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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Open letter to administration on Israel-Palestine

Anti-Israel and anti-colonialism writing in bathroom stalls around campus. Photos taken by members of the UMass Boston community.

To whom this may concern: 

Like many students on campus, these past few months have been torturous for us. Outside of a heavy course load and life stressors, I and many others have been grieving the loss of nearly 30,000 lives as the ongoing genocide by Israel continues in Gaza, while simultaneously engaging in activism work to convince people that civilian murder is wrong. On top of this, we—Arab, Muslim and other students showing affinity for Palestinian lives and land—have needed to precede every statement of activism with an apology for systematic issues. And on top of this, we have been victims of violent and verbal hate crimes; yet no one says a word. 

We have multiple issues we’d like to address.

  1. On Oct. 10, you chose to send an email, where you addressed the “unprecedented attack” by Hamas and “extend[ed] your heartfelt support” to those impacted. To begin, any civilian casualty is a tragedy; this goes without saying. However, your choice of words in this email failed to recognize the 75 plus years of occupation and oppression serving as precedent, as well as the land, air and sea blockade that Israel has had Gaza under for almost 20 years. It fails to recognize the reality for Palestinians—before and after Oct. 7—which is forced expulsion, ethnic cleansing, regular bombing and death. Additionally, the depiction of this attack as nothing but “terrorism,” which has been used to justify and rationalize Israel’s “right to self-defense,” has been disproved by Israeli media sources, where they say that the Israeli Occupation Forces played a major role in this attack and that many of the casualties were not civilians, but IOF members [1]. To reiterate, we mourn the lives of all civilians lost, but there is context and precedent that you willingly ignored. Your statement and lack of context contradicts the school’s commitment to recognizing the indigeneity of all Native people, failing to recognize the people indigenous to Palestine. We condemn your double standards.
  2. Since Oct. 10, you have not sent a single email to support the Palestinian students who are grieving for their family, friends or the general loss of life. Choosing only to send an email on Oct. 10 but not sending any emails since, after five months of genocide, over 28,000 Palestinian civilians killed and almost 2 million Gazans displaced [2], again, you send a clear message: Brown people’s deaths can only be mourned if a white person dies with them. The only time you extend the courtesy of support for students is when Israelis are killed. By doing this, you support a hierarchy determining which human lives are worth mourning, and which are not, and this is entirely dependent on skin color and ethnicity. This directly contradicts the University of Massachusetts Boston’s purported commitment to being the leading anti-racist health-promoting public university. We condemn your silence.
  3. On Tuesday, Dec. 5, you sent out an email regarding an alleged “hate crime” and “vile antisemitic graffiti.” We reject all forms of antisemitism and stand firmly against all forms of racism and discrimination. However, as of Feb. 15, all images produced and circulated by student groups revealed that what is currently known of the graffiti was not an expression of antisemitism or hate speech, but a clear stance against Zionism, apartheid, imperialism, settler colonialism and the state of Israel and its current genocide. The graffiti contained the phrases:  “Existence is Resistance,” “Say no to settler colonialist,” “Resist colonial imperialist propaganda,” “Israel is a terrorist state” and “Say no to apartheid.” To rebrand this message as a form of hate speech and antisemitism is abhorrent. Ample evidence points to Israel committing war crimes against civilian groups, including bombing refugee camps, Mosques, Churches, hospitals and ambulances, massacring over 28,000, carpet bombing Gaza into rubble, utilizing mass starvation and collective punishment on the Gazan civilians [3]—and now calling those actions wrong is a hate crime and antisemitic? Again, as a university that claims to be “for the times,” and to promote civic involvement and critical thinking, you uncritically and unjustly value certain things over others. While standing against Israel’s crimes against humanity is something anyone with an ounce of morality should do, your implied claim that doing so is a hate crime is a slap in the face. We condemn your conditional allyship and your misconstruing of a clear message to fit your agenda.
  4. Over Thanksgiving weekend, three young Palestinian college students were shot in Burlington, Vermont. You neglected to send an email about this. Palestinian, Arab and Muslim people everywhere, especially those who are visibly identifiable, are afraid and threatened verbally and physically, yet you have done nothing to actively support these student populations during these difficult times. We condemn your silence.

We demand for you to produce and publicize formal evidence of the alleged antisemitism and hate crime. And if the graffiti proves to be a stance against Zionism and settler-colonial apartheid, we demand an apology for the dangerous conflation of criticism of Israeli state policies with antisemitism. We further demand you take concrete actions to support your students of color and all those who seek to engage in honest dialogue about these historically rooted current events.  

It is all too easy to take stances on crimes against humanity when they are in the past and they require you to do nothing. Sending a land acknowledgment for indigenous Native Americans is performative if not accompanied by restorative action, and means even less if you do not value indigenous Palestinian lives, which are being jeopardized and devastated right now at this very moment. Holding a “Black Lives Matter” event means nothing when you essentially defund and destabilize the Africana Studies Department. Supporting low-income students verbally means nothing when you don’t financially support them through degree completion, but choose to spend a million dollars to change the mascot and revamp a website that students, faculty and staff all find inaccessible. Verbal stances of activism without action are performative, and we, the students of UMass Boston, a school “for the times,” see right through it. We condemn your behavior, your performative activism and your empty promises, and we demand change.  



[1] https://www.haaretz.com/haaretz-explains/2023-11-23/ty-article-magazine/.premium/how-haaretz-is-counting-israels-dead-from-the-october-7-hamas-attack/0000018b-d42c-d423-affb-f7afe1a70000  

[2] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/longform/2023/10/9/israel-hamas-war-in-maps-and-charts-live-tracker  

[3] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/10/damning-evidence-of-war-crimes-as-israeli-attacks-wipe-out-entire-families-in-gaza/