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MENA Program Statement on Palestinian Rights

The Program of Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern University has watched with grave concern the events unfolding this week in Occupied East Jerusalem, Gaza, and other Palestinian communities, as well as in Israel. As of today, media accounts vary, but indicate that an unconscionable number of civilian deaths have occurred. 

We condemn violence against civilians and call for respect for the lives, rights and dignity of all peoples. At the same time, we recognize the drastic asymmetry of what many news agencies are misrepresenting as “clashes in the Middle East.” The current escalation must be understood in the context of more than one hundred years of history in which the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine led to the flight or expulsion of some 750,000 of Palestine’s indigenous inhabitants as refugees. The events of this week do not occur in a political or historical vacuum. Indeed, they occur in a situation in which Israel, as the sole governing power in the area, exercises sweeping control over Palestinian lives, engages in ongoing settlement and appropriation of Palestinian land, and effectively blocks Palestinian national self-determination. 

For years, Palestinian organizations have argued that Israel’s regime of sustained and systemic subjugation of Palestinians meets the international definition of apartheid. In damning reports this year B’Tselem, the most prominent Israeli human rights organization, and Human Rights Watch agree. We express our solidarity with the Palestinian people who are fighting against dispossession of their homes and are enduring bombings and raids. We call for respect for international law and human rights. We call upon Israel, as the more powerful party and that which benefits most from a profoundly unjust status quo, to end its multiple forms of violence against Palestinians. And we call upon American decision-makers to break from decades of one-sided policy-making and adopt stances that center respect for Palestinians’ rights to freedom, dignity, and security.

As faculty and graduate students of Middle East and North African Studies, we are committed to combating racism in all its forms, including anti-Blackness, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Asian racism. We insist that colonialism is a form of racism to be combated elsewhere just as in the United States. In doing so, and in joining our voices to those of the people of Palestine, we reaffirm our commitment to equity and justice, not only in society as a whole, but in higher education, which requires us to act upon our knowledge as scholars and informed thinkers to demand a more just world.

May 14, 2021