Where is the Moral Fortitude of the University’s Leader? Palestinian Rights are Human Rights

Nadia Aruri

The phrase “Progressive Except for Palestine” refers to organizations and individuals who support progressive causes in the world, but fail to extend their support to the Palestinian cause.

While the University of Minnesota is a liberal institution, the current administration fails to exhibit any sense of fairness and justice on the Palestinian issue. Throughout my four years at the University, I watched statement after statement be released from the University in support of students belonging to groups who experienced violence here in the US and abroad. In the wake of George FloydUkraine and Asian hate the University made it clear where they stand. After Israel’s 2021 violent bombing campaign, which killed over 250 Palestinians engaged in civil protests in Gaza, over 100 students marched on campus showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Immediately after this march in support of Palestinian lives, the University put out a statement condemning anti-semitism. This, of course, dangerously conflated acts in support of justice in Palestine as an attack on an entire faith. Acting in such a manner, our administration delegitimized the very real threat of anti-semitism Jewish students on campus face, which has no relation to the Palestinian search for justice.

What makes this selective “solidarity” even more heinous is the fact that not only does the University ignore the plight of Palestinians, but our University directly contributes to their suffering by contributing to the system that upholds it. For example, the University sends students to partake in study abroad programs at Israeli universities, such as Technion University. Technion is party to the propagation of Israel’s illegal settler-colonial occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Technion, which is located in the ethnically cleansed city of Haifa, is also inaccessible to most of the University’s Palestinian international students, as well as many Palestinian-American students, as they are forbidden from entering Israel due to the impossibility of obtaining the necessary Israeli military permit. The fact that the University of Minnesota, a land-grant institution that acknowledges the land it sits on is stolen from Native Americans, collaborates with Israeli universities known for their segregationist policies against the very people they dispossessed is the hallmark of liberal hypocrisy. To add insult to injury, the University defied the majority of its student body who voted in a campus-wide referendum which called on the administration to divest from companies that have engaged in human rights violations in Palestine.

Most recently, Interim President Jeff Ettinger sent a campus-wide email condemning “the abhorrent acts committed by Hamas.” Since he sent that email, over 20,000 Palestinians have been brutally murdered by Israel, nearly half of them children, in what the world is calling the most extensive bombing Gazans have ever experienced. Over 50% of civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, 1.9 million have been displaced, and the entire population of 2.1 million is facing starvation and dehydration as a result of the siege. Where is the moral outcry of the University’s leaders and what kind of liberal ideas and practice, and a sense of justice are the core of the University? It is as if the University has consciously and shamelessly decided the dehumanization, subjugation, brutalization and collective punishment of millions of Palestinians is acceptable to our institutions and its leaders. Nearly all credible international experts of human rights law have condemned the acts of the Israeli government in occupied Palestine as a war crime. Nearly every Palestinian student at the University has lost, or knows someone who has lost family or friends in this genocide through the atrocities committed by Israel. Despite such glaring facts and agony, the president of the University does not have the moral and ethical fortitude to call a genocide a genocide. The president’s actions and words tell the Palestinian students and all those who cherish human rights and dignity their lives and views do not matter.

We as Palestinian students demand, as we have time and time again, the University stop its apathy towards us. We have asked for the bare minimum. It has not been received. The tides are changing, as evidenced by the millions of people marching worldwide for Palestine. We find our comfort in community, and in knowing that our stance is against hatred and injustice everywhere. These are truly sad times that our University’s leadership cannot find the humane consciousness to be on the side of justice. Where is the liberal heart of the University?  It is time that they stop its glaring prejudice against its Palestinian students.

This article was originally published on The Minnesota Daily in December, 2023

Suggested citation:

Aruri. N. 2024. “Where is the moral fortitude of the University’s leader? Palestinian rights are Human rights.” In eds. José Manuel Santillana Blanco, Kidiocus King-Carroll, Naimah Zulmadelle Pétigny, and Kong Pheng Pha in collaboration with AGITATE! Editorial Collective. Seditious Acts: AGITATE! Special Volume with CRES: where-is-the-moral-fortitude-of-the-universitys-leader-palestinian-rights-are-human-rights

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