[Originally posted on October 13. In light of the updates, I am reposting this and moving it to the to the top of the Conspiracy.]
This was circulated to the law school community on Monday [Oct. 10], so no excuses about it being an initial visceral reaction to be re-thought as a scope of the massacre became clear. I have the entire statement, which I am happy to share, but for now I just want to present the first paragraph. I don’t really have words to describe how disgusting this is. It’s both morally appalling and wildly dishonest at the same time:
Palestinians in Gaza are fighting against the Israeli colonial entity on an unprecedented scale. So far, they have bulldozed barbed wire and walls that have kept them trapped as hostages in Gaza, the largest open-air prison in the world. They have captured Israeli occupying soldiers and retaken some of their land from Israel. This guerilla warfare, although not without a steep cost to Israelis and Palestinians, is the first instance of Palestinians fighting occupying Israel in recent years. Despite Palestinians understanding the brutal reaction of the Israeli regime, they remain persistent in fighting for their life because in all actuality, the war has been ongoing for the past seven decades. As one Gazan poignantly said, “Today, we will either be free or be killed, and either is better than being caged.”
Here are the student organizations that sent it.
Law Students for Justice in Palestine (LSJP)
Black Law Student Association (BLSA)
Muslim Law Student Association (MLSA)
Middle Eastern and North African Law Student Association (MENALSA)
National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
Res Sista Loquitur: Women of Color Coalition
Students Taking Action for Racial Solidarity (STARS) Executive Board
[UPDATE: Following immediate pushback from the Jewish Law Students Association and I’m sure others, BLSA retracted its endorsement of the statement within a few hours of it being circulated. STARS retracted its endorsement the next morning.
RSL provided a clarification: “We appreciate and recognize the nuance of the Israel-Palestine conflict, its impact on both communities, the significance of the atrocities impacting civilians, and the unprecedented grief amongst the Jewish community. As such, we cannot emphasize enough that as an organization, students, and humans, we are vehemently opposed to—and do not condone -violence. As a signatory, we sought to acknowledge and support Palestinian liberation. In no way did we aim to hurt our peers.”
SJP, which drafted the letter, essentially reaffirmed its statement. I’m going to reprint its entire reaffirmation after the fold.
After SJP’s reaffirmation, MLSA spent most of its follow-up decrying Islamaphobia and racism. It did not retract its signature, and instead condemned all recent violence against civilians, equating Hamas’s barbaric massacre with Israel’s military response: “Consistent with our historical stance across the years -we, as Muslim members of this community, unequivocally condemn all acts of violence targeting innocent civilians with the hope that this condemnation serves as a lasting commitment. This includes the recent violence against civilians at the hands of Hamas and the IDF. To assume otherwise is unsound in its reasoning and rooted in disturbing racist ideologies. It is self-evident, yet the presumptions made against our humanity speak to the extent of Islamophobia on this campus.”
Thereafter, MENALSA weighed in: “The MENALSA board would like to clarify our position on the recent discourse. It’s very easy for us to condemn the violence perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli citizens. We apologize for staying silent on this issue, we certainly did not mean to imply approval for, or celebration of, acts of terror.”
After the fold is SJP’s followup statement. If you read it carefully, while the email stats that SJP’s words were “distorted to imply that we condone violence against innocent civilians,” you will not find any specific criticism of Hamas’s Oct. 7 orgy of violence against innocent civilians, nor, for that matter, any clarification that SJP considers Israelis civilians to be “innocent civilians,” an important omission given the trope in Palestine Solidarity circles that no settler is a civilian, and all Israeli Jews are settlers.
And as one student responded:
Your words were not distorted they were simply read. You said “captured occupying Israeli Soldiers” “guerrilla warfare” and “only now that they feel the consequences of their own racist colonial actions that the one-sided war has become two sided” then finally “The unprecedented resistance by Palestinians from Gaza did not happen in a vacuum. Rather this is the response of people pushed beyond endurance for years.”
All those statements you made directly after a terrorist attack by Hamas that targeted, killed, and captured hundreds of civilians. The logical conclusion anyone who reads your words reaches is that you consider the attacks this weekend to be guerrilla warfare, consequences, and resistance. I want to add special emphasis on the captured occupying Israeli soldiers comment as those captured were not soldiers, but civilian’s including children, and foreign nationals.
Here is SJP’s followup statement:
Caitlin Doolittle <firstname.lastname@example.org> [Bonus irony: while an undergrad student at U. Penn., Ms. Doolittle was an “Anti-Violence Educator.”]
To: lawopen <LawOpen@listserver.law.umich.edu>
To the Law School Community,
Wed, Oct 11, 2023 at 8:30 AM
Let us be clear: our organization’s very existence is about ensuring that all people, Palestinians and non Palestinians alike, are free from bodily harm, violence, and oppression. No one rejoices in the loss of life. Palestinians deeply feel your pain. For almost every day for 75 years, Palestinians have watched their children, mothers, and families be attacked, mutilated, and murdered. This is precisely why we call for the full recognition of rights for Palestinians whose lives have been devalued under the occupation and apartheid of the Israeli-settler colonial state. The fact that our words were distorted to imply that we condone violence against innocent civilians is unconscionable and done in bad faith.
We are appalled that individuals have chosen to read our message as a glorification of the murder of any civilian. There are two important questions we now ask you to consider: 1) whose deaths cause you to feel rage, and 2) who do you direct that rage to?
The events of this weekend in Gaza and the violence that is coming are not things that happen in a vacuum. The root cause of all rights violations in Palestine and Israel is the settler colonial structure of the Israeli State and the resulting apartheid and blockade Israel has imposed on Palestinians. Israel has been suffocating the people of Gaza by turning off their electricity, cutting off their water supply, bombarding residential buildings en masse, and deploying banned chemical weapons. Israel is now depriving Gaza of electricity. Palestinian hospitals have no power and Palestinians who have done nothing but exist are unable to access medical care under the consistent bombing and the incoming IDF incursion in which every restriction is revoked. There remains no way out of Gaza. In a nation in which mere Palestinian existence is seen as a threat to Israel and dehumanization of Palestinians is key to Israeli politics, this is undeniably a license to continue ethnic cleansing.
We therefore reaffirm our statement that the only viable way to end the violence in the region is for Israel to end the systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people, treat them as equal citizens with freedom of movement, and allow Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland. We will not back down from this stance that has been supported by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner, and many other reputable human rights organizations.
On another but related note, what has occurred on lawopen has been disappointing, harmful, and incredibly alarming to various members of the law school community. The mass, unquestioned lslamophobia is deplorable, and the selective recognition of humanity is reprehensible. There have been analogies to 9/11, Palestinian people have been likened to “animals,” and the entire “Muslim world” has been demonized. We have seen time and time again what follows when we dehumanize an entire group of people in this way, and it’s distressing that some of our law school peers felt comfortable spewing this rhetoric. We are deeply saddened that a community that should strive for justice has chosen to attack LSJP and other organizations attempting to achieve it.