Editor’s Note: Please see the end of this article for its list of contributors.
UC Irvine’s administration must unequivocally denounce the shelling of both the Islamic University of Gaza, one of the premier universities in Gaza, and the U.N. charter school. The latter bombing has resulted in as many as 50 deaths (almost all of them civilians and students) and is part of a larger act of Israeli military aggression that has claimed over 700 lives and injured thousands in the past 13 days. We also call on the Associated Students, the Associated Graduate Students and the UCI Academic Senate to introduce and pass resolutions condemning the murderous violence perpetrated on the students, educators and working families in Gaza.
According to the U.N. president, Israel stands in violation of international and humanitarian laws in its use of “collective punishment” against the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza, in its use of “disproportionate military” power against a defenseless people and in its “targeting of civilians” to carry out its military campaign. An article for the Huffington Post by Nancy Kanwisher argues that while Israel claims self-defense, it has been overwhelmingly responsible for ending cease fires and reinitiating violence since the start of the Second Intifada: “79 percent of all conflict pauses were interrupted when Israel killed a Palestinian, while only 8 percent were interrupted by Palestinian attacks (the remaining 13 percent were interrupted by both sides on the same day).”
We are taught that universities are open-spaces in which ideas may be freely and openly exchanged and debated and that the university is a place for collaborative scholarship. What ideas can the dead share? With student “free-speech” areas shrinking and becoming overregulated, UCI’s administration has gone to great lengths to convince the campus that UCI’s core values are those of “respect, appreciation, empathy, truth, intellectual curiosity and integrity.” These values, if they mean anything at all, should be applied universally. UCI administrators have been quick to help organize and participate in vigils for the victims of the shooting-tragedies at other U.S. colleges. Are Gaza’s students, educators and workers killed by the Israeli bombardment any less deserving of our respect, appreciation and empathy?
If UCI, one of the most prestigious public universities in the U.S., does not publicly denounce these military strikes against Gaza’s schools, then it is admitting to its students and to the surrounding communities that its “core values” are nothing more than self-aggrandizing propaganda and a hypocritical double standard.
We cannot accept Israel’s self-serving rationale that the Islamic University of Gaza housed weapon’s research and development facilities for Hamas (the democratically elected government of Gaza) as a warrant for such an onslaught. Israel’s line of reasoning is shocking when we consider that UCI currently houses equivalent facilities for the U.S. military. The UCI homepage proudly lists the myriad of scientific-military contracts that UCI’s faculty are awarded as soon as they get them. The homepage for UCI’s Center for Unconventional Security Affairs lists its many ties to current and former U.S. armed forces officers and police departments in its “board of experts” and “advisory board” links. If UCI remains silent and accepts the university-military justification for the attacks on Gaza’s schools, then it is upholding a suicidal logic that would morally, rationally and politically legitimize UCI itself as a military target.
We, both as students and as workers employed by UCI, will not passively allow ourselves to be used as human shields to protect the power and profit of a few. We demand that UCI demonstrate its integrity by extending its principles of “respect, appreciation, empathy and truth” to all students and all workers victimized by the brutality of such indiscriminate and imperialist military violence, instead of hosting its usual farce of “dialogue” between student groups on campus that emphasize apolitical cultural issues and ignore the real hardship, poverty and oppression suffered in the occupied territories.
The only other way UCI can avoid the shame of such blatant moral duplicity is if it abandons any research or grant related to weapons and war production — be it in ICS, engineering, the humanities or the physical and social sciences. In addition to this academic disarmament, UCI would need to divest from any national or international institution whose activities directly or indirectly include attacks on civilian populations, as is the case with the UC Regent’s investment in weapon’s manufacturers that sell armament to Israel, and otherwise support Middle Eastern occupations by Israel and the U.S.
With the Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. holiday quickly approaching, we ask the rest of the campus community (student, faculty and campus workers) to honor his legacy with more than a mere celebratory spectacle of identity politics, but by recognizing King’s work as part of a longer and continuing historical struggle against the domination of the “have’s” over the “have-not’s,” and to stand in solidarity with the students, educators and workers of Gaza, Israel and the world (like Oaxaca and Greece) who are daily fighting for a just and equitable existence.
The following graduate students contributed to this article: Fernando Chirino, Kelly Ramsey, John Bruning, Dennis Lopez, Nathanael Matthieson, Raul Perez, David Peterson and Philip Grant. Contributions were also made by the following undergraduate students: Andrea De La Riva, Angel Maldonado, Kevin Smith, Joyce Ortiz and Sandra Flores.