Diversity Isn't Equality: Cancel Antioch's Israeli Diversity Week

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear Academic Affairs,

We respectfully request the immediate cancellation of the StandWithUs Israeli Diversity Week events scheduled for May 28th-30th, 2013.

To our understanding, the invitation extended to StandWithUs (SWU) to present Israeli Diversity Week was spurred by discontent and disagreement over having a “one-sided” Israeli Apartheid Week. We can understand the desire to have a “balanced” educational opportunity. In fact, we fully support an all-inclusive education space where dialogue about the complexity of this issue can take place.

Unfortunately, SWU cannot offer the Antioch and Seattle community this opportunity. If you are unaware, SWU notoriously perpetuates racism and violence to cease all conversations related to justice for Palestine. SWU proclaims that any anti-occupation activism promotes anti-Semitism and/or anti-Israeli rhetoric. This is simply not true. Many American Jewish groups, are leaders in US-based anti-occupation organizing, and fully support the self-determination of Palestinians. In Israel itself, Israeli Jews are also speaking out against their government’s oppression of the Palestinians, even risking imprisonment for their moral integrity. Furthermore, the pro-justice movement intentionally educates people about the history of Palestine, including the history of the Holocaust and Jewish oppression, as context for the influx of Jews into Palestine. Additionally, BDS activists are explicit that the campaign is targeting the Israeli government’s illegal occupation and oppression of Palestinians, not individual Israelis or Jews.

SWU uses many strategies, including “pinkwashing” that prey on the sympathetic liberal left by leveraging Israel’s LGBT civil rights as proof of their democratic, progressive politics. This effectively erases the lives and experiences of queer Palestinians, distracts from the severe humans rights violations against Palestinians, and completely ignores the homophobia in Israel.

We believe that a balanced educational program does not mean uplifting the Israeli government narrative. This is the only narrative shared in the U.S. corporate media and by our government officials, therefore not missing from our lives.

Antioch has a ripe opportunity to engage the campus and community in a critical engagement of the history and current conditions of Palestine/Israel. The only way to achieve this is to cancel StandWithUs and replace these events with critical community education and dialogue.

We sincerely hope Antioch University Seattle will live up to its Statement of Commitment, Inclusion and Diversity, including:
Our goal is justice and empowerment for all. To this end, we respond to the spectrum of human diversity so that no one is marginalized. Firmly rooted in our longstanding tradition of challenging inequities and promoting social change, we are committed to continued growth as an international university that addresses the complexities of the diverse regions we serve… We commit to creating and maintaining a learning environment free from discrimination, and we encourage and support those who identify and speak out against discrimination in pursuit of social justice.”

StandWithUs promotes hate and deliberate ignorance of the Palestinian experience. One of the key principles of social justice is to recognize the dominant narrative then seek out and uplift the experiences of those excluded. In this case, the Palestinian narrative is completely missing from mainstream discourse.

We recognize that the Israel/Palestine issue is confusing and complex to some, leaving many people ill informed, uninterested, or reactionary. We also acknowledge and honor the struggles, resistance, and resilience related to historical trauma of both Palestinians and Jewish peoples. We know Palestinian and Israeli people’s lives are inextricably intertwined and the path to justice requires critical education, compassionate listening, honoring historical trauma, and a willingness to engage.

We invite you to join us in putting our social justice values into action by canceling StandWithUs’ Israeli Diversity Week and hosting a truly transformative, educational experience that engages critical inquiry and compassionate, open dialogue.

Sincerely,
Antioch Students, Faculty, Staff, and Seattle Community Members

References & Resources
Videos of SWU attacking Jewish Voice for Peace members:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wplofDVKdPA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLO2xKcYDwc

Pinkwashing:
http://truth-out.org/news/item/12553-de-pinkwashing-israel
http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/revealing-the-truth-behind-the-rainbow-seattles-anti-pinkwashing-success

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Divesting from Injustice
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/divesting-from-injustice_b_534994.html

Statistics & History of Palestine/Israel:
http://www.ifamericansknew.org/

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