Jewish scholars refuse to be silent about Gaza

There have been many statements, petitions, Op-Eds and other forms of concern and condemnation from scholars following the resurgence of violence around the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. This also includes Jewish scholars, such as an open letter from Jewish students at Brown University and another from Jewish writers. Moreover, there have been critical Jewish organisations that have long-supported a Palestinian-centred narrative, including the Promised Land Museum, and in particular their tribute to the late German-Dutch phycisist Dr. Hajo Meyer, Zochrot and Jewish Voices for Peace. In the same spirit, as Jewish employees and students at Dutch universities, universities of applied science and research institutions, we also refuse to stay silent about Gaza, and so present the following statement.

Photo: Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed, Destruction in Gaza, October 2023

We, Jewish employees and students in Dutch universities, universities of applied science and research institutions, refuse to stay silent about the recent surge in violence in Gaza.

We raise our voices to speak out against Israel’s war of destruction against the over two million Palestinians in Gaza, and demand an immediate cease fire. The high numbers of civilian victims of the Israeli bombardments so far, including the killing of thousands of children, a complete blockade for primary necessities of life in Gaza by Israel, and the actions and words of Israeli officials all justify the fear of a second Nakba; ethnic cleansing or genocide of the Palestinian population. “Never again” for us means never again for anyone.

We feel deep pain for the many civilian casualties during the attacks by Hamas on 7 October 2023. Precisely because we want to see an end to such gruesome violence, we refuse to abide by the logic of revenge that already has cost the lives of multiple times as many Palestinian civilians. We understand that the current wave of violence did not start with the actions of 7 October 2023, but is rooted in a long history of colonization, occupation and unequal treatment targeting the Palestinian people. If ending the current war against Gaza will only lead to a return to the status quo ante, this will mean a continuation of the violence that for Palestinians is a permanent reality. Peace, in this situation, will just be the prelude to the next major war.

Lasting peace is only possible on the basis of justice. At the very least, this means the recognition that the rule of law and human rights apply to all inhabitants of historic Palestine. It means recognizing the right of self-determination of the Palestinians, ending the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank, acknowledgement of the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, and equal rights between Palestinians and Jews from the Mediterranean to the river Jordan.

We promise to continue our efforts in this direction, during and after the current war. We support the call from Palestinian civil society for ceasing all forms of cooperation with Israeli institutions that contribute to the occupation of Palestinian territories and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian population.

As long as the injustice for Palestinians persists, we demand that our institutions speak out against this as firmly as they did one and a half years ago at the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We forcefully resist any form of racism, islamophobia, antisemitism or other types of hate speech. We are inspired by the many Jewish voices in and outside of Israel that take a principled stance for Palestinian rights. As Jewish opponents of the Israeli actions, we are indignant about the attempts to equate criticism of the Israeli state and support for Palestinian rights with antisemitism. Islamophobia and antisemitism in response to the current war are very real problems. We ask our institutions to take active measures against a climate of threats, polarization and discrimination. However, to do so does not give a free pass to censor critical anti-war voices.

A safe learning environment does not preclude a firm stance against war and injustice. On the contrary, such a firm stance is our shared duty.

This statement was first published in Dutch in the NRC Handelsbad on13 November 2023.

Image Source: Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed, Destruction in Gaza, October 2023.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the authors:

Dr. Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken (Lecturer, Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam).

Prof. dr. Pepijn Brandon (Professor of Global History, Free University of Amsterdam).

Alcide Breaux (Student, Sandberg Institute and Gerrit Rietveld Academie).

Zazie van Dorp (BA Philosophy, LLB Law & employee University of Amsterdam).

Dr. Jacob Engelberg (Lecturer, Film, Media and Culture, University of Amsterdam).

Dr. Sai Englert (Lecturer, University of Leiden).

Gabriel Gottlieb (Student, Econometrics, Erasmus University Rotterdam).

Dr. Aviva de Groot (Postdoctoral researcher AI & Human Rights, TILT, Tilburg University).

Sophia Haid (Student, Media studies, University of Amsterdam).

Dr. Jeff Handmaker (Associate Professor of Legal Sociology, ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam).

Levi Hilz (Student, Sociology, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam).

Dr. Joost Kircz (Emeritus Lector Electronic Publishing, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences).

Naomi Kreitman (Student, Sandberg Institute).

Dr. Anna Mai (Postdoctoraal researcher, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics).

Yuval Molina Obedman, Ma (Recently graduated in Philosophy, University of Amsterdam, and International Relations, University of Leiden).

Dr. Tzula Propp (Postdoctotaal researcher, TU Delft).

Dr. Patricia Schor (Postdoctoral researcher, Free University of Amsterdam).

Juliet Tanzer (Student, Utrecht University).

Dr. Anya Topolski (Associate Professor, Ethics and Political Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen).

Dr. Markha Valenta (Lecturer, American Studies, Utrecht University).

Itaï van der Wal (Student LLM, Utrecht University).

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