c/o Faculty for Justice in Palestine

c/o Faculty for Justice in Palestine

Welcome to Office Hours, a series brought to you by the Features section! In these articles, Argus writers speak to faculty, staff, and members of the administration about their interests, classes, and lives on and off campus. 

While Students for Justice in Palestine has been a long-standing organization on campus, their work has recently gained a newfound level of support from faculty and staff. Wesleyan Faculty for Justice in Palestine (WFJP) emerged this past semester in response to the ongoing violence in Gaza and the West Bank. In a written correspondence, The Argus wrote to members of the WFJP to learn more about their current work and their goals. This is their response. 

The Argus: What is the Wesleyan Faculty for Justice in Palestine?

Wesleyan Faculty for Justice in Palestine: Wesleyan Faculty for Justice in Palestine is a collective of faculty and staff (we include everyone who makes education at the university possible) formed in opposition to Israel’s US-backed genocidal war on Palestinian life. We condemn the historic and increasing violence against Palestinians, their homes and their properties in Gaza, historic Palestine, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We also condemn the killings of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, the injuring of 77,000 more, the internal displacement of 75% of Gazans, and the catastrophic destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure, including all of its universities and the vast majority of its hospitals and clinics, and the incitement of famine. 1 in 50 children in Gaza has either been killed or injured in the past six months.

Wesleyan FJP formed to advocate for change, to speak out as educators against this violence, and to support others exercising their rights to do so. We firmly commit to combating any form of racism, including anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy, and we assert the non-equivalence of anti-Zionism with antisemitism.

 A: How was the WFJP formed?

WFJP: Wesleyan FJP formed in response to a call put out by the national FJP network. On campus, there were already multiple faculty efforts to speak out and educate ourselves and others about Palestine. Since October 2023, a group of faculty has worked together in an ad hoc way to organize events such as the “From the West Bank to Wesleyan” series, the Palestine Studies seminar, and lectures by scholars with expertise on Palestine. In addition to educational programming, FJP explicitly supports divestment and academic boycott campaigns, academic freedom to teach and speak out about Palestine, and other efforts to disentangle universities from war, genocide, and apartheid. We join a network of more than 80 other FJPs at campuses across the nation.

A: How do you see your work in relation to the University’s SJP? What role do you hope to take in their work?

WFJP: Both SJP and FJP organize around the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and Palestine liberation. At Wesleyan, we affirm SJP’s call for financial transparency and divestment, and we affirm their right to speak out against genocide and military occupation. At a time when politicians [and] pro-Israel organizations and donors have been putting tremendous pressure on universities to curtail speech critical of Israel or in support of Palestine, we have seen university administrators at campuses across the country respond disproportionately to student protests and violate rights of speech and assembly and principles of academic freedom. Peaceful student protesters have been arrested, at times violently. Many students on other campuses have been suspended. Students have also been misrepresented, harassed, and doxxed. As educators, we seek to ensure that the rights of SJP members and other student protesters speaking out against genocide are respected. 

A: What are some of the challenges you see facing the WFJP? What might be the challenges specific to your roles as faculty members?

WFJP: In the classroom and on campus, we are tasked with promoting a generative learning environment while ensuring that students with diverse points of view feel comfortable expressing themselves. As educators, we have a responsibility to work to better understand the world around us and to help our students do the same. In no uncertain terms, doing so in this historical moment requires study and critique of the ongoing Nakba, Israeli settler colonialism, apartheid, and military occupation. It is vital that universities push back against censorship and erasure and serve as spaces for education on Palestinian history and current realities. Outside the classroom, we also promote study and dialogue in an environment that is extremely fraught. We feel a sense of responsibility toward the university as a whole, working to ensure that our students’ ideas are heard and that their rights are respected, as well as to ensure that the university is acting in an ethical manner that adheres to the university mission and our responsibility toward the public good.

A: How have you brought your work as WFJP members into the classroom or what would you like to happen in the future?

WFJP: We underscore and affirm the right of professors to include discussion of Palestine in their coursework wherever relevant. We believe it is important to educate ourselves and our students about these issues and to model ways of holding conversations over strong lines of disagreement. Moving forward, we would like to see more of these conversations happening on campus and further support university initiatives toward including a greater focus on Palestine.

A: What role should the university, as an institution, play in achieving justice for Palestine?

WFJP: We condemn the ongoing scholasticide in Palestine. All 12 universities in Gaza have been destroyed, and thousands of Palestinian students, professors, and educators have been killed by Israel’s attacks in this past year alone. As educators, our aim is to support the fostering of Palestinian education and fight academic suppression. This aim includes addressing our own university’s complicity in maintaining academic ties that support the state of Israel. The university must reject the equation of criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism and refuse pressures to silence speech and education that helps us understand the world around us, which includes knowledge about Palestine and the displacement and suffering experienced by the Palestinian people, as well as historical links between those abuses and larger patterns of oppression such as the general dynamics of settler colonialism (present in many other countries, including the United States). To the degree that the university has financial investments in companies that profit from the military assault on Gaza or help shore up the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands or the violation of Palestinian rights or [has] links with Israeli institutions that are complicit with apartheid and ongoing war, these associations need to be disclosed and ultimately severed. The university plays an important role in our society as a site of civic, moral, and ethical evaluation concerning social action. The decisions made by universities such as Wesleyan at this key moment send a broader message to end support of Israel and the occupation and genocide of the Palestinian people.

A: What do you hope for the future of WFJP? How do you see the group evolving?

WFJP: 60 years ago, 2 powerful student movements (Students for a Democratic Society and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) took shape in the US in the heat of anti-war sentiment. Since that time, we have witnessed student-led movements demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa, labor rights, the movement for Black lives, feminist, queer, and disability justice, and the call for liberation more broadly. Building on the shoulders of 50 years of successful organizing, brave students and academic workers call for an end to the ongoing genocide. With them, we oppose the US-funded and armed Israeli regime of apartheid, occupation, and settler colonialism.

Wesleyan FJP stands in solidarity with students, faculty, and staff exercising their rights to free speech to oppose genocide. This is a historic, transgenerational opportunity. It is a historic, transgenerational duty.

Wesleyan FJP is a collective that includes: Associate Professor of English Sally Bachner; Associate Professor of English and Associate Professor of American Studies Matthew Garrett; Professor of American Studies and Professor of Anthropology J. Kēhaulani Kauanui; Associate Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Associate Professor of American Studies Kerwin Kaye; Professor of English Maaza Mengiste; Professor and Chair of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Professor of Sociology, and Professor of Science and Technology Studies Victoria Pitts-Taylor; Professor and Chair of German Studies and Professor of the College of Letters Ulrich Plass; Associate Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of Global South Asian Studies, Associate Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Associate Professor of College of the Environment Anu Sharma; Associate Professor of Anthropology and Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies Joseph Weiss; Associate Professor of Anthropology, Associate Professor of American Studies, and Associate Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Margot Weiss; and 15 anonymous faculty and staff members. 

Lula Konner can be reached at lkonner@wesleyan.edu

Lia Franklin can be reached at lfranklin@wesleyan.edu.

  • Blame the Jews.

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