Letter to the Community: On Palestine

May 23, 2021, 8:47 p.m.

We, the undersigned members of the Stanford community, condemn in the strongest terms possible the state of Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian property, homes and lives. The recent expulsion of Palestinians from their rightful homes in Sheikh Jarrah — which, along with Israel’s violent attack on peaceful worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque during the holy period of Ramadan, has precipitated the violence we see unfolding — is but one part of an unbroken history stretching back to the 1948 massacre of over 100 Palestinian men, women and children in the village of Deir Yassin. Then, as now, Zionists reached beyond UN-mandated borders to expel and kill Palestinians and illegally seize their land. In the recent decade, Israeli policies have become even more aggressive.

The 2018 “New Basic Law of Israel” makes three fundamental claims:

  1. The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
  2. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
  3. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. 

With terrible clarity then, Israel has declared itself an ethno-nation and converted acts illegal under international law (such as annexing Palestine land, undertaking the collective punishment of Palestinians, abrogating its responsibilities as an occupying power, denying Palestinians in exile their human right to return, et cetera) into legitimate (in solely its own view) manifestations of its “self-determination.” We in the United States are all too familiar with how a similar evocation of “Manifest Destiny” legitimated genocide against Indigenous peoples.

Such single-mindedness of purpose makes Israel’s attested commitment to the “equality” of all citizens a lie. Despite this attestation, more than 51 discriminatory laws imposed by Israel against Palestinians have not been removed from the books and are still enacted regularly. “Equality” cannot possibly exist in an ethno-state whose very existence has been declared an apartheid state by Human Rights Watch. This apartheid takes the form of separate roads, resources, electrical systems, schools, curtailed freedom of movement for Palestinians.

In a recent piece in the New York Times (“Palestinian Refugees Deserve to Return Home. Jews Should Understand”), Peter Beinart, Editor-at-Large of Jewish Currents, draws the connection between the historical Nakba and the present day:

Why has the impending eviction of six Palestinian families in East Jerusalem drawn Israelis and Palestinians into a conflict that appears to be spiraling toward yet another war? Because of a word that in the American Jewish community remains largely taboo: the Nakba.

The Nakba, or ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, need not refer only to the more than 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled or fled in terror during Israel’s founding. It can also evoke the many expulsions that have occurred since: the about 300,000 Palestinians whom Israel displaced when it conquered the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967; the roughly 250,000 Palestinians who could not return to the West Bank and Gaza after Israel revoked their residency rights between 1967 and 1994; the hundreds of Palestinians whose homes Israel demolished in 2020 alone. The East Jerusalem evictions are so combustible because they continue a pattern of expulsion that is as old as Israel itself.

In Gaza in particular, Friends of the Earth, an environmental organization, found such deplorable conditions that it issued a report entitled, precisely, “Environmental Nakba”:

The observer mission witnessed numerous examples of expropriation of land and water resources and heard testimonies of officials, researchers, local people and environmental activists. We observed industrial sites with little or no controls on emissions, untreated sewage piped from urban developments onto open land and streams and waste hills from decades of uncontrolled dumping. We heard of the destruction of trees and the polluting of agricultural land and surface water. This report documents some of these observations, and provides some suggestions for collaborative projects in Palestine, either by further researches or solidarity support for the affected communities.

The carnage we see today cannot be excused through any notion that Israel has a right to “protect itself.” Its violent and often deadly expulsions of Palestinians from their homes, its armed attack on ordinary Palestinians and others worshipping during Ramadan — these actions logically extend to Palestinians the right to defend themselves first.

The disproportionate violence perpetrated by Israel — whose possession of high-tech defense systems, armaments and war equipment is in large part funded by American taxpayers — is inexcusable, as is the United States’ continued diplomatic protection of illegal Israeli actions.

We reject any attempt to portray this as the fault of the Palestinian people, and deplore the slaughter of innocent men, women and children, and the crippling of an already weak Palestinian infrastructure. We urge everyone to refuse to be complicit with Israeli “business as usual,” and to consider endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, begun by over 170 civil organizations in Palestine. This non-violent form of protest, consciously modeled after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, allows people of principle worldwide to act in solidarity with the Palestinian people. The government of South Africa has in fact come out in support of BDS — Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu were early and vocal supporters of the movement. 

BDS and more generally protests against Israel’s persistent violation of international law and international human rights are not the purview solely of “radicals” or leftists. Full or partial divestment from Israel has been declared by religious groups such as the US Mennonite organization, the Presbyterian Church, USA, United Church of Christ, the pension fund of the United Methodist Church, several Quaker branches (American Friends Service Committee) and others. The Palestinian cause has received the support of Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Israeli human rights groups like B’Tselem

The financial sector too is wary of investing in businesses in the Occupied Territories both because of their illegality and their instability — just two examples: Bill Gates divested from a British firm for its connections with Israeli security forces; a major Dutch pension firm has also divested. Those fighting for Palestinian rights now include groups like the Movement for Black Lives, and labor unions have refused to unload and transport goods from the Occupied Territories. The analogy between anti-Black racism and the persecution of the Palestinians has been the subject of much commentary. 

We join all those working for basic human rights and the respect of international law in condemning Israel for its brutality and violence, and pledge solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Umniya Najaer PhD Student in Modern Thought and Literature
Marci Kwon Assistant Professor, Art History
Tobias Wolff, Professor of English
Jonathan Rosa Associate Professor of Education & Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity
Usha Iyer Assistant Professor, Art and Art History
Martabel Wasserman PhD Candidate
Sharika Thiranagama Associate Professor of Anthropology
Suhaila Meera PhD candidate
David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor & Professor of Comparative Literature
Vaughn Rasberry, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity
Jean Ma Associate Professor, Art
Thomas Hansen Professor of Anthropology
Patricia Alessandrini Assistant Professor, Music/CCRMA
Kabir Tambar Associate Professor, Anthropology
Olamide Abiose JD/PhD Candidate in Neuroscience
Joshua Cobler Class of 2020
Kerem Ussakli PhD Student, Department of Anthropology
Nina Dewi Toft Djanegara PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology
Shikha Nehra PhD Student, Department of Anthropology
Nataya Friedan PhD Candidate in Anthropology
Aaron Sherman Hopes PhD Candidate in Anthropology
Laura Ng Stanford PhD candidate
Anna Bigelow Associate Professor, Religious Studies
Priya Satia Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History
Tom Mullaney Professor of History
Jessica Femenias Undergraduate
Alyssa Phd Student
Layo Laniyan Undergraduate ‘22
Saad Lakhani PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
Marguerite L. De Loney PhD Candidate, Anthropology
Rush Rehm Professor, Classics and TAPS
Siddharth Patel PhD Civil and Environmental Engineering (2019)
Shane Denson Associate Professor, Art & Art History
Selby Wynn Schwartz, Lecturer, Program in Writing & Rhetoric
Duana Fullwiley Associate Prof of Anthropology
Grace Zhou PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology
Emre Daglioglu PhD Candidate/History
Pavle Levi Professor, Film Studies
Jacob Daniels PhD Candidate
Charles Kronengold Assistant Professor, Music
Jason Beckman PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Tony Kramer, Facilities Coordinator, TAPS
Serkan Yolaçan Assistant Professor, Anthropology
Lalita du Perron Associate Director, Center for South Asia, Stanford
Christine Xiong PhD Student, Department of English
Elis Imboden DFO, Dept. of Art & Art History
Cynthia Garcia Modern Thought and Literature, PhD Candidate
Young Jean Lee Associate Professor, TAPS
Veena Dubal Alumnus
Meade Klingensmith Ph.D. Candidate, History
Elliott Reichardt PhD Student in Anthropology
Néstor L. Silva PhD candidate, Anthropology
Shirin Sinnar, Professor of Law
Adela Zhang, PhD candidate
Jessica Zhu Undergraduate ‘24
Cat Sanchez PhD Student, Sociology
Grace Huckins PhD Candidate, Neurosciences
Isabel Low PhD Candidate, Neurosciences Program
Michael Hayes Genetics PhD Candidate
Rosaley Gai PhD Student, East Asian Languages and Cultures
evan alterman PhD candidate, Slavic languages/literatures
Carolyn Stein Undergraduate Student, ‘23
Ban Wang Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures
Mikael Wolfe Assistant Professor of History
Ayodele Foster-McCray PhD Student, Anthropology Department
Faatimah Solomon Undergraduate Student, ‘21
Micah Olivas PhD Student, Department of Genetics
Shantanu Nevrekar Ph.D. student, Department of Anthropology
Rishika Mehrishi PhD Candidate, Theater and Performance Studies
Sanna Ali PhD Candidate, Communication
David Song Ph.D. candidate, GSE
Branislav Jakovljevic Professor
Caroline Daws PhD Candidate, Biology
Brian Cabral PhD Candidate, Education
Shizza Fatima MA International Education Policy Analysis
Victoria Melgarejo Graduate student
Sajia Darwish MA student, Education
Angela Garcia Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology
Vehbi Tandogan MA, International and Comparative Education
Deniz Cenk Demir Ph.D. Student
Saurabh Khanna PhD candidate, Education
Catie Connolly PhD Student, Education
Danielle Greene PhD Candidate, Education
Nikolaj Ramsdal Nielsen PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
Miriam S Leshin PhD candidate, GSE
Munir Gur PhD Student in Ethnomusicology
Kemi Oyewole PhD Candidate in Education
Mary Markley Undergraduate, ’23
Andrew Fitzgerald PhD Candidate, Communication
Davíd Morales` PhD Student in Education
Faith Kwon PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Education
Chloé Brault MacKinnon PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature
Sunny Trivedi PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Education
Minju Choi PhD student, Education
Nathaniel Ramos BS ’21, MS ’22 CEE
Kevin Nuno PhD Candidate in Cancer Biology
Richzeska A.S. Fandino Undergraduate Student ’24
Josh Gagne PhD Sociology
Apollo Rydzik PhD student, Sociology
Karla Roman Undergraduate, ‘24
Kassandra Roeser PhD Student, Sociology
Tyler McDaniel PhD Student, Sociology
Jieun Song Ph.D. student, Graduate School of Education
Iris Zhang Stanford Sociology
seungah phd candidate
Niki Nguyen MA Sociology ’21
Lydia Wei Undergraduate Student
Amanda Lu PhD Candidate, Graduate School of Education
Mudit Trivedi Assistant Professor Anthropology
Xingyu Li Ph.D. candidate, GSE
Justine Modica PhD Candidate, History
Jasmine Reid Anthropology PhD
Katerina Gonzales PhD Candidate in Earth System Science
Madison Bunderson PhD Student in Education
Vivian Zhong PhD Candidate, Bioengineering
Briana Mullen MA POLS, MPP
Miranda Diaz Undergraduate ’23
Andrea Nightingale Professor of Classics
Jingyi Li PhD Candidate, Computer Science
James Ferguson Susan S. and William H. Hindle Professor of Anthropology
Kimberly Higuera PhD Candidate, Sociology
Alexa Wnorowski PhD Candidate
Carmen Thong PhD in English
Amy Hontalas Ph.D. candidate – sociology
Oswaldo Rosales Graduate School of Education
Tania Flores PhD Student, Iberian and Latin American Cultures
Rebecca Gruskin PhD Candidate, History
Maura Finkelstein Anthropology PhD alum
Zack Al-Witri, Staff
Monika Greenleaf, Associate Professor, Slavic and Comparative Literature
Hana/Connor Yankowitz B.A. Candidate, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Ge Wang Associate Professor, Music
Isabel Salovaara Graduate Student
Nadine Jawad Medical Student
Aneeqa Abid UG student
Nadine Jawad Medical Student
Tai Anthony McMillan Student
Jaymee Sheng MS ’21 MS&E

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