Photo’s source:; A state trooper pepper sprays pro-Palestinian protesters, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, after police vehicles were blocked at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, US April 29, 2024. Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA Today.


What more can one do for the dead or alive Palestinians in the peaceful and democratic society from the United States (US) than protesting, should one consider the Israeli operation the Gaza Strip unjust? Since 1948, there were many events concerning Palestinians that led to protests around the world, but probably none of them received so much coverage in Western media. Certainly, media has evolved significantly, but even back-scaled, probably there has not been any similar event on the territory of Israel’s best ally at such a decisive time point. Or so it appears.

The question whether these protests manufacture more consent, or dissent, of any kind, is probably impossible to answer. At a minimum, these protests are real events. They also have the potential to distract public focus from developments in the Gaza Strip, Ukraine, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, to name just a few international pressing issues. At least for a few more days, until the next media earthquake / shock will replace this one. A stimulus to continue following this storyline was the news that these protests have been allegedly funded by organizations like Open Societies Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Irrespective what the Western, Eastern, or any other media outlet chooses to report from this developing situation, it definitely took the center stage. This article briefly summarizes reports on dubbed “pro-Palestinian” protests in the US, analyzes the funding claims and possible implications of distracting attention from the potentially Palestinian existential problem posed by Israel’s recent mission in the Gaza Strip.

The Gaza War and latest related developments in brief

The expansion of this conflict beyond the borders of Gaza Strip or the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory is undoubtable. It is not only the latest round of confrontations between Israel and Iran that confirms this hypothesis, but the frequency of encounters between Israelis and Hezbollah also increased. The Yemeni Houthis appear to have normalized their incursions in the Red Sea and attacks on ships they consider targets, and groups from Iraq and Syria are reportedly continuing to attack various targets from the region.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is intensely visiting regional countries, but rather to discuss normalization of relations between Israel, essentially Saudi Arabia. US signals towards international community are, despite any dissimulation, in support of Israel and most of its actions. Among these, one can mention the warning towards International Criminal Court to (re) consider issuing arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials that made decisions related to Gaza war (Jacobs, Nardelli, & Wickham, 2024).

Censorship related to the war or Palestinians becomes more visible. While search engines can hardly find a Western mainstream media report on Jamaica’s recognition of Palestine, as if this did not happen or was not significant, news emerged on the well-known publication New York Times censoring the use of words like “Palestine” or “genocide.” Susan Wessling and Philip Pan allegedly asked newspaper’s staff to consider a guideline in this sense (TBS Report, 2024).

As negotiations carry on multiple channels and Qatar appears to back off due to pressure, the US attempts to sell the story of its pear near Gaza to the global public through various arguments (Baldor, 2024). Similarly, the suggestion of United Kingdom (UK) troops (military personnel) participation in aid delivery into Gaza along US counterparts has received mixed reactions: while the necessity of an American-British mission, again without UN mandate, has not been justified and the operation is carried more or less in a clandestine manner, the deployment of British troops on Palestinian soil (Landale, 2024) can also bring back an-Nakba memories. Instead of acting responsibly as global leaders, i.e., to maintain peace around the world together with their United Nations Security Council (UNSC) colleagues, these two nuclear and military powers pretend to support Palestine in a humanitarian manner as if this was their main role on the world stage. Hence, while displaying a humanitarian justification, the allies’ risk to pose, again, as invading forces.

Reports hinting at US sanctions on certain Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), or other sanctions against aggressive settlers have recently emerged. While they appear to be steps on the justice path, these measures and associated media reports also buy time for Israel to continue acting in a relatively unhindered manner.

Protests and backers: the dominant recent news

The news on Ukraine and Gaza wars appears to have been recently overtaken by reports of protests at US university campuses. These protests have been labeled as “pro-Palestinian,” “anti-Israel” (Durden, 2024) or “Israel-hating” (Vincent, 2024). Without entering into details on terminology, it must be mentioned that these protests potentially share characteristics with other uprisings: they became mainstream extremely fast, spread throughout the US and apparently beyond its borders, hence international (El Chamaa & Suliman, 2024), and apparently their backers were funded by a civil liberties-related center of power. In late April 2024, a series of debates and protests related to the Israeli war in Gaza spread across university campuses in the US, igniting tensions, rising concerns related to freedom of speech and hate speech. But not the protests themselves made mainstream media headlines, it was the reaction of authorities that resorted to arrests (FitzGerald & Debusmann Jr, 2024) among other means to disperse the sit-ins. Columbia University, Yale, New York University, University of California at Berkely, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Michigan were mentioned among others as centers of protest by previously cited article.

Surprisingly or not, mainstream media outlets were quick in connecting these protests with financing from American billionaires. The Wall Street Journal was reporting on April 26th, 2024: “Rockefeller and Soros grants are subsidizing those who disrupt college campuses” (Stoll, 2024). Both this article and the New York Post article cited above (Vincent, 2024) name Malak Afaneh and Craig Birckhead-Morton and Nidaa Lafi as top figures involved in the protests. Vincent explains that Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) are funded by billionaire George Soros, detailing that USCPR pays fellows to organize protests. The article claims that USCPR received $ 335’000 in funding from Rockefeller Brothers fund since 2019 and $ 300’000 from Open Society Foundations since 2017.

Should this have been the first instance when George Soros is accused of financing groups that are allegedly “against Israel”, this would have been indeed a surprise. On October 30, 2023, the Jewish News Syndicate published an article claiming that George Soros “funneled” $ 15 million to groups that organized “pro-Hamas” protests (Jewish News Syndicate, 2023). The article explains that the vehicle employed to move the funds was Tides Center (as investigated by the New York Post), which donated to Adalah Justice Project, Desis Rising Up and Moving, Arab American Association of New York, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and If Not Now. The article refers to a discussion Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of “The Soros Agenda”, in which he reportedly cites US Ambassador to Israel saying that George Soros did the most “damage” to Israel, funding “anti-Israel” organizations like New Israel Fund, among other entities.

The newspaper mentions that no reply has been received from representatives contacted. However, approximately a week later – on December 7th, 2023, Open Society Foundations publishes a fact sheet on its website (Open Society Foundations, 2023). The organization explains that it has been active in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1999 and focused on “…rights of minorities in Israel, the rights of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and efforts toward reaching a peaceful solution to the conflict” (Open Society Foundations, 2023). In the Occupied Territories, the groups supported, i.e., financed, are advocating for human rights and reporting “Israeli abuses,” accountability, define university programs, and towards upholding women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, preventing disinformation among others.

This report suggests that it does not support Hamas and some of the financed groups have different views. There is a clear message, either subliminal or stated, in consulted articles that George Soros or other sponsors of groups acting in Palestinian Occupied Territory, or outside, may be “anti-Israel”. However, the evidence provided does not indicate in a deterministic manner that this would be indeed the case. Considering the plurality of political voices within Israel and among its supporters, a difference of opinions cannot be excluded, and this difference is probably not related to Israel, its existence, but rather the way it treats certain issues. As his detractors accuse Mr. Soros of being “anti-Israel,” he has the option to reply that his stance can secure Israel’s future in a better manner., hence any stance can be a matter of debate. Furthermore, should one consider the Jewish population living outside Israel, the matter of taking stances related to developments in the Gaza Strip becomes even more complex.

Potential further stakes related to “pro-Palestinian” protests

In early December, a series of hearings in the US Congress with leaders of Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and MIT resulted in two resignations (exception was MIT head). In the wake of October 7th, the university education appears to have come under political pressure to support or protect Israel more. This may have at least two reasons: antisemitic and islamophobia had been on the rise, and Gaza war had a relatively high potential to further aggravate divide and hate speech.

After signing legislation to prevent anti-Asian hate crimes in 2021, in the wake of Covid pandemic (Niedzwiadek, 2021), the White House announced in 2023 that Biden-Harris administration released the first ever national strategy to counter antisemitism (The White House, 2023). Approximately in the same period, a group of republicans introduced legislation proposal “Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act” (Kornbluh, 2023) and debates on the definition of antisemitism (Rosenfeld, 2023) to be adopted officially in the context of mentioned White House strategy. In a broader context, the European Parliament also announced at the beginning of 2024 that it aims to criminalize hate speech and crimes at EU level (Klosidis, 2024). Therefore, the stakes can become relatively for a wider community and Jews outside Israel as well, despite the disputes related to definitions on antisemitism in the US and the legal implications that this may have.

The latest World Economic Forum (WEF) session from Riyadh aimed to further improve global collaboration, but also ties between (US) businesses and a Saudi Arabia that invests immense funds in migrating from an oil-based economy. Manufacturing protests might resonate with a non-biased approach towards a sensible regional problem. A potential deal with the Saudis, which would entail normalization of ties with Israel and, as Saudis mention, a two-state solution, has the potential to provide business opportunities for American corporations that face increases challenges from Chinese competition.

Finally, Israel faces an increasing regional opposition. Besides the Iranian-inspired “opposition,” Türkiye has recently announced it is seeking to join South Africa in the case against Israel at ICJ. Should the US or its prominent figures seek to defend Israel in various contexts, a certain distancing from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decisions might just achieve that.


This article analyzed latest developments from the Gaza Strip and the increasingly popular media reports on recent “pro-Palestinian” protests especially in the US. The results of this research indicate that even if these were “manufactured” through donations from American billionaires, it is difficult to establish why did they erupt precisely at the end of April 2024. Likewise, it is difficult to establish if they are really “anti-Israel,” as various reports suggest. Furthermore, associating billionaires that fund organizations allegedly organizing these protests with assumed “anti-Israel” stances may be relatively controversial. The most sensible aspect of such discussions are the attempts to generalize views and place them along other ones, based on assumed similarities. The article provides examples of indirectly related developments in the US, Europe, and Middle East, that might be influenced by both protests and their outcomes and the evolution of Gaza conflict.

Academic freedom in the US appears to intersect political purposes in recent months. Although this development may impact academic results, it may be part of a larger push to politicize various aspects of societal and economic life that brings both results and potentially long-term risks. However, the protests come at a time when the world expects the US to play its superpower role and demonstrate that it is able to defend peace and freedoms alike. The contradictory nature US posing on one hand as an aid supplier for the Palestinians and on the other hand as an undeterred Israeli ally becomes more difficult to manage, but that part of America that might have manufactured protests has more chances to manufacture consent, should a broader regional deal be achieved and all involved parts will accept reasonable resolution terms.



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About the author:

Prof. Ecaterina MATOI

Prof. Ecaterina MATOI is the Program Director at MEPEI.

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