political, social, and religious strife, and though few recognized it at the time, His birth is the ultimate beacon of hope for this dark world. “Do not be afraid,” said the angel who announced His birth, “for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10, 11). 

Jesus—born a babe in Bethleham, hunted by Herod, raised in wicked Nazareth, surrounded by political turmoil, persecuted by religious leaders, betrayed by His friends, and finally crucified by the Romans—shows that God is with us in our suffering. He understands the anguish of oppression, humiliation, and rejection. He is “Immanuel … God with us” (Matthew 1:23). 

Justice Served

But Christ’s heart-rending cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46), also reveals God’s commitment to justice. Sin separates those who hold onto it from the Source of life. Justice requires that those who harm others through their sinful actions perish. 

Hung upon the cross, Jesus became “sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). He endured the horror of separation from God so that justice might be served and hope might be restored to His broken, hurting children around the globe, without regard to nationality.

This is the message of hope and justice that protestors and university officials, Palestinians and Jews, indeed, all of us, need to hear. To learn more about war and justice in the Bible, listen to this Bible Answers Live broadcast, in which Pastor Doug Batchelor answers the question, “Why did God allow the baby boys to be killed under Herod’s decree?” 

Shenalyn Page
Shenalyn Page is a homeschool mom and a writer for Amazing Facts International. She loves telling stories of God’s leading in people’s lives.

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