Tell Rutgers President Holloway: Universities Must Defend Campus Palestine Advocates Against False Accusations of Antisemitism!

On 12 June, 2021, in response to an urgent call from Palestinian trade unions, the Executive Board of the Rutgers adjunct faculty union (PTLFC-AAUP-AFT Local 6324) issued a statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Coming on the heels of renewed Israeli assaults on Palestinian life, the statement acknowledged Israel’s status as an apartheid regime, and called on the American Federation of Teachers to divest itself of all Israeli bonds and on the United States government to immediately cease all financial support to Israel. The statement was signed by an overwhelming majority of current board members (including its Jewish members).

On 29 June, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), denounced the statement in a letter to Rutgers president Jonathan Holloway requesting he condemn “this hate-filled misinformation campaign and rhetoric.”

We, the undersigned, categorically reject Rep. Gottheimer’s slanderous mischaracterization of the statement.

Indeed, the only misinformation campaign here is the one being promoted by Rep. Gottheimer, who scurrilously insinuates that Jewish students at Rutgers could face a “hostile environment in the classroom or on campus” because instructors and union members show solidarity with oppressed people.

Moreover, considering Rutgers’ own endowment investments in apartheid Israel, and given the presence of prominent campus Zionist organizations such as Hillel, with its history of falsely conflating Palestine advocacy with antisemitism, it is pro-Palestine union members, instructors, students, and organizers who are most at risk of harassment and least likely to receive support against it. Meanwhile, Rep. Gottheimer ignores the two real threats to Jewish safety today: white supremacy and Zionism itself, which shamefully tries to tie all Jews to the Israeli regime and, by extension, its crimes.

Rep. Gottheimer also asserts that the statement “singles out” Israel. Yet the Palestine solidarity movement is no more guilty of singling out Israel than earlier generations of activists were guilty of “singling out” apartheid South Africa or the Montgomery Bus Company, or than the union’s 2020 statement demanding justice for George Floyd unfairly “singles out” the Minneapolis Police Department. No one need justify holding particular perpetrators of systematic injustice to account.

Rep. Gottheimer’s letter to President Jonathan Holloway is just one example of the hostility faced by pro-Palestine students and faculty members at Rutgers University.

We therefore:

  • Call on President Holloway to publicly affirm the right of Rutgers faculty, students, and staff to voice their solidarity with Palestine, as other institutions have already done, and to make clear that the university rejects all attempts to falsely conflate anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

  • Call on the University to protect the rights and the safety of its community members by denouncing and taking action against the targeted doxxing of pro-Palestinian students and faculty members on blacklist sites such as Canary Mission, and to ensure accountability from administration, faculty, and staff who violate the safe space Rutgers promises to be for activists and advocates for the disenfranchised.

  • Call on the University Board of Governors and Trustees and Joint Committee on Investments to provide a detailed explanation for their rejection of the Endowment Justice Collective’s request for Rutgers University to divest from oppression and injustice, and comply with an audit of endowment investments led by the Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers - New Brunswick.

We are at a tipping point in this country and around the world. For decades, the pro-Israel narrative went virtually unchallenged in mainstream discourse. Palestinian voices were banished to the margins, mirroring Israel’s 73-year long campaign to dispossess and erase the Palestinian people.

But all that is changing. The executive board’s statement is part of growing labor solidarity with Palestine (the Rutgers full-time faculty/graduate student union chapter issued its own Palestine solidarity resolution), including those who have courageously endorsed the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel (see: “Block the Boat”). BIPOC support for Palestine continues to rise (see: Movement for Black Lives’ “End U.S. Complicity in Israel’s Abuses of Palestinians”). Over 160 gender studies departments and centers signed a statement responding to the Palestinian call for “feminists everywhere to speak up, organize, and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation.” Palestinians have shown reciprocal support, standing in solidarity with Black and Brown Lives, Indigenous water protectors, migrant rights and beyond.  

Rep. Gottheimer’s attack on the adjunct union’s executive board, then, is in reality an attack on all who stand up to racism, settler colonialism, and state-sanctioned brutality. Moreover, his ominous assertion that the statement “fall[s] outside of bounds” of legitimate speech echoes right-wing attacks on Critical Race Theory, which, like the movement for Palestinian liberation, demands an honest interrogation of history and redress for systemic oppression.  

At the same time, his letter is a tacit concession by Israel’s enablers that they have lost the moral argument, and that their only option left is to try to intimidate Palestine solidarity into silence. But as the Movement for Black Lives declared, “The fight for Palestinian rights and dignity is integral to the fight for human rights everywhere.” And that fight will never be silenced.

Signed,

Al-Awda NY: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

American Muslims for Palestine - NJ

Anakbayan Rutgers

Black Lives Matter Paterson

Council on Islamic-American Relations - NJ

CUNY4Palestine

Democratic Socialists of America Central NJ

Democratic Socialists of America North NJ

Democratic Socialists of America South NJ

Green Party NJ

Jews for Palestinian Right of Return

Jewish Voice for Peace-Northern NJ

Labor for Palestine

NJ State Industrial Union Council

NYU Chapter - American Association of University Professors

Palestinian American Community Center

People’s Organization for Progress

Rutgers Mutual Aid

South Orange / Maplewood for Palestine

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers - Newark

Students for Justice in Palestine at Rutgers - New Brunswick

Sunrise Movement Rutgers New Brunswick

U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

(This statement has been slightly edited for clarity since its initial release)

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