Reed SJP Statement Re “Our Shared Community Values”

From @reed.sjp’s Instagram.

In light of your November 13 statement titled ‘Our Shared Community Values’, [sic] we, members of Reed Students for Justice in Palestine, have prepared the following response. We hope that you continue to allow space for the expression of political beliefs, in line with Article VII, Section 1 of Reed’s Community Constitution. Historically, student organizations have played a vital role in the advancement of progressive causes. During the 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized direct actions all over the country to protest segregation and other violations of constitutional rights. In the 60s and 70s, student protesters were instrumental in calling out the imperialist practices of the US [sic] in the war in Vietnam. Student protests against South African Apartheid, including at Reed, helped to contribute to the international pressures on the South African government which eventually led to the end of Apartheid in South Africa. During the Occupy movements and anti-war protests in the early 2000s, student-led activism was again vital. Students, despite often disproportionately risking expulsion, arrest, and personal safety, have always been crucial to the assertion of democratic values of free speech, humanity, and global compassion. It is in keeping with this legacy that Reed students have chosen to engage in the international efforts to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, an end to Israeli Apartheid, and an end to US funding of genocide. We find your implication that our language and signage was in some way hate speech, a call to violence, or antisemitic deeply problematic. There is nothing hateful about calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and advocating for a free Palestine. Western ignorance to the Arabic language and politics in the Fertile Crescent, the Maghreb, and the Arabian Peninsula has long been weaponized to distract from the very real suffering of peoples throughout the region. ‘Intifada’ now joins a long list of Arabic words and phrases, including ‘Allahu akbar’ and ‘jihad’, which the Western media and state has very purposefully attempted to associate with terrorism in order to support Islamaphobic ideologies. We’d like to remind you that this is also an incredibly frightening time for Palestinian, Arab, and Maghrebi students on campus who are experiencing misappropriation of their language that perpetuates dangerous racial stereotypes and racially charged fear mongering. We are disappointed that you have decided not to stand behind these members of our community. Misconstruing terms and expressions that are used by Palestinians to spread hope, such as ‘From the River to the Sea’ and ‘Intifada everywhere’, as antisemitic or promoting terrorism only serves to divert attention from the atrocities being committed in Gaza and manufacture consent for the genocide of Palestinians backed by the US military-industrial complex. At a time when every day Palestinian men, women, and children are being shamelessly slaughtered using weapons manufactured in the US and purchased with US tax-payer dollars, it is vital that we present a united front against genocide. To reiterate a message from one of our previous statements, we believe suggesting that criticism of the Israeli government is inherently antisemitic is a form of antisemitism in and of itself; it suggests that the actions of the Israeli government are representative of the beliefs of all Jewish people, falsely rendering the Jewish people as a monolith and creating the potential for scapegoating. And to be clear – we strongly condemn antisemitism in all its forms. Though some may be using this moment to cause harm to Jewish students, there is no natural connection between Palestinian liberation and antisemitism. We recognize and are deeply concerned about the rise in antisemitism both on campus and in the broader world, and have Jewish members who are in the process of organizing on-campus actions for Jews who may feel unsafe. We ask that the Reed administration organize two separate, unbiased, transparent, and collaborative committees comprised of Reed community members, including students, staff, and faculty; one committee would investigate and address the rising incidents of antisemitic vandalism on campus, and the other would investigate and address the ways in which Reed’s endowment could be contributing to the genocide in Palestine. In addition to our demand for two new investigative committees, we would like to reiterate our demands that the Reed administration act in accordance with its purported values and unequivocally condemn the ongoing genocide being carried out in Palestine by the Israeli government, disclose and divest any and all investments contributing to said genocide, and call upon the US [sic] government to demand a ceasefire now. Until the genocide of Palestinians is over, we will not – indeed, we cannot – stop protesting. President Bilger, we thank you for your time, and ask that you engage with and seriously consider the statement and requests we have made today, just as we have engaged with and considered yours. We are not terrorists. We are not bigots. We are Reedies, and we are committed to Reed’s principles of critical thought, mutual respect, and independence of inquiry and expression.