Activism / StudentNation / March 15, 2024

“You’re Not a Socialist if You’re Not Fighting for the Palestinian People”

Nearly 300 members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America met for its winter conference earlier this month to discuss and debate the organization’s strategy ahead of the 2024 election.

Zurie Pope
Democratic Socialists of America

Members of the Democratic Socialists of America march in New York City.

(Spencer Platt / Getty)

In early March, nearly 300 members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA)—the youth wing of the Democratic Socialists of America—met in the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center for the organization’s winter conference. 

“I don’t think I need to stress to this room the danger of a Trump presidency,” said Callynn Johnson, a 21-year-old student at the University of Central Florida, and member of YDSA’s National Coordinating Committee, while speaking in the hotel’s grand ballroom. But “the Democratic party continues to fail queer and trans folk, to fail the people of Palestine, and to fail the broader working class.” 

Johnson praised the University of Michigan YDSA for their support of the state’s Uncommitted Campaign, which led 101,000 people to vote for “uncommitted” in the 2024 state primary in protest of Biden, giving the movement two delegates at the DNC. “We’re hoping to continue to see that in all states that have uncommitted options in their primary elections,” they said. On the final day of the YDSA Conference, DSA officially endorsed the Uncommitted Campaign. “Until this administration ends its support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza and delivers a permanent, lasting ceasefire, Joe Biden will bear the responsibility for another Trump presidency,” the group posted on March 3. 

“We know that our two party system between the Democrats and Republicans does not work. We know that capital leaves any viable third party candidate out,” said Nat Leach, a student at the University of Michigan and a co-chair of their college’s YDSA chapter. “So, what are we left to do?” Leach’s chapter organized a rally in support of the Uncommitted Campaign, occupied administration buildings on campus, and worked with UMitch’s TAHRIR Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.

Israel’s siege on Gaza—which has killed around 30,000 civilians—loomed large in the minds of conference attendees. “We can’t liberate other people if part of humanity is being murdered for existing,” explained Matt Streitz, a 24 year old member of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities YDSA. “The entire United States government is complicit,” he said. “You’re not a socialist if you’re not fighting for the Palestinian people.”

Members of the Young Democratic Socialists of America gather for their winter conference in March 2024. (YDSA)

A Gallup poll conducted in February found that 58 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Israel—the lowest rating in over two decades. “Young adults show the biggest decline in ratings of Israel, dropping from 64% favorable among 18- to 34-year-olds in 2023 to 38%.”

Current Issue

Cover of April 2024 Issue

“Growing up in a post 9/11 world, and seeing the impacts of the American empire overseas, and now being in American late stage capitalism, where people need to work three jobs to pay rent in the city, we’re done, we’re tired, we see something is wrong and we’re not going to let it slide anymore,” said Leach.

Salem Khoury, a freshman at the University of Oregon, a second generation Palestinian American, spoke about living in a state of “grief, sadness, anger, and a lot of other complex emotions,” while watching the war in Gaza unfold, which “only fuels my intent on furthering the socialist agenda, which is liberating people from imperialism, anti-war, and militant propaganda. Ultimately, liberation comes from collective mindsets, and that’s a strong socialist perspective.” 

Along with their University of Oregon YDSA membership, Khoury helped restart their campus SJP chapter, which now has a weekly direct action. “We do protests, die-ins, rallies, we have political education seminars,” Khoury noted, adding that their chapter often connects Palestine with labor organizing and climate issues. “Palestine, and the liberation of Palestine, encompasses everything that we stand for as socialists.” 

Of course, no one in attendance was supportive of a Trump re-election in 2024, believing his ascent to the presidency would jeopardize advances in labor, abortion, and LGBTQ rights, while maintaining the current administration’s pro-Israel stance—or making it worse. “DSA ought to turn out the vote against Trump specifically,” said Marcus Gibbs, a 23- year-old member of Hunter College YDSA. “Trump would not only continue US support for this genocide, but would actively harm Palestinians here in the United States as well, and basically all minorities, as well as further eroding our democratic institutions.” Trump has promised to bar immigrants who “support Hamas,” from entering the U.S., and said he would send ICE officers to monitor “pro-jihadist demonstrations.” 

The Nation Weekly

Fridays. A weekly digest of the best of our coverage.
By signing up, you confirm that you are over the age of 16 and agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation’s journalism. You may unsubscribe or adjust your preferences at any time. You can read our Privacy Policy here.

“A Trump presidency, which is very likely at this point, would be a continuation of this active genocide, but also would stop things like the student worker movement dead in its tracks,” said Callynn Johnson. “A reversal of the NLRB precedent that has been set in the past few years would be absolutely devastating.” 

“Everyone behind him is terrifying,” said Khoury. “They are scarier than him. All the people who are a part of his party, who are part of his campaign, are some of the most corrupt, egregious, insane and fascist extremists I have ever seen, and their politics scare the shit out of me.” For that reason, Khoury stated, voting for Biden in the general election may not be morally unjustifiable. “It is our moral duty to accept the vote of Biden, given the fact that we have the most autonomy to push back against him, under him.”

Richie Floyd, a member of St. Petersburg Florida city council and Pinellas DSA, agreed with DSA’s endorsement of the Uncommitted Campaign, but felt its electoral efforts should also be focused elsewhere. “DSA should spend our time on local and state races, and building up a large stable of electeds, and as those electeds progress in their career, building strong relationships with them,” said Floyd. “We’re not a political party trying to win every race, we’re trying to perform our values and win in strategic places.” 

Speaking to the crowd of YDSA members in the Georgia Tech Hotel’s ballroom, Floyd reiterated how change is often gradual. “Building a better world does not happen overnight. It takes time diligently talking with thousands of working people you don’t see eye to eye with.” 

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Zurie Pope

Zurie Pope is a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism. His work has appeared in Youth Journalism International, Unpublished Magazine, and The News Record, the University of Cincinnati’s student newspaper.

More from The Nation

Putin Wants You!

Putin Wants You! Putin Wants You!

Michael R. Turner, chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said it was “absolutely true” that some Republican representatives are repeating Russian propagand...

OppArt / Colleen Quinn

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut Eyes Wide Shut

Split screen.

The Greater Quiet / Steve Brodner

The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University

Inside the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University Inside the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University

Hundreds of peaceful protesters began occupying the campus on Wednesday to demand that the university divest from Israel. The next day, the school sent in the NYPD to arrest them....

StudentNation / Lara-Nour Walton

Berkeley Law School

A Protest in Berkeley Escalated Into Antisemitism A Protest in Berkeley Escalated Into Antisemitism

Left Coast / March 15, 2024 “You’re Not a Socialist if You’re Not Fighting for the Palestinian People” Students have every right to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza. But doing…

Left Coast / Sasha Abramsky


Apartheid Apartheid


OppArt / André Carrilho

A protester at a vigil in Atlanta, Georgia, commemorating the life of environmental activist Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán on January 18, 2024. Tortuguita was killed by Georgia State Troopers a year before, on January 18, 2023, during a raid on a Stop Cop City encampment.

The Cop City Defendants Are Done Being Silent The Cop City Defendants Are Done Being Silent

Sixty-one people are facing RICO charges from the state of Georgia for their activism. Here’s what some of them have to say about their case.

Oliver Haug