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Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion letters

LETTER: An open letter from IU Academics for Justice in Palestine

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Editor’s note: Indiana University Academics for Justice in Palestine is a member of the Faculty for Justice in Palestine Network. The names of the faculty who have signed have been kept anonymous due to concerns over job safety and censure. 

We write to announce the formation of Indiana University Academics for Justice in Palestine, a collective of those who support the teaching mission of Indiana University, including faculty, lecturers, staff and graduate employees. We have constituted ourselves in solidarity with the ongoing and urgent struggles of Palestinians resisting occupation, warfare and displacement. 

By organizing together we aim to speak and associate freely on matters related to Palestine, to support and amplify the work of student groups at IU, and to network in coalition with national and regional organizations committed to peace and justice in Palestine and Israel, in particular as a member of the new Faculty for Justice in Palestine network, which includes chapters at Harvard, the University of Michigan, NYU, Princeton, Penn and UCLA. 

The urgency of organizing such a group comes from two directions. 

On the one hand, Palestinians have endured over 75 years of dispossession and what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé calls "ethnic cleansing" at the hands of the Israeli state, leading mainstream human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (in 2021) and Amnesty International (in 2022) to refer to Israel as an "apartheid" state. 

Last November, UN experts already warned that the ongoing onslaught on Gaza constituted "genocide in the making." Two months later, with no letup to the aggression, the International Court of Justice, responding to South Africa's case charging Israel with violation of the Genocide Convention, has made provisional demands on Israel that, according to the Jerusalem Post, represent a "harsh diplomatic blow for Israel" and give South Africa's claim "tacit legitimacy."  

To cite just two measures of the scale of the violence, in the space of four months and in an area smaller than Monroe County, a bombing campaign called “the most destructive of this century” has killed more children than were killed in all of the world's conflicts between 2020 and 2022. And by January 20 the bombings had also systematically destroyed all of Gaza's universities, killing 94 university professors, along with hundreds of teachers in the process. 

At the same time, the longstanding U.S. military, economic and moral support for Israel remains firm, with 72% of the Senate on January 16 voting against a measure that would have the U.S. government simply investigate whether its aid to Israel is being used to carry out human rights abuses and with the Biden administration choosing to bypass congressional oversight in its weapons shipments.  

We feel that this moment is comparable to others in history — the rise of German fascism in the 1930s, the debate over slavery in the U.S., the U.S. war in Vietnam — when people of good conscience must speak out, especially those of us affiliated with a university that touts its long-standing "commitment to global engagement." 

On the other hand, just when the need to discuss what is unfolding in Palestine is greatest, what we are seeing on our campus is blatant attempts to prevent such discussion. By now, everyone should be aware of IU President Pamela Whitten's vacuous or one-sided statements, the attempt to prevent a prominent critic of Israel from speaking on campus, the suspension of one of our colleagues over a trumped-up minor technicality that is in violation of clear university and campus policies and the cancellation of an exhibit by a pro-Palestinian artist and IU alumna.  

IU is in the national news — for example, in the New York Times, on Democracy Now and in the Chronicle of Higher Education — not for its academic achievements but for the silencing of voices calling for justice in Palestine, for an administration that might as well be working directly for the Israeli lobby. 

While the IU administration is certainly out of touch with the faculty and students, its actions are consistent with efforts from outside the university to stifle debate, most often framed as attempts to identify or punish "antisemitism." The most blatant and outrageous of these was the well-publicized letter of Congressman Jim Banks sent to President Whitten. Banks, founder of the Congressional "anti-woke caucus," threatened loss of federal funding for "condon[ing] or tolerat[ing] campus antisemitism." Two bills before the Indiana General Assembly, H.B. 1002 and H.B. 1224, take a similar tack. And at the federal level, the House of Representatives continues to demand that universities survey and punish speech that centers justice for Palestinians. 

Stifling criticism of Israel and deflecting attention from the campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people by conflating criticism of Israeli policies with antisemitism is an old tactic. In fact, as Judith Butler has argued, it is rather the attempt to "conflate Jews with Israel" that constitutes "an antisemitic reduction of Jewishness." IUAJP stands against racism and chauvinism in all their manifestations, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. 

IUAJP's specific short-term goals include organizing opposition to H.B. 1002 in the Indiana Senate, support for the creation of an IU Muslim Cultural Center and inviting a prominent anti-Zionist academic such as Norman Finkelstein or Rashid Khalidi to IU as a Patten Lecturer. 

More generally, we call on all IU faculty to uphold academic responsibility in their actions and decisions. We call on this administration and the Board of Trustees to uphold the principles of shared governance and academic freedom for all in our community. In the absence of institutional support, we will work to ensure the safety of all members of our campus community who stand in solidarity with movements for Palestinian justice. We will advocate for colleagues who fear discriminatory actions when they exercise their right to open expression as they speak for justice in Palestine. In doing so and in alliance with other groups that share our principles, we will renew our community and strengthen our commitment to the exchange of ideas and scholarship, which we understand to be the foundation of IU, and to the maintenance of the intellectually rich and diverse international community, which we take to be one of IU's most powerful legacies. 

To contact IUAJP, email us at iuajp@proton.me. 

This letter has been signed by 20 members of the IU faculty. 

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