We are writing to you to urge you to consider coming out to support the passing of a resolution on Palestine at UMass’ Student Government’s meeting, Wednesday March 4th in Campus Center room 163C at 7pm. The Campus Antiwar Network is introducing three enactments during this meeting.
The first is an enactment demanding that the administration be transparent about its budget and endowment processes. The second is an enactment on twinning UMass Amherst with Birzeit University, a university in the West Bank, in solidarity with Palestinian students who face extreme hardship in exercising their right to education, in an ongoing occupation, with checkpoints, limits on free speech, missile attacks on the university and lack of funds. The third enactment is on the need to divest from war profiteer corporations that participate in furthering Israel’s occupation, and provide the infrastructure for the occupation. These are often the same corporations involved in other occupations and conflicts around the world, like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Colombia, etc.
The occupation of Palestine has gone on for 60 years, and that’s 60 years too long. Since the brutal invasion of Gaza last December and the subsequent investigations of war crimes on the part of the actions of Israel’s army, millions of people have joined a growing movement to fight against the Israeli occupation and apartheid system. The call to engage in the non-violent action of boycotts, divestment and sanctions is being responded to everywhere, from South Africa, to Australia to Scotland and Western Massachusetts, where Hampshire College recently became the first university to divest from the Israeli occupation, just as it had been the first university in the U.S to divest from Apartheid South Africa. UMass Amherst followed a year later. In recent years, UMass Amherst also divested from the atrocities being committed in Darfur.
With news like Israel’s continued refusal to allow humanitarian aid into a shell-shocked Gaza, even compelling Senator John Kerry to request that pasta be allowed into the Gaza Strip as a basic necessity for Palestinians forced to live under the collective punishment of economic sanctions; with news of continued expansion of illegal settlements, within the West Bank and the confiscation of land owned by villages and monasteries; the UMass Campus Antiwar Network feels compelled to introduce this enactment and push for divestment from this occupation, as we have divested from previous conflicts. Representing the best of our anti-racist and anti-war legacy as a university, we firmly believe in the power of students to effect change and stand on the right side of history, as we have done many times before.
Just as we support war resisters in the U.S army fighting against redeployment in Iraq or Afghanistan, we support our Israeli brothers and sisters in the refusenik movement who resist serving the occupation, in a country where every 18 year old has to serve the army before they go to college, and are imprisoned if they refuse to obey.
We are calling on all those who support UMass Amherst and believe in a university grounded in the finest principles that make this educational establishment a pride of this Commonwealth and the world. There is reason for our urgency. In recent days, hate and bigotry has crept up on our campus. With the publication of a hate-filled newspaper that seeks to normalize hate speech, racism, sexism and homophobia on this campus, we are aware that the right on this campus will attempt to portray this cause as a cause unworthy of this campus’ support. They will paint the anti-racist movement as radical and apartheid and racism as symptoms of a bygone era.
Last week, a Zionist speaker came to campus at an event named “What the fuck is going on in Israel?” In the words of a CAN member who attended: “[Elliot] Chodoff basically just talked about military strategy and defeating the ‘terrorists’ and claimed that only 300-400 of the Gazans murdered were civilians, because that’s what Israel says, instead of the around 900 reported to have been killed originally. He also said that things weren’t too bad for the Gazans because, by googling pictures of them, they don’t look as malnourished as people in Darfur or the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust, and they are wearing clothes and not rags. There was no substance or context in the talk whatsoever, as it is impossible to defend the occupation without deflecting the blame to the victims or using racism to characterize all Arabs as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. One man asked how Israel’s use of white phosphorus (a substance that indiscriminately and uncontrollably burns flesh) in a crowded area wasn’t
against the Geneva convention, and Chodoff responded that it was ok because it was not used as a munition, but was just rained from above. He conveniently didn’t mention the dozens of civilians burned alive by the stuff.”
We are aware that the group that brought him to our campus to spread his hate speech will be attending the SGA meeting to protest our resolution and make sure it does not pass. Their argument will be against divesting from apartheid and occupation, in exchange for something more “constructive” or “realistic” or “peaceful” , even as hate speech has become prevalent on this campus to dehumanize people and paint those who would resist against oppression as hateful or irrational people and who would, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “set the timetable for another man’s freedom”. We, here in the United States are weighed down by the waging of two wars costing us trillions of dollars. We are also weighed down by the government’s support of Israel to the tune of 10 million dollars every day being sent towards military support, while as students and faculty in a public institution, we are being forced to accept budget cuts and layoffs, and to accept that the wars being fought with our tax dollars are good, just wars and that our support is not only normal but necessary. We refuse to be complicit in the killing and oppression of thousands and millions of people every year, and believe that divestment is the first step to ending this campus complicity.
We therefore urge you to please stand in attendance against all forms of oppression around the world, and attend this SGA meeting, to show that we stand for the self-determination and rights of all people, and that all forms of oppression cannot and will not be tolerated or normalized on this campus!! Please stand with us, this Wednesday, March 4th, 7pm, UMass Campus Center basement, room 163C.
Campus Antiwar Network