End the UC Memorandum of Understanding with the Israel Innovation Authority
An Open Letter to the Office of President Janet Napolitano
Dear President Napolitano,
We students of the University of California write to you with serious concerns and grievances regarding the most recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the University of California and the Israel Innovation Authority. We must say that we are not surprised to see your office continuously disregard student, worker and faculty voices of dissent that have voted repeatedly to end all normalization with the Israeli state and its institutions until such a time that it ends its military siege of the Gaza strip, occupation of the West Bank, ensures equity for all of its Arab citizens and until it allows all Palestinian refugees and exiles the right to return to their homeland in accordance with UN resolution 194. Still, we find it critical to write this letter for three reasons.
First, we are adding our voice of opposition to the historical record. Second, we are committed to exposing and challenging your administration’s policies and practices of repression that stifle meaningful pedagogy, intellectual inquiry, cultural exchange, and democratic and transparent administrative practice. Third, it is an imperative duty for all people of conscience to challenge your administration and the broader historical role of the UC in ongoing systemic oppression of people of color and working class people here in the US and Third world people across the globe, including the Palestinians in Palestine.
President Napolitano, the world is changing and the era of liberal diversity and tolerance has now become a faint shadow of the past. It is clear you are attempting to sustain a national imaginary that privileges these concepts and ideals within the UC system which will prove to be ever more difficult because of the inauguration of Donald Trump, as evidenced by some of the many statements and policies your office has issued within the last several months, particularly the November 30th, 2016 statement which pertains to limiting UC cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, now, people will be able to identify what are truly meaningful practices of freedom, equity, justice, and inclusion. Your students know when and how these ideals only become used as tropes within rhetoric to assuage peoples’ movements and redirect blame versus when they are truly reflected by institutional change. For many of our communities here in the UC, liberal ideals of diversity and tolerance have never quite applied to us in full. Rather, they have long been used to subjugate our oppression further as is evident in the egregious conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that the UC Regents has incorporated, ironically, in the 2016 released Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.
Donald Trump has indeed raised the bar. Your office is now expected to signify how institutions can maintain democratic and inclusive ideals in spite of increasingly explicit draconian policies, repression, and infringement on democratic freedoms implemented at the federal level. Unfortunately for you, this era will mean your constituencies will be asking more of you to safeguard civil and human rights, women’s rights, rights of LGBTQ communities, and to condemn all forms of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Black, xenophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and ableist, oppression. We Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists within your constituency will not shy away from holding you to the same expectation when it comes to withdrawing all complicity in the illegal Israeli occupation and ending all forms of repression on Palestine solidarity students, staff and faculty.
Your cooperation with the Israel Innovation Authority signifies, once again, your own complicity in systemic oppression and that your interest in leading this institution is based on economic profit and the procurement and securing of political alliances; that shouldn’t exactly have been a surprise to us considering your previous post as the Head of Homeland Security and the scores of resultant deaths and other rights violations that occurred under your tenure. Now, in your new position, rather than working diligently to end the privatization of our public education system; to ensure that students do not experience food insecurity and housing shortages; that your constituencies are safe, protected, nurtured and feel welcome as part of the UC family; and that our education system is truly the rubric to be followed both with regards to its ideals and its innovative and intellectual production, you are making deals with Israeli institutions that are the architects of global repression and represent all that is antithetical to public education.
You are normalizing oppression and you are imposing complicity on your constituencies without our vote. This new cooperation tells us, your students, that you will go to all measures to maintain power and profit at the expense of public education, human rights, and at the expense of what your students want, need and are saying to you and have been telling you over and over again. Democratic ideals mean nothing to you when it comes to your blinding allegiance to Israeli institutions and Zionist organizations in the US. We do not want to partner with Israeli institutions. Associated Student governing boards at seven of your nine campuses, told you this on their majority votes calling on the regents to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. 14,000 teaching assistants, tutors and readers told you this when they voted to endorse a full boycott, divestment and sanctions referendum in December 2014. Your faculty have told you this time and time again through endorsements for the academic boycott in the American Studies Association (ASA), the Native and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS), the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS). You and your administration are working so hard to criminalize these calls to action. Why are you silencing us? This new MOU signifies to us once again that no matter how many people are hurt along the way and no matter what your own constituency, your actions are motivated not by the principles of public education, not by principles of social justice and diversity or what your constituencies want and need.
For many Palestinians in the UC system, the process of shouldering the extra work to leave a trace of ourselves, atop of our already inundated, fragmented and precarious racial positionality, is something we know well. Many of us wake each morning and dig deep into ourselves to muster up the energy, courage, will, determination and spirit to be part of a UC and broader US social, political, cultural and racial climate; that which is often not welcoming and incredibly volatile to us. But for Palestinians in the Diaspora, we see this as the minimal thing that we can in fact achieve for our people, struggle, and our homeland. So we do it, to make it a little more challenging for all those who are attempting to eliminate and erase us from the historical record as they have supported a settler-colonial project that has ethnically cleansed us from our homeland and to criminalize our very existence and speech, as well as those of our friends who have joined us in the pursuit of freedom, justice, and liberation.
We write to you today to tell you that we are vigilantly committed to maintaining the perseverance of Palestinian life and to condemn all forms of systemic oppression impacting our communities, including the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We urge you to immediately end the UC Regents partnership with the Israel Innovation Authority and to respect the will of your constituents as well as Palestinian lives and rights.