UConn is complicit in Israel’s crimes

Egyptian workers remove the rubble of a building destroyed by an airstrike in Gaza City, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. A truce that ended an 11-day war between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel more than a week ago has so far held but it did not address any of the deeper issues plaguing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Photo by Felipe Dana/AP

In recent weeks, as the world looks on, Israel has violently evicted Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, arrested political dissidents and mercilessly bombed the “open air prison” that is Gaza.

For those of us who wish to see an end to the long and bloody colonial occupation of Palestinian lands, it is incumbent upon us to recognize and organize against the local roots of Israel’s violence. I am a student at the University of Connecticut, and I’m writing today because the University of Connecticut is wholly complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

Universities are not neutral sites for the accumulation of knowledge. Universities are where society reproduces itself — where each generation of laborers and thinkers are incubated. And the United States, as a war economy, requires that large universities like UConn provide a continuous flow of researchers and laborers to design and build bombs, planes, submarines and other tools of death and destruction.

To these ends, UConn has forged extensive partnerships with weapons manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and Pratt & Whitney. Once a year, UConn observes “Lockheed Martin Day,” to celebrate the “long standing partnership connecting students in the STEM fields to careers and internships…” The School of Engineering partners directly with Lockheed Martin to provide training for their employees and job placement for UConn students. Professors work with the US Air Force and Raytheon to conduct research. Pratt & Whitney has a long history of financially supporting UConn, including with the establishment of the Pratt and Whitney Center of Excellence in 2010. Collectively, the US Air Force, Electric Boat, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies and their subsidiaries donated $43.6 million to establish research centers at UConn’s Innovation Partnership Building.

The recruitment efforts pay off. From 2016-2020, the top three employers of recent UConn School of Engineering graduates were war industry corporations (Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin and Electric Boat, respectively) with companies like Sikorsky and Raytheon rounding out the top 15.

These companies, in turn, sell their weapons directly to Israel’s apartheid regime. Pratt & Whitney has been supplying the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with engines for their military aircraft since 1947. In 2015, they renewed their partnership for an additional 15 years. Raytheon Technologies manufactures guided missiles and bombs which are routinely dropped on Palestinian civilians and infrastructure. Sikorsky, the Stratford-based helicopter manufacturer owned by Lockheed Martin, signed a new deal in early 2021 with Israel to provide military helicopters for the IDF. Lockheed Martin themselves provide missiles and artillery technology to Israel.

The connection is not hard to make. UConn provides valuable research and recruitment opportunities for the war industry, who then sell weapons to Israel, which regularly murders children, bombs journalists and hospitals, and flagrantly flaunts international law. It’s also likely that UConn further invests in the war industry through its $617 million endowment, although we would have no way of knowing, as the UConn Foundation’s investments are private.

Last year, the UConn community received an email from President Katsouleas to mark International Human Rights Day, which included the following passage:

“[The COVID-19 pandemic], along with the ongoing challenges of rising authoritarianism, an ongoing struggle to end racism and discrimination, deepening economic inequality, and the intensifying climate crisis, demonstrate the need to renew our commitment to human rights and to each other. That commitment is a central part of the identity of the University of Connecticut … We are committed to ensuring human rights are at the foundation of much of our work.”

If we take this statement and the university’s deep ties with the Israeli war industry at face value, we can only conclude that UConn believes Palestinians are sub-human. Its not complicated: If UConn was truly committed to human rights, not only would they cut ties with weapons manufacturers who sell to Israel — they would actively support the cause of Palestinian liberation. After all, is it not the Palestinian people’s human right to defend themselves from the settlers who have been violently pushing them out of their land for more than seventy years?

I’ve been organizing at UConn long enough to know that the university is not naive. They are not unwittingly funnelling research, graduates and resources towards the war industry. Every time the Board of Trustees receives a multi-million dollar donation from a titan of the war industry, or signs off on a fancy new war industry research center, they are willingly signing those papers with the blood of Palestinian children — not to mention the victims of the US-supported catastrophe in Yemen or any number of illegal and immoral acts of US military aggression abroad.

Freeing the Palestinian people from the clutches of Israeli colonialism starts with resistance in our own communities. For students at UConn, that means demanding that the University match its lofty rhetoric on human rights with action.

UConn: cut all ties with weapons manufacturers who sponsor the ongoing Israeli apartheid.


  1. I understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is topical, but why center UConn’s relationship with weapons manufacturers solely around Israel? Isn’t the entire United States military-industrial complex to blame? Feel like the bigger message here is that Americans are complicit in America’s crimes, so long as it serves our own economic interests.

  2. As a UConn alumna, I am very disappointed in the contents of this article, which is drawing blanket conclusions about the University. How can one possibly conclude from UConn’s article commemorating International Human Rights Day that UConn believes Palestinians are sub-human? I understand UConn’s connections to these companies, but the mere conclusions you put forward in this article seem forced and unfair. I agree with the comment above from derF.

  3. To begin with, Israel hasn’t evicted any Arab residents of its capital, no less evicted anyone violently; it doesn’t arrest “political dissidents” and didn’t “mercilessly bomb” anywhere in what, if it’s an “oped air prison,” was created by Hamas.

    There is a landlord-tenant dispute in Jerusalem, where based on the Jordanian (you know, that Arab state that comprises nearly 78 percent of Palestine) records, four Arab families have for a half century refused to pay rent to the owners of the property where they’ve been living. I used to own some rental properties in Connecticut and, believe me, it never took fifty years to evict tenants for non-payment of rent.

    As far as “political prisoners,” I suspect Zehner is referring to probably the most popular politician among Palestinian Arabs, Marwan Barghouti. But he’s not in jail for any political reasons; he’s in jail because he was convicted and sentenced to five life sentences for murder. In most democratic countries, including the United States and Israel, murder is a criminal offense, not a “political crime.” That a mass murderer is the most popular Palestinian Arab politician is a sad commentary on Palestinian society.

    The situation in Gaza is tragic, but if Israel bears any responsibility it is for giving into pressure and turning it completely over to the Palestinian Arabs themselves. If it’s an “open air prison,” then the prison warden is Hamas; it’s certainly not Israel.

    Last month, Israel did bomb some targets in Gaza. It bombed terror facilities, where Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other terror groups stored weapons and munitions, from which they launched rockets targeting Israeli cities and towns – Hamas didn’t target military sites, just civilian areas, including a park I was ordered to leave so the military could retrieve debris from a rocket – and other facilities, including tunnels. These were almost all deliberately located in civilian areas, making it virtually impossible for Israel to defend itself without the civilians used as human shields by the Arab terror groups getting caught in the crossfire.

    During Hamas’ war, during which they and other terror groups launched 4,300 rockets at Israel in just 11 days – can you imagine what the response would be if Massachusetts was the target of a similar number of rockets launched by terrorists based in Rhode Island? – there was a CNN interview of Naftali Bennett, who is Israel’s new prime minister. The interviewer, Becky Anderson, tried to badger Bennett into confessing that Israel had to be guilty of war crimes because “Gaza was so densely populated Israel couldn’t possibly respond without targeting civilians.” (Not her exact words, but exactly what she was saying.)

    Now Anderson, either out of malice or stupidity, obviously misused the word “target” and Israel didn’t target any civilians. But she was correct in recognizing that there would be civilian casualties in Gaza if Israel did anything to defend itself, no matter how much effort Israel put into avoiding harming civilians in Gaza. And Israel almost certainly puts more effort into that than any other country in the world, so much so that military leaders from other countries come to Israel to learn what Israel does to protect enemy civilians.

    Meanwhile, based on studies of the casualties, it turns out that almost all those who died in Gaza were actually operatives of terror groups and it’s likely that most of the civilian casualties came not from Israeli fire, but from Hamas rockets that misfired or fell short, landing within Gaza and killing civilians there, as well as secondary explosions when Israel hit Hamas arsenals stored in civilian areas.

    Arab leaders are coming to realize that the genocidal war they launched against Israel in 1948 was not just morally indefensible, but has been disastrous for their own countries. They are slowly beginning to prioritize their own interests over any misguided loyalty to the Palestinian Arabs.

    It’s time for the Palestinian Arab leadership to start giving a higher priority to the welfare of their own people than to their continued desire to destroy the world’s only Jewish state.

    One of the best ways to encourage them is to stand with Israel and get them to realize the choice isn’t between the welfare of their people and the destruction of Israel, but between promoting the welfare of their people by deciding to live in peace with Israel and the misery of their people by continuing their genocidal campaign that actually harms them far more than it harms Israel.

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