This week, over two million people in Gaza lack access to food, refrigeration, medicine and electricity because a settler-colonial occupier is trying to exterminate them. For Palestinians, the conflict you see on the news is a war for liberation and freedom. For Israel, it is the last push in a long history of attempted annihilation of Palestinians through genocide.
The Gaza strip’s history as an open-air-prison — established by Israel to clear the surrounding territory for Israeli settlers — has been defined by a denial of basic necessities and right to freedom of movement. This Monday, Israel cut off all electricity and water to Gaza amid an unprecedented bombing campaign specifically targeting public infrastructure, residential buildings and hospitals. Even bombing the crossing it told Gazans to evacuate through, Israel is attempting to enclose two million civilians without the necessities of life.
When Palestinians protest the occupation peacefully, hundreds of peaceful activists are killed by Israeli Defense Forces. Due to their alliance with the United States, Israeli crimes face no international accountability. The armed resistance we see unfolding this week is the only meaningful address Palestinians have left against the occupation. It is this reality we must relate to in the United States, the principal nation directly responsible for propping up the apartheid regime through billions of dollars in foreign aid, countless weapons and military support.
In this context, within the core of Israel’s greatest allied nations, institutions like the University of Connecticut are critical to the occupation through providing technicians, educational partnerships and indirectly, weapons to the apartheid regime.
Boasting “one of the largest undergraduate and graduate programs in human rights in the country,” the Dodd Center for Human Rights, alongside the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, exists as UConn’s primary medium for international human rights work. Established to commemorate Thomas Dodd’s involvement in the Nuremberg trials, the Dodd name reminds students of the individuals who held leaders of the Nazi regime accountable for the war crimes committed during WWII.
There lies an inexcusable dissonance between the university’s celebration of justice and the perpetuation of war.
UConn’s failure to condemn the crimes committed by the Israeli government, coupled with vicious investments and connections to the Israeli military, the United States Department of Defense and military-industrial companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, gravely overshadow the work and mission of the Dodd Center. A human rights center within a university openly in support of Israeli apartheid — as denounced by the Dodd Center’s own partner Amnesty International — completely nullifies any supposed commitment to human rights among the administration or broader community.
Supporting Palestine and severing ties to an apartheid state are not attacks on Judaism. The Israeli military and government have strayed far from any Judaic or Abrahamic values in their actions both this past week and since the 1948 Nakba. As Jewish members of the UConn community, it is appalling to witness our university support and uplift Israeli crimes. The decades of economic oppression of the Palestinian people and the recent strategic bombing of Palestinian hospitals, mosques, schools and evacuation checkpoints demand UConn uphold its commitment to human rights and retract its involvement from Israeli genocide.
Meanwhile, without further notice, UConn maintains their relationship with Israel. Our Zionist university president delivers statements implying that Palestinian resistance is unprovoked and implying that the “outburst of extreme violence and human tragedy” has not been the norm for Palestinians over the past century under Israeli occupation. Unsurprising, coming from someone who publicly said “I was there, and there was no bombardment” in response to students asking about Israeli bombing of Palestine.
We must organize to divest UConn from Israel. Until this time the university cannot be associated with human rights. UConn should be known as a supporter of genocide.
Harrison Raskin and Owen Silverman are 2023 graduates of UConn Storrs.