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Warzer MA’22 GS, Goldman GS, Gitlis GS: For Jewish workers, divestment and organized labor go hand in hand

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was signed by multiple graduate students. The full list of signatories is presented at the end of this op-ed. 

As Jewish graduate workers, we believe it is imperative that labor unions like the Graduate Labor Organization advocate for divestment from companies that participate in and profit from the genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian territory. Labor unions are inherently political organizations that represent the interests of their workers. As an anti-racist and feminist labor union, GLO should be committed to solidarity with oppressed peoples everywhere, and join the multiracial, international, popular solidarity movement with Palestine. GLO is right to stand alongside comrades in the labor movement like 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the country, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and many others that have called for a ceasefire, along with the Google and Amazon workers who oppose Project Nimbus, a contract to provide technology to the Israeli military and government, which would be used for “further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians,” the workers wrote. 

In 2021, grad workers at Brown voted on a divestment referendum called by GLO’s Palestine Solidarity Caucus. Eighty-seven percent of GLO voters supported divesting the University’s endowment from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine. Unions like GLO are formed so that we, as workers, have a say in our workplace. We deserve to have a say on Brown’s use of the wealth generated from our labor. And grad workers overwhelmingly say: Divest.

It is especially important that we, Jewish workers, raise our voices in solidarity with Palestinians. We join a living history of Jewish labor movements that have long insisted on the radical potential of living in diaspora, working in coalitions and organizing in opposition to state-based nationalism. We echo Jews for Ceasefire Now, who so beautifully articulated their Jewish identity as one rooted in solidarity instead of fear. As long as there has been Zionism, there has been anti-Zionism, realized in a diverse global movement of Jewish communities, activists, rabbis, students and scholars who reject the Zionist narrative of what it means to be Jewish. We uphold this integral spiritual and political work within the tradition that we love, and in direct opposition to the ways that we’ve seen Jewishness weaponized. This work guides our refusal of the University’s attempts to pit Jewish students and our safety against the safety and demands of our Palestinian and Arab classmates and comrades. 


Recently, we witnessed antisemitic threats at Brown RISD Hillel that attest to the ongoing reality of antisemitism as a tool of terror and intimidation. Our resistance to antisemitism, a racist and violent ideology, must be dedicated to undoing racial hierarchy, colonialism and white supremacy in their many shifting forms. We understand modern Zionism to be a part of such a racist ideology: a project that attempts to confine Jewish existence to a single nation-state by erasing our myriad histories of diaspora and dissent. The Zionist project perverts the protection of Jewish life into an instrument of oppression and colonialism. 

We demand to be heard when we insist that the equation of Jewishness with unequivocal support for Israel, and the conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism, are fallacies that infringe upon our self-determination as Jews and our safety on this campus, in this country and in the world at large. Divestment campaigns and coalitions are not antisemitic. We refuse to allow such accusations to be used as a smokescreen with which individuals and institutions can silence dissent and continue their active investment in the ethnic cleansing of Gaza.

Jews in the United States have dynamic and complex histories of racialization. We, a diverse group of Jews, continue to grapple with the privileges many American Ashkenazi Jews attain through whiteness. Despite white supremacy’s inherent anti-Jewishness, we find that systemic efforts to set antisemitism apart from and over other forms of racism uphold and reproduce white supremacy. These efforts are clear when Jewish lives are valued over Palestinian lives.

Adrienne Rich writes, “We can’t wait to speak until we are perfectly clear and righteous. There is no purity and, in our lifetimes, no end to this process.” We know enough to speak out against the ongoing genocide in Gaza, even if everything we have to say is imperfect. 

The Brown community has witnessed incredible acts of solidarity with Palestine, recently led by our brave undergraduate hunger strikers. As GLO joins the coalition for divestment at Brown, we invite our co-workers, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, to join us in calling for Brown’s divestment from companies profiting from the ongoing genocide in Gaza — a call that should be taken up by all who stand in solidarity with the labor movement. Brown’s divestment is possible and necessary: an actionable step towards the liberation of Palestine and oppressed peoples everywhere.  

Signatories: Beckett Warzer MA’22 GS, Zohar Gitlis GS, Max Chervin Bridge GS, Jacob Sokolov MA’21 GS, Matthew Kateb Goldman GS, Emily Mitamura, Postdoctoral Fellow, Benjamin Rosenberg GS, Celia Stern GS, Jess Feldman MA’18 GS, Harley Elias GS, Lucy Onderwyzer Gold GS


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