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.