GWS Statement of Solidarity with Palestine

A Statement of Solidarity with Palestine from the Gender and Women’s Studies Program, University of Illinois at Chicago, June 2021

We, the core faculty of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their long struggle for self-determination. We denounce the ongoing escalation of settler colonial violence exercised by the Israeli state against Palestinians, including in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. We are outraged over the 2021 war on Palestine, including the over 250 Palestinians killed and approximately 2000 injured, the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the aerial bombardments, killings, and destructions in Gaza and the West Bank.

We add our voices to growing expressions of global protest as well as an unprecedented wave of statements of solidarity issued by our colleagues in the Palestinian Feminist Collective, Gender Studies Departments in Solidarity with Palestinian Feminist Collective, the Palestine and Praxis: Scholars for Palestinian Freedom, the National Women’s Studies Association, the Global Asian Studies Program at UIC, and countless other academic programs and groups.

We declare that Palestine is a Feminist Issue because of the gendered and sexualized injustices that have been foundational to Israeli settler colonialism. We maintain that such critiques of settler colonialism and Zionism do not equate to anti-Semitism. As such, we stand with progressive Jewish social movements that have affirmed that the false conflation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism jeopardizes not just Palestinian but also Jewish safety and the struggle to dismantle anti-Semitism. As an academic program committed to the critical study of gender and sexuality as those categories of difference intersect with colonialism, militarism, racism, ableism, and empire, we condemn Israel’s ongoing militarized violence with disproportional impacts on indigenous Palestinian life and land as well as the US government’s principal role in funding and financing Israeli settler colonialism. We understand Palestine solidarity to be a crucial transnational feminist freedom struggle.

We call particular attention to the gendered and sexual underpinnings of Israeli state violence, recognizing that one cannot be a feminist while supporting gendered/sexual violence and indigenous dispossession. In this context, we specifically note:

Israeli colonization has been forged through reproductive and sexual injustices. The Israeli state has relied upon sexual violence and the threat of rape as a tool of colonization. It specifically targets the gendered bodies and activism of Palestinian women organizers and protesters and threatens Palestinian women activists with sexual assault as a strategy to pressure families and communities to deter women from participating in movement building and organizing.

The Israeli state and its supporters deploy the language of liberal gay and trans rights as a propaganda tactic to divert international attention away from its oppression of all Palestinians. This colonialist idea of “pinkwashing” further claims that Palestinians (as well as Arabs and Muslims more generally) deserve colonial violence because they are the most misogynistic, homophobic, and transphobic people in the world and need to be “civilized” by a putatively modern feminist and LGBTQ-friendly state of Israel, all of which works to further the colonization of Palestine. The Israeli state recruits gay Palestinians through blackmail to justify the colonialist binary of Israeli civilization vs. Palestinian savagery. This strategy compounds the marginalization of queer Palestinians by marking them as traitors to their people.

The Israeli colonial project involves violence, harm, displacement, land theft, starvation, unemployment, and suffering that disproportionately impacts Palestinian women and gender non-conforming people in the West Bank and Gaza, in East Jerusalem, in Israel, and across the Palestinian diasporas.

The Israeli military increasingly relies upon maiming tactics that systematically injure Palestinian protesters, violating their human rights and raising grave concerns for feminist disability justice advocates in Palestine and across the diaspora about these accelerating tactics of non-lethal warfare.

The Israeli state inflicts profound destruction of Palestinian land and ecologies, devastating natural environments and raising feminist ecological/climate justice concerns across the globe.

As an interdisciplinary program at a public research university that serves a diverse student population in the heart of Chicago and on the ancestral lands of the Three Fires Confederacy, we reaffirm our commitment to advancing intersectional and decolonial feminist and queer scholarship and activism while also educating our students and wider campus communities about Indigenous struggles for liberation. We are committed to transnational feminist solidarity and stand with all people who share parallel and interconnected struggles against empire and the war on terror, from Kashmir and the Philippines to Puerto Rico and beyond. It is in this context that we honor the Palestinian legacy of feminist struggle and reaffirm our commitment to supporting Palestinian liberation and standing with Palestinian feminist colleagues at universities like Birzeit, home to one of the most robust institutions shaping women’s studies in the Arab region.

We reaffirm our commitment to supporting progressive Palestinian-led calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state. The BDS movement is a nonviolent, antiracist global campaign introduced by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to increase economic, political, and moral pressure on Israel and Israeli and international companies involved in violating Palestinian human rights. Both Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem have concluded that Israeli policies and practices towards Palestinians amount to apartheid. Following in the footsteps of the historic and successful South African anti-apartheid struggle, the Palestinian BDS campaign (including its academic and cultural wing) represents an important form of cross-border and transnational solidarity politics with Indigenous Palestinian communities that prioritizes modes of decolonial and Indigenous futurity that are not reducible to the liberal democratic state.

We reaffirm our commitment to centering Palestinian voices at the heart of Palestinian solidarity work (which includes supporting and strengthening the leadership, vision, and analysis of new generations of Palestinian American feminist and LGBTQ engaged scholars, lawyers, artists, and cultural workers in Chicago and across the Midwest.

We reaffirm our commitment to Black-Palestinian and anti-imperialist feminist solidarities around the globe working to dismantle carceral, policing, and militarist regimes. This includes linking the transnational organizing around political imprisonment in the US and Israel, as well as the interconnected goal of abolishing prisons and turning the tide against the U.S.-led militarism and U.S. and Israeli settler-colonialisms.

We reaffirm our commitment to supporting student activism on campus such as the work of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and refuse the repression of Palestinian student’s voices.

We reaffirm our commitment to supporting UIC’s Arab American Cultural Center’s (ARABAMCC) #CountMENAIn campaign to create a Middle East North African (MENA) category at the University of Illinois and honor the specificity of their lived experiences and redress the institutionalization of their invisibility. Given our exceptionally large Palestinian student population at UIC and the ways that Chicago is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in the U.S, we affirm that the invisibility of MENA students at UIC parallels the U.S.-backed Israeli attempt to erase and eliminate Palestinian Arabs from their land.

We reaffirm our commitment to the ongoing urgency of connecting social justice movements across the globe and working toward building a world that is based on collective care, social justice, and liberation for all.

We amplify and add to the resources listed in solidarity statement issues by the Global Asian Studies Program at UIC and the University of Colorado’s Women and Gender Studies Department and invite you to read these selected resources for insightful analyses of the Palestinian struggle:

Rabab Abdulhadi, “The Palestinian women’s autonomous movement”, Gender & Society, 1998.

James Baldwin, “Open Letter to the Born Again” in The Nation, September 1979.

Judith Butler, “Why Is Bannon’s Antisemitism Considered Alright?” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring/Summer 2017), pp. 182-185.

Judith Butler, “The Charge of Antisemitism” in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. Verso, 2004, pp. 101-127.

Diana Buttu, “The Myth of Coexistence in Israel,” New York Times, May 25, 2021.

Noam Chomsky, “Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t be Killing Palestinians En Masse,” Truthout, May 12, 2021.

Angela Davis, Interview “On Black Lives Matter, Palestine, and the Future of Radicalism”, Literary Hub, September 2017.

Angela Davis, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, Haymarket Books, 2016.

Nada Elia, “Justice is indivisible: Palestine as a feminist issue”. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society. Vol. 6, No. 1, 2017, pp. 45-63.

Aseel Jundi, “The Resilient Women of Sheikh Jarrah: We Will Never Leave,” Middle East Eye, May 11, 2021.

Asia Khatun, “There is Nothing Complicated About What’s Happening in Palestine,” Jacobin, May 12, 2021.

Nadine Naber, “We Must Commit Ourselves to Long-Term Solidarity with Palestinian Liberation,” Truthout.org, May 25, 2021.

Souzan Naser, “Settler Colonialism is a Reproductive Justice Issue,” Mondoweiss, May 10, 2021.

Loubna Qutami, “Why Feminism? Why Now? Reflections on the ‘Palestine is a Feminist Issue” Pledge. Spectre Journal, May 3, 2021.

Adrienne Rich, “Why Support the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel?” Monthly Review Online, 2009.

Therese Saliba, “June Jordan’s Songs of Palestine and Lebanon” in The Feminist Wire, Mar 24, 2016.

Simona Sharoni, Rabab Abdulhadi, Nadje Al-Ali, Felicia Eaves, Ronit Lentin & Dina Siddiqi, “Transnational Feminist Solidarity in Times of Crisis.” International Feminist Journal of Politics, Volume 17, 2015 – Issue 4.

Mary Turfah, “The Media is an Accomplice in Erasing Palestinian Life,” Mondoweiss, May 10, 2021.

Ather Zia, “Their Wounds are Our Wounds”: A Case for Affective Solidarity between Palestine and Kashmir.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, Volume 27, 2020.

A reading list compiled by the Jadaliyya editorial team

Educational resources compiled by the Palestinian Youth Movement

“Israel Palestine Conflict 101” by the Jewish Voice for Peace

“The Terror of Israel’s Arrests” a report written by Lawyers for Defending The Uprising Detainees in Haifa, Palestine. Read the report here in Arabic.