Statement on Professor Steven Salaita

Reinstate Professor Steven Salaita

September 9, 2014

For immediate release

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/supportsalaita
Photo: https://www.facebook.com/supportsalaita

George Mason University Students Against Israeli Apartheid expresses solidarity with the students and faculty of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the larger network of activists in their struggle against the university administration’s termination of the newly hired American Indian Studies professor Steven Salaita. We express support for the 11 UIUC departments in their votes of no-confidence against Chancellor Wise, the cancellation of events on UIUC campus and the boycott decision by over 5000 scholars. We demand that Steven Salaita is reinstated to his tenured position in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIUC.

Steven Salaita was our guest for the first Apartheid Week organized on our campus in February of 2014. His talk on the academic boycott of Israel was the most successful event of our week. It encouraged an in depth discussion amongst the student and faculty about the emerging international solidarity movement with Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination. His generosity during the talk remains inspirational for all of us.

The Board of Trustees decision to terminate Professor Salaita’s employment after he signed a contract with the department and the college in which he would be working is an attack on the freedom of speech and shared governance of faculty on university campuses. Professor Salaita’s tweets, which were the sole reason he was declared as ‘unfit’ for UIUC, express in as civil language as possible our thoughts and feelings during Israel’s most recent massacre, Operation Protective Edge, during which over 2000 Palestinian civilians were killed (more than a quarter of them children) over 10,000 Palestinians wounded, over 17 thousand homes destroyed including entire neighborhoods like Beit Hanoun and Shuja’iyya and 500,000 Palestinians in Gaza displaced (again). When read in the context of his larger discussion on social media, Professor Salaita’s comments are consistent and expressive of righteous outrage over the repetition of massacres in Gaza, continued violence against Palestinians and the occupation of their land in the West Bank and Israel. We condemn Israel for these actions and demand accountability. And we support Steven Salaita for speaking out against them so profoundly and with courage.

The mobilization that emerged with Steven Salaita’s case should show that Palestinians will not be silenced. We would like this movement to also be acknowledged as part of a larger momentum of university students and faculty demanding self-determination for their working conditions as well as future research and development. This should serve as a cautionary tale across all university administrations that faculty, students and staff are claiming their rightful place: right at the center of decision making on their campuses.

GMU STUDENTS AGAINST ISRAELI APARTHEID

Israeli Peace Week is the result of individual cognitive dissonance and institutionalized whitewashing

By: Ahmed Elsayed

In an article by Miranda Lapides advocating Israeli Peace Week recently submitted to the GMU Psych Blog, positive psychology is quoted as being “the study of what makes the life worth living”. However, what I read throughout the article had by no means made any argument towards how the life of any minority in Israel is made bearable in the overlooming shadow of occupation, subjugation, mistreatment, and ethnic cleansing. What I read instead was regarding efforts to make an attempt at “shedding a positive light” on a situation in which there are clear cut oppressors and oppressed. What is most interesting is that the article is written by member identifying with and advocating the former who is actively trying to delegitimize the grief of a suffering population and those who identify with it.

As an undergraduate in psychology, myself, I am quick to being able to spot a classic cognitive dissonance reaction such as this, one in which; the subject is confronted with a conflict in moral standards set against a long term socialization and normalization of occupation. When one is embedded in such an environment of activism and social justice such as the grounds of a college campus, yet is raised bearing ideals supporting an inherently unjust system such as Zionism, what else can one do other than try to “put a positive spin on things”?

Israeli Peace Week does the exact opposite of this, instead; the event is organized around convincing people that a two sided conflict exists in which the problem is attributed to mutual disagreements. The article states that Israel  “has tried numerous times for peace”, failing to realize that these attempts have been a facade covering up further expansion of colonization (ex: Oslo Accords, Camp David Accords, and the Geneva Initiative, all of which have resulted in the loss of Palestinian land to Israeli settlers).¹ Constant denial of rights, seizure of land, and dehumanization experienced by indigenous populations in Palestine can in no way have a positive impact on the psychological disposition in the minds of members of these populations. Furthermore, Israeli Peace Week paints an image of advocates for the rights of indigenous populations in Palestine as being radical deviants failing to have any “understanding”. This condemnation, however positively connoted in the article, of members identifying in and advocating for an oppressed population only isolates and rejects the very people with whom you supposedly want to make peace.

It is my desire that people take notice to how events such as this are a blatant attempt at covering up a grim truth. Israeli Peace Week, like so many other whitewashing campaigns held by the Zionist agenda, exist only to portray an unreal image of equality and democracy like turpentine on an ugly painting. Israel claims to be advocating for peace, yet they continually bomb Gaza, force evict indigenous residents out of their homes, and further drive settlements into what little land the Arabs have left.² Israel claims to be advocating for marriage equality, yet the Israeli Citizenship and Entry Law prevents the reunification of spouses which carry identification cards of “enemy states”, fragmenting families due to their ethnicity. ³ Israel claims to be advocating for a land where people can “travel without fear”, yet if a Palestinian wishes to travel to two separate regions in Gaza (a distance roughly equivalent to the distance to campus from my apartment, which takes 30 minutes in the worst traffic situations), he or she would have to suffer the harassment of multiple checkpoints turning a normally 24 minute trip into a 5 hour one. 4  Israel claims to be advocating for racial equality, yet palestinians are condemned behind separation walls, Arab citizens are prohibited from using “Jew only” roads, and African migrants are subjected to harassment from Israelis who protest their very presence.5 Is it starting to seem hard to “put a positive spin on things” now, or is it just me?

Footnotes:

__________________________________________________

1.This is explained in depth in “Abuminah, A. (2006). One country: A bold proposal to end the israeli-palestinian impasse. New York: Metropolitan Books.” Throughout chapter two p55-p88

 

2. Evidence of these violent attacks usually goes uncovered in media. There had been a recent attack on Gaza in mid March this year. This most media covered one of these attacks is Operation Cast Lead occurring in late 2008. More Info: http://imeu.net/news/article0021968.shtml

 

3. Sources:

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.580463

http://electronicintifada.net/content/taking-direct-action-against-israels-racist-marriage-law/13011

 

4. Evidence of this is shown in the documentary: Machssomim by Israeli flimmaker Yoav Shamir

shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSTbnzyGyyc

 

5. Evidence of the African migrant situation can be seen in depth in Max Blumenthal’s documentary: Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land. Shown here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPxv4Aff3IA

 

Quotes by Israeli demographic guru Arnon Soffer on the separation of Israelis and Palestinians, taken from One Country (cited in footnote #1) showing the true intention of the wall (rather than the “security” excuse that is usually given):

 

“Unilateral separation doesn’t guaranteed peace, it guarantees a Jewish Zionist state with an overwhelming majority of jews. [The] day after separation, the Palestinians will bombard us with artillery fire–and we will have to retaliate. But at least war will be at the fence (behind the separation wall), not in the kindergartens in Tel Aviv and Haifa. We will tell the Palestinians that if a single missile is fired over the fence, we will fire 10 in response. And women and children will be killed and houses will be destroyed. When 2.5 million people live in a closed off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe.  Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane and fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.”

 

Peace means… ignoring the occupation

The following article is a guest post by Hank Pin from American University Students For Justice in Palestine. Stay tuned for a piece by SAIA’s own Ahmed al-Sayeed:

just be positive
“It’s cool guys, Palestinians just need to forget about the occupation and think on the bright side!” Source: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-CuUzvbMwEw4/TV4ckfdVD5I/AAAAAAAAA-E/PllqifDmvWc/s1600/optimism.jpg

Recently, I had the opportunity to read Miranda Lapides insightful article “Israel Peace Week and Positive Psychology” which explained how giving a conflict a “positive spin” helps to bring out people’s most important values, thereby paving the road to peace.

For one, I am certainly glad that someone has finally taken the subjective idealist framework and applied it in a conflict situation. After all, external material reality is nothing more than perceptions of the mind, right? What are “occupation” and “apartheid” if not mere ideological concepts that exist in the mind?

In fact, let’s acknowledge exactly that. Let’s ignore the countless home demolitions that have occurred in Palestinian villages. Let’s ignore 65 years of humiliation that Palestinians have lived through. Let’s ignore the destruction of lives and households of the Palestinians. After all, these issues are merely just subjective perceptions, and I am sure that the settlers who just uprooted a Palestinian farmer’s olive tree have a just and equally valid subjective perception. Who needs to actually deal with material reality when you have “positive psychology.”

Yes, let’s not talk about the issues that actually effect people’s lives. Let’s focus on some abstract notion of “positivity” and “peace” while people are being oppressed and and having their livelihoods ruined. No, that would too divisive, not helpful for “positive psychology.” Oppression only exists in the mind, you just have to keep convincing yourself that everything is alright and that whatever hardships you experience are merely subjective.

Such is the absurd logic behind the Israel Student Association’s call for “positive psychology,” a call that does not seek to address what is wrong, a call that seeks to ignore the sufferings of others, a call that serves nothing more than to whitewash the actions of the oppressors.

As much as one can wish, the Occupation simply cannot be “thought away” with positive psychology. Daily hardships that people go through do not go away by “focusing on the positives.” No, these are real people with real lives, with real tangible hardships that they have to go through. Appealing to an infantile fantasy that somehow by having “positive psychology” would somehow remedy the situation is not only naïve, but counterproductive.

Statement of Support for the American Studies Association

Students Against Israeli Apartheid Statement of Appreciation and Solidarity with the American Studies Association

As student activists in the international social movement for equal human rights for Palestinians, we greatly appreciate your bravery in challenging the discourse on Palestine in academia. We wish to thank you for your contribution in the endeavor to end Israeli oppression and we hope your decision inspires others to challenge the status quo on their campuses.

Even though the resolution has been widely criticized, know that you have taken the appropriate approach for justice by boycotting the systematic discrimination that is reinforced by Israeli academic institutions. While today you are berated for your actions, tomorrow, you will be applauded for being the forerunners of social justice.

We deeply appreciate this resolution, and it continues to inspire our work towards dismantling the false dichotomy that has surrounded Palestinians and Israelis for all too long.  Your decision will not only empower Palestinian academics, but everyone else who will enjoy the political space that you have created.

We support and give thanks to the ASA and its remarkable resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the occupied people of Palestine until freedom and equality are the status quo.

GMU President Cabrera’s Racist Tweet Opposing Academic Boycott

Yesterday, GMU President Ángel Cabrera tweeted his support for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities “Statement in Opposition to Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.”

Shortly following this endorsement, he tweeted his statement to the Washington Post:

 His line that “Universities exist to build bridges of understanding, not to blow them up” insinuates that being in solidarity with Palestinians is on par with terrorism. Not only is this metaphor racist and distasteful, but it was also irresponsible. Supporters of the academic boycott are endangered when their activity is distorted through fear mongering. Cabrera’s use of damaging language is a blatant response to the support GMU SAIA received from faculty as a result of the NO HONOR IN APARTHEID campaign. His response is only a small part of the national “McCarthyite” campaign to destroy the positive learning environments student organizations have created regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on campuses. While academic integrity is often cited as a value of the administration, Cabrera’s rhetoric serves to limit discussion, exploration, and academic freedom around critical issues. While President Cabrera’s support for Israeli apartheid is no secret, his allegiance, to the best of our knowledge, is linked to position and profits.

President Cabrera’s opposition to the resolution, like any university administration’s, denouncement, comes as no surprise. Historically, university presidents are not forerunners of social justice or equality. Now more than ever, their roles resemble that of a CEO of a corporation. Cabrera’s loyalty belongs to the university’s board of trustees, not the faculty or the students. His priority is to increase the university’s endowment, not to uphold its academic integrity. When president Cabrera opposes the ASA’s resolution to boycott Israeli institutions he is not only suppressing the academic freedom of Palestinian academics, but he is also challenging his own faculty’s right to self-determination.

Cabrera’s most recent action is a deliberate attempt to stifle any form of faculty organization on the GMU campus.  Today, we are fighting for a faceless Palestinian academic, but tomorrow we may be demanding better working conditions and pay for you and your colleagues. For this reason president Cabrera opposed the ASA’s resolution, because the former will lead to the latter, and the latter is an administrator’s worst fear.

The Graduate Teaching Assistant’s Letter of Solidarity

Dear New Century College Faculty and Administrators,

A letter which has circulated among faculty and students has brought to light troubling information about the Arison Group which has donated funds for an endowed professorship of Doing Good Values in New Century College. Shari Arison, the owner of Arison Group will be acknowledged at George Mason University’s 2013 commencement ceremonies, receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

As graduate teaching assistants and graduate lecturers at New Century College, we have appreciated the college’s inclusiveness, intellectual freedom and commitment to social justice. However, we are concerned that NCC’s relationship with the Arison Group may contradict many of the values of NCC which we hold dear, and which could impact our students’ experiences and the public perception of the college.

NCC describes its commitment to equity “as fairness in the distribution of rights and resources to populations, especially those who are often disenfranchised.” We worry that a professorship endowed by the Arison Group serves as an endorsement for the Arison Group’s involvement with Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and the construction of the Apartheid Wall, actions completely contrary to NCC’s stated commitments. We think that asking Palestinian students and their families to sit through a commencement that honors someone who has profited from their dispossession fails to support students, faculty and staff who have been the victims of bias and discrimination. We also fear that this relationship may set an alarming precedent for future corporate collaborations, which could be at odds with NCC’s stated commitments to diversity, equity, and sustainability.

Because we firmly believe in New Century College’s dedication to creating an environment that engages diverse points of view, we would like to see a critical discussion about the current relationship with Arison Group, how this may affect the college, and the conditions for future financial and academic partnerships. We ask that these discussions are sustained as long as necessary to resolve our concerns.

Sincerely,

Graduate Teaching Assistants

GMU Students to Walkout of Winter Graduation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GMU Students to Walkout of Winter Graduation

Action Protests Shari Arison, Israeli Billionaire and Apartheid-Profiteer

Fairfax, VA, 17 December 2013

On Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 1:00pm, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) will lead a walkout of George Mason University’s Winter Commencement ceremony at the Patriot Center on GMU’s Fairfax Campus. University administrators contacted Students Against Israeli Apartheid, responding to this public outcry. After a week-long period of discussion, the university met SAIA’s demand for accommodations for graduating students who did not wish to have their ceremony marred by Arison’s presence, and released the following statement:  “Graduates seated on the arena floor will be able to leave through an exit at the rear of the hall. These individuals will be provided an option of waiting in a reserved room. (…) An event staff member will inform those waiting when the commencement speaker’s remarks have concluded.  Graduates and guests can then re-enter the arena.” This is a historical opportunity for graduating students to demonstrate their commitment to human rights and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian students that have been personally affected by the on-going occupation of Palestine by Apartheid Israel. As the first campus that has resisted the Arison Group’s influence, Mason can set a strong precedent for rejecting the Arison Group’s whitewashing of Israeli Apartheid.

Shari Arison, owner of the Arison Group, is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters and speaking at the commencement ceremony. An open letter written by faculty sponsor Craig Willse and graduating SAIA President Tareq Radi that raised concerns about the Arison Group’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine and highlighted the hypocrisy of an apartheid-profiteer funding an endowed chair to teach “Doing Good Values” was widely read by the campus community. Many students, faculty, and staff who were previously unaware of the nature of the Arison Group’s involvement at Mason were outraged at the prospect of an apartheid-profiteer using the University as a publicity tool.

In the past two weeks, SAIA publicized Arison’s profiteering through a variety of methods. SAIA put up flyers with the slogans “Arison Investments: Colonizing Curriculum” and “No Honor in Apartheid” to resist the trend of privatization at the University and demonstrate how honoring Arison directly contradicts GMU’s new vision and guiding principles. On social media, SAIA utilized #arisonIDEA to show how apartheid would look on Mason’s campus. On the Fairfax campus’ North Plaza, SAIA constructed an eight-foot tall wall to further publicize the campaign. In combination with the open letter, these efforts sparked a discussion within the New Century College, the home of Arison’s endowed professorship. Dean Lisa Gring-Pemble called a meeting on Friday, December 6, for faculty and staff of NCC to air their concerns. As resistance against Arison’s role at George Mason mounts, these conversations are expected to continue.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid

Email: gmusaia@gmail.com

Website: gmusaiablog.wordpress.com

Twitter: @GMUSAIA

Facebook: facebook.com/GMUSAIA

END

Be a part of this historical moment.
Be a part of this historical moment.

"For the equality of all and the supremacy of none." Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. Anti-normalization. One State. Leading the fight for human rights at George Mason University.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 639 other followers