The faculty and graduate students in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California San Diego condemn the most recent actions by the State of Israel in the Gaza Strip, commencing with the air strikes that began on December 27, 2008 and the ground invasions, which started on January 4, 2009. Both have resulted in the death and mutilation of a large number of Palestinian civilians. While Israel argues that it is targeting Hamas militants, the astounding number of civilian deaths (exceeding 900 as of January 13, 2009) shows a blatant lack of concern for Palestinian lives. They result from Israel’s targeting of hospitals, mosques, schools, residential buildings and other civilian locations, a practice that cannot be supported by the self-defense argument reproduced by media outlets and endorsed by the US government.
As critical scholars in the field of racial and ethnic studies we interpret these violent actions as an indication of how, in the global order, people of color and the places they live are irrelevant to international legal instruments and moral principles. In short, the most recent deployment of the Israeli military arsenal constitutes nothing more nor less than another episode of racial violence. For this reason, we believe that the current military aggression cannot be divorced from Israel’s overall policy of violence against Palestinians, which includes the strategies deployed during periods of “cease fire” such as tactics that deny access to basic necessities including food, water and health care for the Palestinian residents of the Gaza strip. The recent aerial bombing and ground invasions further this systematic practice of racial violence preventing the Red Cross, the UN and other humanitarian organizations from providing urgently needed assistance to the people of Gaza.
In this unique historic moment, on the eve of the inauguration of the first African-American president, we expect the United States government and the American people to condemn such practices of racial violence in no uncertain terms. Unfortunately, we hear a repetition of the argument that Israel is exercising its right to self-defense. It is inconceivable that a society that prides itself on its respect for human rights, and now celebrates another milestone in the road towards racial justice, fails to recognize that Israel’s military objectives, the destruction of Hamas, cannot justify the indiscriminate killing of men and women, young and old, just because they live in the Gaza Strip, because they are Palestinians. This generalized construction of the enemy is at the core of racial violence. It criminalizes a whole population. It aliments existing representations of Arabs, Muslims, and Brown people in general as ‘criminal/terrorists.’ In sum, it justifies otherwise morally untenable acts of total violence.
We hope that the Obama administration will remain consistent with its call for change, that it will issue a forceful condemnation of Israel’s killing of Palestinians, and will review long-held US policies, cutting the military, economic, and political support that provide implicit and explicit backing of Israel’s practices of racial terror. We are convinced that only such a stance will reflect a true commitment to peace in the Middle East. More importantly, it will signal the seriousness of the call for change that is the hallmark of the incoming Obama administration. Any policy that accepts Israel’s right to self-defense as a justification for racial massacre, in this case the systematic extermination of Palestinians, favors complicity over change.
If you wish to comment on the statement, please use the commenting feature underneath the “Addendum” posted above (we’re trying to keep all the comments on the Gaza statement in one place). -The Blog Editor