Dear President Maric, The Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, UConn Faculty and Staff:
We are a collective of Graduate Students across the University of Connecticut Campuses, from multiple departments and programs with various social identities and lived experiences. We are writing because we stand in solidarity with the struggle of Palestinians for liberation and survival amidst occupation, apartheid, and genocide. We are deeply concerned and saddened by all harm and loss of life, Israeli and Palestinian, and insist that UConn reject violence, militarism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and war in all its forms.
As a community, we have failed to create an environment that makes it possible for us to have honest, clarifying and contextualized dialogues about the urgent concerns and needs of Palestinians, even in the midst of ongoing violence. UConn, like many campuses across the country, has unfortunately become a space where students, faculty and staff face silence, reprisal, or rebuke for expressing solidarity with Palestine.
We are writing this letter to address the imbalanced narrative from UConn administration, including the silence on the ongoing genocide and humanitarian crisis in Palestine, erasing the experiences and suffering of the Palestinian people. There is also a lack of space for UConn community members to engage in balanced dialogue on the ongoing crisis in Palestine.
We are sending this open letter of solidarity with the UConn Students for Justice in Palestine and associated student organizations who reached out to campus administrators on Oct. 14, 2023. Since then, the genocide and humanitarian crisis in occupied Gaza, and now the West Bank, has
horrifically escalated, leaving more than 5,000 Palestinians killed, an additional 15,000 injured and over 400,000 homeless, almost all of whom are civilians.
Multiple organizations focusing on global human rights, including Amnesty International and experts from the United Nations, have acknowledged that Israel is an apartheid state, occupying Palestinian territory for over 75 years. As stated by Amnesty International, “Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and against Palestinian refugees, in order to benefit the expansion of the settler colonial state of Israel. This amounts to apartheid as prohibited in international law.” Amnesty International details more extensively the system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians.
Further, in direct defiance of international humanitarian law, such as Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the government of Israel continues to take part in war crimes, including: “Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities… Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives… Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives.”
These violations have been consistently met with silence by the UConn administration.
The deliberate blocking of civilian aid, clean water, fuel and electricity to Gaza, as imposed by the State of Israel, further exacerbates the humanitarian crisis inside Gaza to disastrous proportions. This conflict continues to escalate as the lives of an untold and increasing number of thousands of innocents perish by Israeli military bombings and attacks. If we do not take action, we, as an institution, are complicit. As stated in the letter sent by the UConn Students for Justice in Palestine, “We unequivocally condemn the killing of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.” We believe in the value and sanctity of human life, human life that, for Palestinians, has been consistently denied.
We ask the University, the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute and President Maric to fulfill the demands of the letter written by Students for Justice in Palestine, which include being consistent in their stances on human rights by denouncing the apartheid state of Israel and its repeated war crimes. While we are committed to our condemnation of the killing of both Israeli and Palestinian people, the Oct. 9 statement contained a one-sided narrative that failed to even use the word Palestinian, thereby avoiding acknowledgment of the suffering of Palestinian people altogether. We also call on UConn to divest from any initiatives that support the Israeli apartheid state. As Israel continues to perpetuate ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, we urge UConn to use its platform to speak up as they have for other human rights violations and acknowledge the humanity of a group of people who have been systematically silenced.
As Graduate Students, we call on UConn to expand course offerings to include the Palestinian perspectives. We would also add that UConn needs to create a campus-wide course on settler colonialism (similar to the model of the anti-Black racism course) with an emphasis on the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We all need to be educated and informed so that we understand how to situate this present tragedy in its historical context, as this would help with mitigating the need to point fingers and instead start creating solutions.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
A Collective of UConn Graduate Students