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Op-eds, Opinions

Palestine Solidarity Caucus: Brown can no longer be ‘progressive except for Palestine’

By
Op-ed Contributor
Tuesday, August 3, 2021

On May 15, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus first shared Brown Community’s Letter of Solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, which condemns the May 2021 escalations in Israeli state and settler-mob violence against Palestinians across historic Palestine. In that period, Israel forcibly dispossessed families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, conducted a violent military assault on civilians and infrastructure in Gaza, attacked Palestinian Muslim worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan and Palestinian Christian worshippers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Easter eve and wielded joint settler-mob and police violence against Palestinian citizens in Israel — all situated within the context of the ongoing Nakba (“catastrophe”).

In support of Palestinian liberation, the letter calls on the Brown community to take action at the individual and institutional levels. Since May 15, the letter has garnered over one thousand signatures from faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, staff and alumni. The large number of signatories signals strong campus-wide support for divestment from corporations profiting from Israeli apartheid, war crimes and human rights violations.

The letter echoes the demands of the successful 2019 student referendum on divestment and the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices recommendation for divestment, which was delivered to President Christina Paxson P’19 in January 2020. Paxson deemed this report — and a subsequent revision — inadequate. But in light of the current circumstances of accelerated violence against Palestinians by the Israeli settler-colonial apartheid regime, the case for divestment must be reopened. More than a thousand university workers, students, and members of the intellectual community on campus join us in refusing complicity with an institution that actively supports the occupation of Palestine and the subjugation, dehumanization and traumatization of Palestinians. This refusal is particularly important in the context of U.S. support for Israel, in the form of nearly $4 billion in annual military aid, ideological cover for an apartheid regime that serves its imperial interests in the region and recurrent vetoes of international resolutions condemning Israel’s human rights violations. The situation in Palestine demands the Brown community’s sustained attention and action.

During the 11-day Israeli military assault on Gaza in May, at least 256 Palestinians were killed. The Israeli state targeted and pulverized residential buildings, schools, bookshops, media offices, vital infrastructure and medical facilities in Gaza amid the global pandemic. After a so-called ceasefire was reached on May 24, Palestinians did not have a second to catch their breath or begin to grieve in the wake of immense racialized violence and repeated military bombardments resulting in the annihilation of entire family lines. Mere hours after the ceasefire announcement, Israeli soldiers stormed Al Aqsa Mosque again. They attacked Palestinians with tear gas and stun grenades, injuring at least 20 people. In recent weeks, several Palestinian youth have been murdered by occupation forces at protests and killed while passing through the checkpoints they are forced to cross daily in the occupied West Bank. Between May 9 and June 10, the Israeli police arrested over 2,000 Palestinians —  including resident activists Muna El Kurd and her brother Mohammed El Kurd of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood —  in retaliation for the protests that took place across the country.

Where is the outcry from the Brown University leadership? Not only has Brown failed to divest, but Paxson’s statements have been disappointingly brief and insufficient. The administration has not supported its Palestinian students.

In the recent statement “Addressing anti-Semitic Violence,” Paxson denounced the “sharp increase in violence and intimidation against Jewish people” in the United States. The statement, while a welcome affirmation of support for Jewish students and community members, is unfortunately brief and vague. As stated in our May 15 letter, we stand against anti-Semitism at Brown and everywhere in the world. The struggle against Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid is an issue of justice, freedom and equality, and we have been joined by countless Jewish friends, comrades, and organizations who vehemently oppose the notion that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic.

Indeed, there have been condemnable anti-Semitic assaults in the past couple months. However, the “sharp increase” in anti-Semitism that Paxson cited reflects a conflation of that anti-Zionist speech and action with anti-Semitism. Mari Cohen in Jewish Currents has shown that the large increase in anti-Semitic violence mentioned by Paxson and reported by U.S. media relies on a single Anti-Defamation League report. That report summarizes the findings of the ADL hate-tracker, the methodology of which is highly questionable. Furthermore, Cohen shows that despite the ADL directly connecting the “uptick” in anti-Semitic violence in the United States to May 2021 violence in Israel and Palestine, only seven of the 43 reported incidents in May were connected to what had been happening across historic Palestine. Most of the tracked incidents were in fact instigated by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. That these deceitful conflations come at a time of unprecedented mobilization in defense of Palestinian life is not a coincidence. Such deflections not only castigate Palestine solidarity actions and silence criticisms of Israeli apartheid, but also obscure the violent white supremacist origins of such attacks, as also evidenced in Canada.

Furthermore, Paxson’s statement raises the question of whether the University is really prepared to carry out its duties of care to all students equally. The University repeatedly assures us of its commitment to confront “anti-Black racism, anti-Asian violence, Islamophobia, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, policies harming undocumented/DACA individuals and immigrants and other forms of discrimination and hate.” But where was Paxson’s statement supporting Palestinian students, who for 11 days watched their homes and neighborhoods crumble? Who for 11 days feared for their loved ones in mortal danger or watched their loved ones die from the non-stop violence meted out by the Israeli state and settlers? Where is the administration’s statement supporting the same students whose families, friends and neighbors are still in the grip of terror in the wake of the so-called ceasefire? Where is the statement offering resources and refuge from threats of racial and sexual violence — like those made against the all-women staff of a Palestinian community center in New Jersey — against Palestinians, including diasporic Palestinians in the United States? 

Palestinian members of the Brown community, along with our allies who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian right to life, resistance, liberation and return, have felt  abandoned — unheard at best, and censored and intimidated at worst. In this lacuna of support, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus has formed among grad workers at Brown. As unionized workers, we assert our right to have a say in our workplace and defend all grad workers against racism, discrimination and harassment. We uphold our responsibility to take a stand against the exploitation and oppression of the Palestinian community both on and off campus. The Graduate Labor Organization has asserted its unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause on several occasions. In concert with GLO and other labor organizations, the Palestine Solidarity Caucus reaffirms that the movement for Palestinian liberation is an anti-racist and feminist workplace issue, and requires the solidarity of workers everywhere.

Brown University administration’s progressive except for Palestine stance is not only unacceptable, but deplorable. There are clear indications that the Brown community feels strongly in its commitment toward Palestinian liberation. Divesting from companies complicit in the “social harms” of Israeli apartheid and supporting Palestinian students are the bare minimum that one should expect from Brown University.

This op-ed was written collectively by members of the Palestine Solidarity Caucus. The op-ed is attributed to the caucus as a whole rather than individual contributors due to safety and mobility concerns. The Palestine Solidarity Caucus can be reached at palestinesolidaritycaucus@gmail.com. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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  1. No mention of the many rockets launched at Israel, killing civilians and property. Not a word about how that contributed to conflict and bloodshed.

    But also the denial that antisemitism is on the rise, that really is over the top.

    Can anyone publish selective facts and distortions in the Herald anonymously?

  2. BDS_boss_babe says:

    Says the anonymous and noble defender of settler property.

    • somemorefacts says:

      So far, 10 people have been killed in Israel, most from rocket fire. This includes a soldier, a 5-year-old boy and two people who died from injuries sustained while running for cover. Paramedics say at least 106 people suffered shrapnel and blast wounds.

      In Gaza, at least 212 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, including 61 children and 36 women, with more than 1,400 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

      These statistics are bad on both sides. You can vilify only one side in your article, but that does not change the facts.

  3. Aice Lemos says:

    Its’ called ISRAEL – get used to it; it is our historical home; we are the indigenous people. Nice to see that Jew-hate is alive and well at Brown. I will never donate to Brown as long as this hatred of Jews – in the form of anti-Zionism – is allowed to fester.

    • We don’t want your blood money

      • So is it with anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism, and for that matter, “criticism of Israel,” three separate concepts which sometimes overlap in making use of the anti-Semite’s triangle of blood, conspiracy, and money. It’s common to hear anti-Zionist rhetoric about Israel the murderous, child-killing enterprise (blood), or to hear anti-Zionists talk about how Jewish concerns over anti-Semitism aren’t genuine but rather a fake ploy to silence critics (conspiracy), and that these efforts are buttressed by wealthy lobbyists whose Benjamins hold the media and the establishment financially hostage (money).

    • Yony Avekian says:

      isn’t it other people’s ancestral home as well? isn’t that the central, irreconcilable problem?

    • the word “indigenous” is problematic in this context

  4. The whole notion of Zionism being “settler colonialism” is a product of propaganda by the late, unlamented, antisemitic USSR, which used antisemitic propaganda both for domestic consumption and to try to win the allegiance of the Arab “street” during the Cold War. The international far left, as usual, adopted the Soviet line, and it’s now being repeated consciously or unconsciously by subsequent generations, and finds a special welcome among Arab and Muslim students on US campuses, who come from cultures where antisemitism is normative. If you think all nationalism is racism, good for you. If you think only Jewish nationalism is condemnation-worthy, and in the same breath you are trumpeting Palestinian nationalism, you are at least mimicking antisemitic propaganda, and you are well on the road to being an antisemite, if you aren’t already.

  5. All in for freedom says:

    Amazing how much pro zionist talking points just pops up. We literally just want Palestinians to live a free and liberated life, instead of facing state violence from Israel. Why is that such a hard ask?

    • Never True says:

      Because a fair amount of the “Palestinian” population believes that “a free and liberated life” means a middle east free and liberated from all Jewish life. Maybe cut it out with the ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ sloganeering and see how that works out. Why is that such a hard ask?

  6. Brown alum says:

    Thank you for this well-reasoned and clearly-argued piece. Brown can and should do better, as students, faculty, and staff have shown the necessity of supporting Palestine and the undergraduates voted overwhelmingly in favor if divesting from Israel in 2019. Sending strength to the Palestine Solidarity Caucus, you’re doing incredible work and you have supporters far and wide at Brown and beyond.

  7. Really happy to see this important op-ed! Thanks Brown Daily Herald for your courage in publishing an often censored view. Sad to see some of the intimidating comments a few people have submitted in response, but not surprising.

  8. Free Palestine from Israeli oppression and tyranny.

  9. So the authors don’t want us to trust incidents of Anti-Semitism reported by the ADL but characterize the events of May 2021 using the reporting of Al-Jazeera, an organization that carries water for the terrorist PLO through anti-Semitic propaganda, including Holocaust Denial and every other anti-Jew stereotype in history. And they expect us to separate their claims from Jew hatred. Ugly stuff indeed.

  10. This article…lmao

  11. This article…lmao ….

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  20. wow everybody hates each other

    yikes

    what a sad world we live in

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