By Chris Walker / Truthout
Hundreds of academics from universities and institutions of higher learning (as well as public school K-12 teachers) from across North America have signed on to a joint letter, calling on their governments to demand an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza, where the Israel Defense Force (IDF) has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians since the start of October.
As of Sunday evening, the document has more than 1,200 signatures, available to view here. The signers, calling themselves “Educators for Palestine,” are Palestinian academics and their allies who denounce Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza, as well as governments complicit in the genocide, including the United States.
The letter calls for such governments to “stop funding the genocide and instead call for a ceasefire, an end to the blockade of humanitarian aid, and restoration of access to water, electricity, and medicine in Gaza.”
“We demand that all potential war crimes be investigated,” the academic letter-writers state. “We demand an end to Israel’s military occupation and regime of apartheid, and a long-term political solution led by the Palestinian people that is based on justice, equality, and responsibility for one another’s mutual well-being.”
“We believe education can be a powerful place for this work,” Educators for Palestine add.
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The letter also expresses deep concern over the ways that students and staff of universities are being silenced by their own institutions. “Forced silence through repression of dissent and retribution by powerful institutions against students, staff, and faculty have been the norm and must be loudly rejected,” the letter states, describing the actions to suppress dissent as “McCarthyian” in nature.
“In this historical moment, we reaffirm our commitments to interrogating the ways in which systems such as racism, ableism, settler colonialism, and imperialism are fundamentally intertwined with one another, both at home and abroad,” the letter adds.
Organizers of the letter spoke to Truthout about why it is critical for academics in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and beyond to speak out against the genocide in Gaza and the widespread suppression of dissent in academia.
“We watched in horror as the attacks on Gaza unfolded and wanted to say unequivocally that we reject this collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” the signatories told Truthout.
Organizers also condemned international governments and mainstream media for downplaying Israel’s killing of Palestinian children while using the killing of Israeli children by Hamas as justification for war crimes. The IDF has killed more than 4,500 children in Gaza since October 7.
“As both Palestinian educators and non-Palestinian educators in solidarity, we were particularly concerned with the framing of only one group of children as innocent and using their innocence as justification for war crimes,” the organizers of the letter said.
The organizers explained two sets of goals: one in the short-term and one for the longer-term.
“Our immediate goal is to speak out and bear witness as educators to the horrors that the Israeli state’s assault on Gaza has unleashed, once again, on Palestinian children and their families — horrors that our politicians are actively supporting, and that the institutions where many of us work (universities and schools) are steadfastly refusing to acknowledge,” they said. “Our long term goal is to build a stronger base for solidarity with Palestinians, understanding how the movement for justice in Palestine is essentially interwoven with the movements for justice for racialized and colonized peoples across the globe.”
The organizers of the letter told Truthout that academia was being used to further apartheid and genocide.
“[The] bombs being dropped on homes and schools and hospitals and bakeries in Gaza are often devised within our STEM classrooms and university departments,” they said, adding that the “words used to distort reality within our media, as well as the forms of truth-telling and poetry that assert Palestinian dignity and self-determination, are birthed in the spaces where our students learn to write.”
Chris Walker is a news writer at Truthout, and is based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Focusing on both national and local topics since the early 2000s, he has produced thousands of articles analyzing the issues of the day and their impact on the American people. He can be found on Twitter: @thatchriswalker