AN OPEN CALL TO FELLOW JEWISH ACADEMICS FROM JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE ACADEMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL

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May 19, 2024

As Jewish academics, researchers, and higher education professionals, we are appalled by, and refuse to accept, the deliberate mis-characterization, and weaponization of persisting fears about Jewish safety and well-being on campuses across the United States as the singular excuse for a series ofmisguided and dangerous policies by university administrators.

These include attempts to destroy one of the largest and most significant student and social movements of the last half century, efforts to crush academic freedom and freedom of expression, encouragement for brutal invasions of peaceful student-led encampments, attacks and arrests by police forces, and facilitating the wholesale takeover of universities by the most illiberal and revanchist forces in the United States today.

We emphatically declare, “Not in our name!” We refuse to allow our Judaism, Jewish heritage and well-being to be deployed as the singular excuse for contributing to the most serious threat in our lifetimes not only to higher education but to the very possibility of a vibrant public sphere in this country.

Rather than being challenged by University administrators based on the realities on our campuses, demonstrably false claims about threats to Jewish safety and well-being, propagated by so-called pro-Israel organizations and spread by mainstream media, have been uncritically accepted and then turned against students, faculty and community members alike as justification for violently dismantling encampments, arresting demonstrators, and implementing other punitive measures.

As Jewish academics, researchers, and higher education professionals, we strongly condemn this violent, punitive, and increasingly militarized approach to resolving conflicts on our campuses. While this wave of repression pales in comparison to the destruction by the Israeli military of Palestinian universities and its massive killing of scholars and students in Gaza, it nonetheless demands a strong response from those concerned with equity, education, and justice.

We unequivocally reject the cynical and mendacious claim that the violent suppression of student activism serves the cause of Jewish safety. We acknowledge that there have been some relatively rare instances of antisemitism within the Palestine and Gaza demonstrations and solidarity encampments that have been established on more than 150 college and university campuses. These do not define the protests, nor campus life.

We also recognize that such unfortunate moments have been far fewer in number than those of Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Arab attacks against the demonstrators, funded by Zionist organizations, including physical attacks perpetrated pro-Israel agitators.

More importantly, these rare cases of antisemitism have been overwhelmed by the solidarity, good will, and unity of purpose that have brought Palestinian and Jewish students and faculty together with so many others in order to demand peace and a changed role for the United States in the Middle East.

The violent and repressive response to the Palestine solidarity movement around the country must stop.

We call on our fellow Jewish academics and the Jewish community at large to recognize that this remarkable movement to stop a genocide being committed in our name has emerged not from some dangerous alien source but from our own children, siblings, parents, and friends. This movement – our movement – represents a living recommitment to social and international justice by our community and many others.

We pledge to support this movement most effectively by:

  • Fully supporting the student mobilization and its unified demands for institutional divestment from companies that contribute to and/or profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land; and from US military aid to Israel;
  • Supporting academic freedom, free speech, and freedom of assembly. Our goal should be to expand discussion and debate, not limit it and shut it down;
  • Continuing our education work about the meanings of antisemitism and their distinction from anti-Zionism;
  • Improving the curriculum at colleges and universities to ensure the conveyance of more fully accurate information and perspectives on the history of Palestine, racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, academic freedom, and other complicated but crucial topics;
  • Working with students and others to develop open and democratic organizational structures and promote non-violent mass actions from their campuses to their state and national capitals.

We further declare to fellow Jewish academics and community members that there is no more staying above the fray or remaining confusedly neutral in this conflict. This is an historic pivot point in Palestinian history, U.S. history, and Jewish history. If we are not actively engaged in stopping the violence and repression both in Palestine and in the United States, we are complicit in them.

We invite people of all faiths and heritages to join the Palestine solidarity movement in the full commitment for freedom and equality for everyone between the river and the sea — and indeed, between every river and every sea as the world enters an ever more perilous era.

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