This statement by people affiliated with the City University of New York and related colleges appeared on October 11 against the Chancellor’s opposition and alongside a number of other statements. It is a model statement in support of the survival and liberation of the Palestinian people. It, and a full list of signatories, is here. In response to the persecution of pro-Palestinian activists and the chapter of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, the Graduate Center responded with a resolution, which also appears below.
CUNY Community Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People
We, members of the City University of New York community, stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine resisting the violence and oppression of Israeli settler colonial and apartheid rule.
We condemn the brutal bombing of Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, by Israeli forces. This represents the latest chapter of a nearly-fifteen-year illegal blockade that has transformed the territory into a prison for its two million inhabitants, most of whom descend from refugees expelled and driven from their homes during the Nakba that resulted from the establishment of the settler colonial state of Israel.
We condemn the forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah—part of the broader colonial project of dispossession and expulsion, including unequal residency rights and discriminatory planning policies designed to advance the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. We oppose the raiding of the al-Aqsa mosque, and the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which is illegally occupied territory.
We mourn all loss of life. But we do not subscribe to a “both sides” rhetoric that erases the military, economic, media, and global power that Israel has over Palestine. This narrative ignores and conceals the meaningful differences between Israel—one of the most heavily militarized states in the world that receives $3.8 billion of military aid annually from the U.S.—and a Palestinian population resisting colonial occupation and oppression. We pledge to do all in our power to change the conversation.
We assert that this is not a “conflict” that is too “controversial and complex” to assess. Since its inception, Israel has used violent force, punitive bureaucracy, and its legal system to expel Palestinians from their rightful homes and to remove Palestinian people from their land. Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Palestinians are cut off from each other by a network of checkpoints, laws, settler-only highways, and a separation wall that swallows illegally occupied Palestinian land. Both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have recently concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid, reinforcing a decades old analysis of Palestinian and international solidarity organizations.
We wholeheartedly endorse the “Palestine and Praxis” open letter and call to action, affirming our own commitment to speaking out in defense of “the Palestinian struggle as an indigenous liberation movement confronting a settler colonial state,” as well as foundational principles of scholarly integrity and academic freedom. We vow to support those who are most vulnerable to attack for organizing and speaking out on our campuses, including Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and other students, faculty, and staff of color.
We unequivocally endorse and amplify the call from the Palestinian Feminist Collective for “feminists everywhere to speak up, organize, and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation” and the solidarity statement from gender studies departments.
We hail the fortitude and determination of the Palestinian people, who remain, despite the fragmentation of their populations, united in their demands to end their oppression. May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of the Nakba, an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine that drove over 750,000 Palestinians out of their homes, villages, and cities between the years 1947-1949. Today the vast majority of these Palestinians and their descendants are refugees in bordering countries and in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. We take our stand with Palestinians who have been resisting settler colonialism for more than one hundred years.
Therefore, we pledge to:
- Initiate, support, and amplify campaigns in solidarity with Palestinian calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, at CUNY and in our wider communities. In particular, we echo the demands of the John Jay Student Letter to Demand BDS and Solidarity with Palestinian Resistance and stand with any and all student-led resolutions demanding CUNY’s immediate divestment from companies that aid in Israeli colonization, occupation, and war crimes. As of 2014, CUNY invests at least $1,093,900 in weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon; tech and security companies such as Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, G4S, and Motorola Solutions; and construction firms such as Caterpillar and Cemex.
- Demand that our individual campuses, and CUNY as a whole, endorse and support the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
- Stand in solidarity with students, staff, and faculty organizing for justice in Palestine at CUNY and everywhere. In particular, we pledge to push back against attempts to repress Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, and similar student-led efforts, at CUNY or anywhere. The “Palestine exception to free speech” needs to end!
- Highlight Palestinian scholarship on Palestine in syllabi, our writing, and through invitation of Palestinian scholars and community members to speak at departmental and university events, and extend this approach to any and all indigenous scholars within the university and in our communities.
- Support community efforts and legislation to pressure our government to end funding for Israeli military aggression.
Against the rain of bombs, against the roving murderous mobs, against settler colonialism, against the support of complacent Western governments, we stand with the people of Palestine. We join together in rededicating ourselves to working against all forms of racism, colonialism, and injustice at CUNY, in the classroom, on campus, in our communities, and beyond.
Resolution Condemning CUNY Administration’s Persecution of Pro-Palestine Organizing and Disregard for Palestinian Lives
On October 13, the executive committee of the Graduate Center chapter passed the following resolution, which was also unanimously endorsed by all chapter stewards who voted. It will be voted on at the November meeting of the PSC-wide Delegate Assembly.
Whereas in public messages to the university, Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez has falsely ascribed nefarious motives to campus events whose purpose—Palestinian solidarity—he would not deign to identify by name;
Whereas in their outreach to the community, several top administrators have refused to even mention the word “Palestine,” let alone offer support to Palestinian students in light of the Israeli military’s blockade of Gaza and the mass killing of civilians there;
Whereas in doing so, the Chancellor and other senior CUNY administrators have disregarded the suffering of our community members and made a mockery of the free speech commitments they claim to hold;
Whereas the Chancellor’s actions build on the university administration’s long tradition of repressing free speech, as when students demanded an end to CUNY’s racist Jim Crow admissions practices fifty-five years ago, and university senior administrators policed and criminalized protests in a futile effort to maintain the status quo rather than fully integrate the university;
Whereas CUNY’s attacks on pro-Palestine speech and activism mark a cruel parallel to Israel’s internationally condemned apartheid system, as pro-Palestine organizers are themselves subject to a separate and unequal standard;
Whereas in Spring 2023, the Chancellor publicly defamed CUNY Law’s student commencement speaker as engaging in “hate speech” for describing the political reality in Israel and Palestine, bringing harassment and death threats to the commencement speaker and others at CUNY Law, even as multiple civil rights organizations came to the student’s defense;
Whereas at other campuses, administrators have deactivated the university IDs of pro-Palestine organizers and blocked them from campus;
Whereas while countless students, staff, and faculty reel from the past days’ tragic violence and the continuing bombardment of Gaza, CUNY administrators cynically pit our communities against one another even as in Israel itself, mainstream commentary has recognized apartheid as the ultimate source of the violence;
Whereas at CUNY, in advance of anti-apartheid rallies planned on multiple campuses, the Chancellor claimed without a shred of evidence that student organizers would “glorify Saturday’s violence and celebrate the killings, injuries and capture of innocent people;”
Whereas at Brooklyn College, where many GC students and faculty teach, President Michelle Anderson banned a rally from campus, informed the community she had “increase[d] campus security,” and encouraged students “not to come to campus,” forcing students to gather on the public sidewalk outside and leaving them vulnerable to the NYPD’s unconstitutional policing practices;
Whereas these messages assert that pro-Palestinian speech is inherently violent—an Islamophobic and anti-Arab dogwhistle—and also serve as a pre-emptive justification for criminalization;
Whereas the CUNY administration’s words and deeds have made common cause with the U.S. far-right, as the administration capitulates to city councilmembers’ demands to repress pro-Palestine speech and echo their characterization of Palestine solidarity as inherently violent;
Let it be resolved that the PSC-GC EC condemns the CUNY administration’s political persecution of Palestinian students, community members, and Palestine solidarity activists in recent days;
And let it be further resolved that the PSC-GC EC condemns the supposed leaders of our institution for lending credence to far-right campaigns to defund and dismantle public education; that senior administrators would help the far-right wield a political cudgel against CUNY’s grassroots organizing efforts is a profound betrayal of their duties to the university community.
And let it be further resolved that the PSC-GC EC demands an end to the repression of free speech and intimidation of organizers, which is a stain on our academic institution.
Passed by PSC-GC Executive Committee
co-signed by Graduate Center & School of Labor and Urban Studies Stewards
Featured image credit: Craig Fildes; modified by Tempest.
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