Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Advisory Council Stands with Palestine Writes Festival



Media Contact: Sonya E Meyerson-Knox | | 929-290-0317 

September 20, 2023

Dear University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, Provost John Jackson, and School of Arts and Sciences Dean Steven Fluharty:

We, the Academic Advisory Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, are a group of many Jewish Studies Scholars as well as other Jewish and non-Jewish academics who support Palestinian rights and oppose Israel’s illegal occupation and Israeli military rule over Palestinians. We write to condemn your acceptance without evidence that the upcoming Palestine Writes Literature Festival will foster antisemitism. The University of Pennsylvania Hillel students, as well as the Jewish Federation and the Anti-Defamation League who complained to you about the festival, conflate antisemitism with criticism of Israel and of Zionism. Their goal is to silence speech about Palestinians, period. Their goal is to silence any and all criticism of Israel. Their conflation of antisemitism with speech about Palestinian lives has the dangerous effect of obscuring the true sources of antisemitism. In the United States, the true source of the current rise in antisemitism is white nationalism.

For a university administration to silence speech goes against the tenets of academic freedom. Despite your statement that the University of Pennsylvania “support[s] the free exchange of ideas as central to our educational mission,” your condemnation of the festival betrays the fact that you have caved in to those who want you to silence speech they disagree with. The conflation of criticism of Israel and Zionism with antisemitism is false and is used to attack academic freedom, as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has clearly articulated. For you to oppose speech by and about Palestinian lives displays a one-sided view of the situation in Palestine/Israel. Instead, your university should show true support for freedom of speech, including dialogue and debate on issues people disagree about.

Your statement is, in effect, an attack on Palestinians and defames their efforts to provide intellectual and cultural sustenance to the Palestinian community, including your Palestinian students. The Palestine Writes Literature Festival is an event meant to empower the Palestinian community, to demonstrate the rich heritage and accomplishments of Palestinians through history. This event includes Palestinian students on your campus. What are you doing to provide support for those students, who are now facing false accusations of antisemitism? 

We urge you to retract your false and libelous accusation against the Palestine Writes Festival and demonstrate true support for academic freedom. Yours, on behalf of the Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Advisory Council,

Lisa Rofel, Professor Emerita, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

Dr. Beney Blend, Central New Mexico Community College

Professor Mark LeVine, History Department, Director, Program in the Global Middle East Studies, University of California, Irvine

Rosalind Petchesky, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Political Science, Hunter College & the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Lawrence Davidson, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, West Chester University

Bernadette J. Brooten, Kraft-Hiatt Professor Emerita of Christian Studies and of Women’s and Gender Studies, Brandeis University

Alan Meyers, MD (U of Penn ’76), MPH, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine

Orian Zakai, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Literature and Culture, The George Washington University

Mary N. Layoun, Emerita Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Charles Manekin, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, University of Maryland

Irena Klepfisz, Retired, Women and Gender Studies, Barnard College

Michael Drexler, Professor of English, Bucknell University

Cynthia Franklin, Professor, Department of English, University of Hawai’i


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