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May 4, 2017

Letter: Resolution affirms human rights

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

To the Editor:

On April 14, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW Local 2322) at the University of Massachusetts adopted a resolution to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The resolution calls on the graduate students’ employer and their union to divest from and boycott companies that fuel and profit from the military occupation and repression of Palestinians. BDS is a global grassroots movement that uses peaceful economic means to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect the human rights of Palestinians. The BDS campaign was called for by Palestinian civil society and by major trade unions within the occupied Palestinian territories.

It is encouraging to us as faculty that GEO, the largest collective bargaining unit within UAW Local 2322, and representing over 2,000 graduate student workers at our flagship campus, voted overwhelmingly (95 percent) in favor of the resolution to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society. In doing so it became the second major body of unionized workers in the U.S. to formally join the BDS movement by membership vote.

The graduate students faced pressure from individuals outside their union, including a small number of faculty, to reject the resolution. As evidenced by the 95 percent vote in favor of the resolution, the graduate students were not intimidated. We commend the graduate students for conducting their campaign for the resolution in a democratic manner, for following the process outlined in their union bylaws, and for engaging the maximum number of members possible.

Before the vote, GEO organized forums open to its membership and the public, to educate members and to debate the resolution. During a period of open dialogue when all members were encouraged to express diverse views, the GEO Black Caucus and Jewish GEO members publicly endorsed the resolution. The resolution states clearly that it does not seek to discourage association with individual Israeli scholars, and reaffirms GEO’s strong commitment to the principles of academic freedom for all in the UMass community. The methods by which this pro-BDS resolution was adopted represent the best practices of union democracy. We congratulate the graduate students on their principled and democratic vote for social justice.

Signed,

Prof. Louise Antony, Department of Philosophy

Prof. Kiran Asher, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Lecturer, Abigail Boggs, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Prof. Laura Briggs, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Prof. David R. Buchanan, Department of Health Promotion & Policy

Prof. Dan Clawson, Department of Sociology

Prof. Suzanne Daly, Department of English

Prof. Laura A. Doyle, Department of English

Prof. Mwangi wa Gĩthĩnji, Department of Economics

Prof. Peter A. Graham, Department of Philosophy

Prof. Aline C. Gubrium, Department of Health Promotion & Policy

Prof. Ruth Jennison, Department of English

Prof. Sut Jhally, Department of Communication

Prof. Miliann Kang, Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies

Prof. Emeritus Arthur S. Keene, Department of Anthropology

Prof. David Kotz, Department of Economics

Prof. Elizabeth L. Krause, Department of Anthropology

Prof. Agustin Lao-Montes, Department of Sociology

Prof. Joseph Levine, Department of Philosophy

Prof. Asha Nadkarni, Department of English

Prof. Hoang Gia Phan, Department of English

Prof. Jordy Rosenberg, Department of English

Prof. Sigrid Schmalzer, Department of History

Prof. James Smethurst, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

Prof. Mary C. Wilson, Department of History

Prof. Emeritus H. Martin Wobst, Department of Anthropology

Prof. Kevin A. Young, Department of History

Comments
9 Responses to “Letter: Resolution affirms human rights”
  1. Jonathan Skolnik says:

    1) The recent graduate student union vote was to “join the BDS movement,” (text of the resolution, http://www.geouaw.org/?p=3632) which clearly advocates for the academic boycott of Israeli universities (https://bdsmovement.net/bdsintro). So, indeed, the recent vote promotes academic boycotts, which have been rejected by UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy (https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/statement-umass-amherst-chancellor-kumble).
    2) The leadership of the United Auto Workers has already rejected and discredited this sort of resolution, which they recognized as discriminatory (http://informedgrads.org/news-release-landmark-uaw-international-ruling-rejects-local-bds-resolution/).
    3) As I understand it, 160 union members voted for this resolution, 8 voted against, and more than 2000 did not vote on this issue. Should one partisan view of a complex historical and political situation be adopted as the orthodoxy of the whole graduate student union? Apparently, 160 members think so. But there are ways for one, or 160, or 1000 students (or faculty, staff, etc.) to express their political views without putting dissenters (be they in the vocal minority or the silent minority or the silent majority) in the position of accepting the BDS view, staying silent, or having to resign for their principles. They can start “160 students for Palestine” rather than try to force the impression that the thousands they represent do (or must) share their view.
    4) As faculty, one of my areas of research is Jewish refugees from Nazism who went to Palestine. I cooperate with Israeli universities, I attend conferences there. A proposal to endorse the “BDS movement” is a proposal to violate my academic freedom. To say one both endorses the “BDS movement” and affirms “the principles of academic freedom for all in the UMass community” is a contradiction.
    5) The professors who signed this statement seek to conflate “affirming human rights” with “supporting the BDS movement.” But one can BOTH affirm human rights AND reject the call to boycott Israel. For example, I can BOTH sign a letter sponsored by Amnesty International or support the Israeli human rights organization B’Tzelem AND attend a conference in my field at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (a place, it should be noted, where Jewish citizens of Israel, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and many others work and study together) or enjoy a can of my favorite Israeli pickles. Well-intentioned people who seek to support human rights should look carefully at the “BDS movement” before signing on to it, because they are signing on to a political agenda that is much more than that. There are other ways to support human rights than the “BDS movement.”

  2. Matt says:

    Nice job ignoring the fact less than 10% of the Union showed up to vote. Clearly this union is the epitome of democratic participation and not dictated by a select few. Additionally, what business does this union, representing our educators, have in making a decision on a contentious political debate? How does it help their members? Check out this article I wrote explaining some of the negative consequences of choosing to pass this resolution.

    http://newbostonpost.com/blogs/umass-shamherst/

  3. lol says:

    i notice every one of these classes are worthless in the real world.

  4. mal says:

    israheili intel has been falsely (and continually) crying anti semitism through their media mind control agents since the massacres and mass murder in gaza in summer 2014. this is all a fraud to prevent criticism of israheili war crimes. Google news search: rising tide of anti semitism and see the mind control op for yourself.
    To identify the truly sick racists google: chief rabbi of Israel says only purpose of goyim is to serve jews, life of goyim worth same as donkey. Obadiah Yosef.
    Netanyahu says this loser was the greatest mind of this
    generation. hey, check it out for yourself.
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/5-of-ovadia-yosefs-most-controversial-quotations/

  5. Zuffy says:

    Amount of faculty who signed BDS opposition letter v amount of faculty who signed this letter: YES

    In these times of free speech repression, American campuses are the prime means of exposing to our nation the atrocities of the state of Israel. You don’t get to militarily occupy territory and expect to call yourself a free and democratic country. Haters can stay mad. If you choose to leave your stubborn delusion of a democratic Israel and acknowledge a brutal military occupation that robs humans of rights based on religion, perhaps we can actually have a meaningful conversation. Until then…WOKE FACULTY IS WOKE.

    Free Palestine.

  6. Alumni Achieved says:

    A national embarrassment; UMass official take note that I will not donate until these professors retract their opinions.

  7. Eric Goldstein says:

    I am deeply saddened, by the recent GEO vote to join the BDS movement. I was a university student in the 70s and marched with my fellow students against the Vietnam war, and for women’s and minority rights. These were real issues; and in doing what we did, we worked for peace and equality, and above all, did not attack a small minority and pretend that we were somehow working for justice.

    BDS is merely two thousand year-old antisemitism dressed up in modern colors, employing the same kinds of lies and twisting of reality that has been used to justify the murder, rape and torture of Jews throughout the millennia. It is profoundly disturbing to see that with all the human rights violations, and suffering occurring daily around the world, that today’s students can do no better than to jump on the same bandwagon that played the background music for European pogroms, the Spanish inquisition, and Nazi genocide.

    More than a million have been killed in Syria; over 97% of women in Egypt are genitally mutilated; there is not a single Muslim country in the world with a free press; women are at best, second class citizens in most Muslim countries, and at worst are treated like some form of farm animal; governmental torture is commonplace in these countries, and the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgender citizens are trampled on as a matter of course; hundreds of thousands are dying annually in Africa from war, poverty and disease, and the mad North Korean dictatorship tortures, and starves millions.

    But, for some reason, the professors who wrote the above statement, and the students that follow them, have decided to attack the only pluralistic society in the Middle East, and one of the most vibrant democracies on the Earth. Israel, for those not familiar with it, is highly multicultural, much like the United States, comprised of citizens from a multitude of countries, and cultures. There are Jews from throughout the world, remnants of the Holocaust in Europe, survivors from massacres throughout the Muslim countries of the Middle East, Black Jews from Africa, and indigenous Jews who have lived in Israel in an unbroken line from Biblical times – a period spanning three millennia. Over 20% of Israel’s population is Muslim – from a diversity of cultures – many arrived in Israel escaping brutally repressive Muslim regimes: Sunnis, Shiites, Bedouins, Druze, etc. Christians escaping genocidal campaigns from majority Muslim countries have found refuge in Israel; Israel now guards the largest population of Christians in the Middle East. The Baha’i chose Israel as the location for their world headquarters because of Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion. Unlike Muslim countries, Israel guarantees the religious and civil rights of all its citizens, including the rights of Muslims and Christians, as well as those of gays, lesbians and its transgender citizens.

    From its incept, Israel’s Arab Muslim citizens have been elected to every Knesset (the Israeli parliament), and currently hold approximately 20 seats. Arab Israelis have held, and continue to hold positions in the cabinet, as judges, including on Israel’s supreme court; Israeli Arabs serve in the Israeli defense and police forces; and over 10% of Israeli civil servants are Arab Muslims. This year, in fact, the “Joint List” an all-Arab Israeli party is the third largest party of the ten parties that currently make up Israel’s political system, as well as other Arab-Israeli Knesset members in non-Arab only parties.

    Despite outright lies spread by the BDS movement, there is nothing resembling any sort of genocide, or mistreatment of Arab’s in Gaza. The truth is that Israel pulled out unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. Israel has for decades tried to make peace with Gaza; Israel supplies Gaza with water, electricity, food, medical aid, and business and agricultural aid; even in the midst of active war, Israel has never stopped supplying these basic needs.

    There is no possible way that this massive action to harm Israel and Jews can be justified in the context of the actual world situation. And so, the explanation must lie elsewhere. BDS is the most prominent and violent form of hate speech that exists on campuses; and it is a great tragedy that the efforts of young people that could be put to so much good, are instead directed at the irrational hatred of one of the world’s smallest minorities. For the professors who are encouraging this great injustice, and telling lies to support their own twisted hatreds, I have nothing but disdain. I only hope that the young people themselves will not allow these bigots to mislead them any further.

    The greatest oppressors of the Palestinian people are their own violent leaders who for decades have suppressed them and prevented them having their own nation and leading decent lives. Only by exposing the truth can their situation be made better. Unfairly targeting Jews will do nothing, but exacerbate and already difficult situation.

  8. Dan Gordon says:

    The Chancellor has made a statement against BDS. This was in response to a letter written to him about BDS by 31 faculty members. Here is the Chancellor’s statement:
    http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/chancellor%E2%80%99s-statement-bds

  9. Arafat says:

    The following letter says it all. I doubt any of the BDS’ers will take the time to read it or, if they do, I doubt they are open minded enough to embrace the facts it enumerates.

    http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7792/edinburgh-student-association-israel

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