Over 350 Faculty Members Have Declared That They Refuse To Be Intimidated By The Trump Administration Over Palestine

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Above Photo: UNC-Chapel Hill Students for Justice in Palestine, December 24, 2012. (Photo: Facebook)

Over 350 faculty members have signed a petition supporting Palestinian rights and declaring that they won’t be intimidated by the Trump administration’s recent targeting of Middle East studies programs on campus. The petition was circulated by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) in response to the Department of Education (DOE) carrying out an investigation over a campus conference on Gaza that occurred last year.

This past March, the Consortium for Middle East Studies (a joint program between the University of North Carolina and Duke University) held a conference called “Conflict over Gaza: People, Politics, and Possibilities.” At the event, a Palestinian performed a satirical song about an Arab developing feelings for an IDF solider. A pro-Israel blogger posted about the song online without context, which prompted a local Republican Congressman to call for the DOE to investigate the program for potential antisemitism.

Last month the DOE released the results of its investigation in the form of a letter, which read as a direct threat to program and others like it. It demanded a specific breakdown of potential spending and effectively implied that any Title VI funding would be cut unless the program became more pro-Israel and less complimentary of Islam.  “A considerable emphasis placed on the understanding the positive aspects of Islam, while there is an absolute absence of any similar focus on the positive aspects of Christianity, Judaism or any other religion or belief system in the Middle East,” explains the letter.

While the brazenness of this move might have surprised some, it certainly didn’t shock JVP or other organizations that fight for the rights of Palestinians. After Trump nominated the rabidly pro-Israel Kenneth Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights last year, groups like JVP and Palestine Legal warned that Marcus would push the DOE to crack down on pro-Palestine advocacy on campus.

The JVP petition is titled “Trump Can’t Silence Us.” It reads:

As academics from across disciplines and universities, we are horrified and disturbed by the Trump administration’s attempt to promote a narrow, neoconservative view of Middle East studies. 

We recognize the investigation into Duke/UNC Chapel Hill for what it is – a warning that, if campuses allow the open discussion of Palestinian human rights, they risk being federally investigated, publicly chastised, and de-funded. 

We say no. Palestinian human rights are one of the most urgent and important issues of our time. Curtailing the academic discussion of this issue to appease the Trump administration goes against every principle of free speech and academic freedom. 

We pledge to keep talking about Palestine — teaching Palestinian history, citing Palestinian scholarship, sponsoring Palestinian events, and inviting Palesintian speakers, cultural workers, and activists to our classrooms and campuses. 

We won’t be intimidated. 

Tallie Ben Daniel is the Research and Education Manager for Jewish Voice for Peace. She told Mondoweiss that the government’s issue isn’t with this specific conference, but rather finding a catalyst to pushing its agenda. “They were always waiting for something like this to happen,” she said “The longterm goal is to create a culture of fear and Kenneth Marcus has been working on this for decades. The situation on campus is already scary and now it’s worse.”

Daniel pointed out that the issue of campus free speech has been hijacked by the right-wing under Trump, but said she was also hopeful that debate about these issues had opened more space for pro-Palestine voices. “Palestine has become a central issue of progressive politics under Trump,” she said, “It’s become normalized, so in this sense I’m hopeful.”

  • Rev. Jake Harrison

    One of the many problems that so many people seem to ignore is this one simple statement.
    “If the ‘Jewish State of Israel’ (which would not exist in its current manifestation without intervention by MANY nations —all of which are criminal nations associated with the UN and led by the USA and GB and supported by millions of Christians) is truly a manifestation of the status of the “Chosen Ones” in modern times; why then does the God of the Jews and Christians—–not simply ‘set them up’ in place; all by himself?
    Instead, the USA and GB and others, send billions of dollars in aid annually, to what by all standards of accountability represents a criminal nation which by its actions is clearly populated by a nation of criminals—–Israel.
    For those of faith, it seems to be a contradiction of their beliefs that they send billions of aid to a criminal enterprise such as the “Jewish State of Israel” while THEY themselves could use the money for their own needs. For just one example the USA will admit to having more than 15 million hungry children each day, in a country that brags often about being an “agricultural giant of production’; while at the same time, they send more than 4 billion in aid to Israel. All this while Israel commits crimes against the Palestinian people that they themselves complain often were committed against the Jews of Europe in the often lamented, “Holocaust”.
    None of this makes the least sense; but then religions are the least logical of all human inventions, and the Abrahamic religions, the Jews, Christians, Muslims, are on record for having committed crimes against ALL life forms, human, as well as animal since their inception/invention beginning sometime in the late Bronze or early Iron age.
    Many are beginning to accept that the forwarding of ‘aid’ to Israel is in reality participating in the crimes being committed by Israel and renders those who ‘participate with their support and money’ ——-complicit in those crimes.
    A MUCH more powerful statement of ‘faith’ would be rationally expressed with one simple act: “If the Jews and Israel are INDEED the ‘chosen ones’ of their deity; then let their ‘deity’ take care of them or “Let Their God Take Care of His Chosen Ones” (he chose them after all) or in addition to “BDS” —-use “LTG-TCO-HCO”…………..a TRUE act of faith.
    In the same respect; if the “Jews of the Jewish State of Israel” possessed any faith that had ANY integrity; they would be ‘insulted’ to accept aid from anyone, especially those “not-chosen ones”—-the “Goy”.

    As for “faith” in the “deity” that according to the narrative fiction written by the “Jews” who could create the entire universe, and even the things undiscovered about it yet in only six days; but could not write much less publish his own book. So, he delegated the task to a group of nomadic Eastern Europeans, who believed the Earth was flat, and did not know where the sun went at night; and STILL have not corrected their documentation to reflect the “new information”…….”Good luck”

    Anything else is a mockery of “faith”.

  • Guy

    The situation is pretty much the same up here in Canada .I belong to a peace promoting organization and anytime ,the issue involves Palestine , they come out in droves hoisting their Israeli flags to intimidate peaceful discussions ,so much so that the police has to attend to keep them separated from the event .
    It is pigheaded stubbornness insisting on their false “choseness ” .When you have the president of the United States believing that Israelis can do no wrong , the situation continues unabated . Only when the world body politic changes and exposes the hypocrisy will we have the visibility of peace on the horizon.