As academics, researchers and educators associated with Victoria University, we are dismayed to learn that the Student Union Building will play host next week to soldiers from the Israeli Defense Force, touring Aotearoa/New Zealand as part of a nation-wide campaign to justify Israeli crimes in last year’s war in Gaza.
Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s assault on the Gaza strip in July last year, killed some 2 194 people over 51 days. 1 523 of these casualties were civilians. The United Nations stated that Israel’s use of heavy artillery against Gaza “may amount to a war crime.”
This attack had a devastating effect on educational and academic life in Gaza. Three universities, seven United Nations schools and at least 140 local schools suffered severe damage from Israeli attacks. Over 20 students were killed in an attack on Al Quds Open University. 60 academic staff and their families were displaced, as were over 2000 students and their families. Summer courses in 2014 were largely cancelled.
Our academic colleagues in Palestine are unable to play their part in normal scholarly life due to Israeli blockades, disruptions, and harassment of Palestinian life in Gaza and other occupied territories. Palestinian students have their movements restricted, and are thus unable often to take up opportunities for studies abroad or for other normal exchanges.
It is astonishing, therefore, that an exercise in propaganda and apologetics for military violence should be hosted at a university setting under the guise of education and learning opportunities. This meeting gives a platform to IDF soldiers for them to celebrate the very conflict that led to such massive Palestinian loss of life.
Hosting IDF apologists at Victoria will have a chilling effect for Palestinian and Arab students studying in our community, many of whom have experienced either direct loss as a result of the conflict or the more generalized threats of anti-Arab racism generated by the Israeli rhetoric of Palestinians as ‘terrorists’.
As scholars in Aotearoa, with its own colonial history, we have a particular duty to speak out on this question.
Students planning to protest this event uphold essential traditions of free speech and dissent.
Mohammad Alzeer (PhD Candidate, Chemistry)*
Maria Bargh (Senior Lecturer, Te Kawa a Māui)
Anita Brady (Senior Lecturer, Media Studies)
Tim Corballis (Writer in Residence, IIML)
Chamsy el-Ojeili (Senior Lecturer, Sociology)
Lorena Gibson (Lecturer, Cultural Anthropology)
Sandra Grey (Senior Lecturer, Social Policy)
April Henderson (Senior Lecturer, Va’aomanu Pasifika)
Cybèle Locke (Lecturer, History)
Tina Makereti (author, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings)
Dougal McNeill (Lecturer, English)
Grace Millar (Tutor, History)
Clare Moleta (Administrator, IIML)
Pala Molisa (Lecturer, Accounting and Commercial Law)
Tamara Qumseya (PhD candidate, Psychology)
Geoff Stahl (Senior Lecturer, Media Studies)
Elizabeth Stanely (Reader, Criminology)
Mary Tate (Senior Lecturer, Information Management)
Teresia Teaiwa (Senior Lecturer, Va’aomanu Pasifika)
Heidi Thomson (Associate Professor, English)
Kim Wheatley (Teaching Fellow, Film)
Paul Wolffram (Senior Lecturer, Film)
Mo H. Zareei (PhD Candidate, Sonic Arts)
* All affiliations listed for identification purposes only.
To add you name to the statement, please contact Dougal McNeill (dougal [dot] mcneill [at] vuw [dot] ac [dot] nz)