Remembering a year of turmoil — 1968, by David W. Marshall

5/9/2024, 6 p.m.
The year of 1968 remains one of the most historic turning points in history. This single year was marked by …

The year of 1968 remains one of the most historic turning points in history. This single year was marked by historic achievements, assassinations and protests over a much-hated war.

It was a year which literally transformed the future of a nation. While young white students protested the Vietnam War, frustrated Black people protested racism and poverty at home. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn., unleashed a wave of violence, looting and arson in cities across the U.S.

Two months later, on the night of the California primary, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when he was shot by a young Jordanian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan. Born in Jerusalem, Mr. Sirhan later said he assassinated Sen. Kennedy out of concern for the Palestinian cause and felt betrayed by the senator’s support for Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967.

After Sen. Kennedy’s victory in the California primary, he was in reach of securing the Democratic presidential nomination.

One has to wonder what would have happened to the direction of our nation if Mr. Sirhan was not motivated by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Whether a person is a supporter of Israel or pro-Palestinian, the conflict between the two sides has a long and complex history of impacting our political landscape.

Universities have always been breeding grounds for political activism. Protests against the war in Gaza have now spread through American college campuses where students are now being arrested, suspended and setting up encampments in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

On Oct. 7, Hamas and several other Palestinian militant groups launched a surprise attack into southern Israel resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths and over 200 hostages in Israel. Hamas said its attack was in response to the

continued Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict will never be seen as a win-win scenario abroad or here in the U.S.

The current protests may not ever reach the magnitude of the student protests of the 1960s against the Vietnam War or the 1980s against South African

apartheid, but the level has risen to where they can impact the results of the 2024 U.S. presidential election — especially against the Biden campaign. President Biden has a problem now with Arab-American voters which was part of his winning coalition in 2020. If they decide to stay home, it is still a “protest vote” which supports the prospects of a Trump election.

The president has been steadfast in his support for Israel, but has repeatedly denounced the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

President Biden’s embrace of Israel is seen by some as a political liability. Others feel the president needs to be harder on Israel.

President Biden has received both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian backlash in recent weeks. It exemplifies the no-win reality leaders often face in politics.

The student-led protests on college campuses is not only about the long held dispute over an independent Palestinian state, it has now turned into a fight over the humanitarian crisis for Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. The biggest losers in this struggle are the civilians, Israeli and Palestinian. Hamas, the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip has used Palestinian civilians as human shields in conflicts with Israel since 2007.

Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza has resulted in the killing of more than 33,000 Palestinians and injuring more than 75,000 others. Some 1.7 million Palestinians, nearly 75% of the population, are estimated to be internally displaced and are vulnerable to hunger and disease.

For Israeli civilians, the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre was labeled the bloodiest day in Israel’s history and the deadliest for Jews since the Holocaust. Many of the 200 hostages still remain captive.

Any nation, including Israel, has the right to defend themselves.

But at what point does the oppressed become the oppressor?

The human dignity of an innocent civilian should always be defended. This is true if the person is American, Israeli or Palestinian.

When you take away the basic rights of human beings because of hatred, it simply perpetuates more hatred and mistrust. The depth of active hostility shown by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 is still alive in 2024.

Mr. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization,The Reconciled Body, and author of “God Bless Our Divided America.”