Solidarity With Palestine & Condemning Police Repression of Anti-War Student Protests

As leaders of a graduate student labor union, GTFF’s Executive Board believes in defending academic freedom and the right to protest. We absolutely condemn the use of police violence and other forms of repression against student protesters on college campuses across the nation. Moreover, we collectively demand that the University of Oregon and local police act peacefully towards the Gaza Solidarity Encampment and student protesters on our own campus. We are disgusted by the sight of other university administrations choosing to visit police brutality upon their own students, and we urge our leaders to choose differently.

Additionally, we feel it is our responsibility to share informational resources on the rights of students and workers who may be participating in protest actions. While we cannot officially endorse certain types of protests/actions, we encourage any of our members who choose to participate in any form of protest to exercise good judgment, mutual respect for other community members, and appropriate individual risk-management. You can learn more about your rights as a student, a worker, and a protester at the links below this statement.

Labor unions like ours (especially ones which draw our power in large part from student activism) undeniably have a role to play in the broader global struggle for justice and liberation. As workers and as human beings, we recognize and honor the dignity and humanity of all peoples, including Palestinians–none of us will be truly free until all of us are free.


GTFF Executive Board (2023-2024)

Speaking to the Broader Palestinian Struggle

In October 2023, we issued a statement in support of the people of Palestine, who have suffered more than 76 years of forced displacement, militarized occupation, targeted violence/repression, and economic exploitation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).1 We attempted to voice the connections we see between the Palestinian struggle for liberation from occupation/apartheid, and the broader international workers’ struggle for liberation from capitalism, imperialism, and settler-colonialism. At that time, we asked: “Why haven’t these struggles been central to working class movements globally, such that violence of this scale could have been prevented?”

The scale of violence against Palestinians has continued to escalate. In recent weeks, horrifying mass graves have been uncovered outside of Gaza’s hospitals, including doctors/nurses still in their scrubs and children with their hands zip-tied behind their backs; many victims show signs of torture and execution-style gunshot wounds to their heads. 2 At least 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 2023 (an incomplete count), and about half of those killed have been children.3 In fact, more children have been killed in Gaza since October than in all global conflicts from 2019-20224. Around 80% of Gazans have been forcibly displaced5 and 100% of Gazans have been assessed with “crisis or worse” food insecurity due to Israel’s complete blockade of Gaza.6 Israel has destroyed 70% of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure,7 bombed universities and schools into oblivion,8 attacked hospitals, aid workers, and refugee camps,9 and blocked essential aid leading to the starvation of Palestinians in Gaza.10 Additionally, assaults on Palestinians have escalated in the West Bank (where Hamas does not operate), including settler violence and the forcible displacement of 1,200 Palestinians in the West Bank since October according to Human Rights Watch.11

This absolute civilian destruction and mass violence against non-combatants (including Palestinians outside of Gaza) is not mere “self-defense”. On the question of “self-defense”, Dr. Rama Salla Dieng (an expert on apartheid in the South African context) asks us to consider: “When has self-defense ever meant the systematic ethnic cleansing of civilians? When has one group’s right to existence meant a death sentence for another social group?”12 What we are seeing is nothing short of an attempt to annihilate any future for Palestinians, and this is confirmed by the many documented statements of genocidal intent made by Israeli officials according to South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice.13

The shocking and disturbing events of the ongoing genocide against Palestinians has fueled a new wave of global activism for Palestinian freedom since October. In the US, much of this movement is centered around the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement taking place on college campuses–a reflection of historic student divestment movements against South African apartheid, which ultimately led 55 universities/colleges to divest by 1985.14 Today, many campus and state authorities have responded to students’ peaceful protests for divestment from Israeli apartheid/genocide with intense repression and stunning police brutality against students and faculty alike.15 In some cases, the same police brutalizing students on college campuses have been trained using techniques from the Israeli Occupation Forces.16

As labor organizers and as academics with broad historical knowledge, we are incredibly troubled by the sights of snipers on college campuses pointing their weapons at peacefully protesting students, and we reject the idea that these extreme tactics contribute to anyone’s “safety”.17 We resolutely condemn the use of police and militarized violence against students across the nation who are occupying campus zones in protest. We are also disgusted with the United States’ continued funding of the war machine, from the top levels of the government (including Congressional “aid” to Israel’s military totaling more than $17 billion in the latest bill),18 all the way down to the millions of dollars invested by universities into Israeli apartheid and weapons. This includes investments at the University of Oregon19 and in UO’s faculty retirement plans.2021 We find it disappointing that university leaders are not taking student demands for financial transparency seriously. Why are campus administrators more willing to send police to brutalize students than they are to disclose and divest? Why are schools like ours invested in weapons of war and systems of mass destruction in the first place? 

Much of the police repression against students demanding divestment at universities has been justified through a false conflation of antisemitism with criticisms of genocide and the far-right Israeli government. Such claims stand in stark contrast to the violence committed against pro-Palestinian Jewish protesters, who have widely participated in and helped to lead BDS campus movements, and who have condemned charges of antisemitism leveled against encampments like Columbia.22 Both police and pro-Israel counter-protesters have attacked peaceful student encampments, including attacking pro-Palestinian Jewish protesters.23 As far back as 2021, GTFF’s prior leaders wrote about the need to reject the claim that criticizing the Israeli state is inherently antisemitic: “It is clear that these prevailing forces internationally are no champion for the flourishing of any Jewish communities, just as clear as Israel is at the forefront (backed multifariously by the West) of the destruction of the Palestinian people.”24

Over the years–and long before October 7–many of GTFF’s members (from all backgrounds, including both Jewish and Palestinian members) have supported and participated in organizing for Palestinian human rights. However, in the most recent iteration of the ongoing 76-year genocide against Palestinians, the decontextualization of Israel’s long history of ethnic cleansing and apartheid–as well as the general non-acknowledgment of secular Palestinian liberation movements aside from Hamas–has been weaponized by US officials and media as a justification for the latest iteration of this ongoing Israeli genocide, framed most often as the “Israel-Hamas War”. Beyond this historic decontextualization, reductionist claims have also been made that the US “must” continue to fund Israel as the “only democracy” in the Middle East, even as Israel actively enforces a discriminatory apartheid system against Palestinians25 and jails its own citizens if they refuse military service in protest of the genocide.26

We want to be clear that antisemitic attitudes, white supremacy, and Christian nationalism are real and significant problems in the US (and Europe) which have never been fully addressed. Self-announced neo-Nazi and white nationalist rallies occur openly throughout the United States, including on college campuses, and are rarely met with any form of police interruption.27 Our own university has shown high levels of tolerance for actual white supremacists on campus in recent years.28 In 2017, neo-Nazis held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, at which crowds brandished swastikas and chanted “Jews will not replace us!”.29 Openly antisemitic events like this have not faced the kind of intensified police repression we see today against anti-war student protesters on campuses. These contradictions make it clear that US police and many university administrators are currently acting in defense of colonialism and imperialism, not in defense of Jewish students or community members.

Accountability for antisemitism (as well as all other forms of white supremacy, including Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism) will not be achieved through repression of movements for Palestinian human rights; it will be achieved through our collective global liberation from all ethno-nationalist and supremacist ideologies. If anything, the international Palestine solidarity movement has been consistent and clear-sighted in renouncing and combating the political and economic system whose forces generate and reproduce antisemitism as a form of oppression. No state or single group has ever had the “right” to commit genocide, ethnic cleansing, or apartheid. We know this from the history of the United States, too. The Europeans who colonized the Americas (and much of the rest of the world) did not have this “right”, and Europeans/Americans have yet to make reparations for the atrocities of colonization and enslavement–nor have we ceased to operate as colonial/imperialist powers in the present-day.

Just as these protests demand that we reckon with US complicity in apartheid/genocide in Palestine, they also demand that we reckon more deeply with our own colonial histories and present-day position in the world. As part of an internationalized working class under globalized capitalism, we recognize that ongoing US/European neoliberal imperialism undermines and endangers our entire collective wellbeing on this planet, and that mass struggle against the globalized capitalist system comes in many forms. We encourage GTFF members who choose to participate in the student movement for Palestine to learn more about their rights as students and workers using the links below.


Know Your Rights as an Activist/Protester – Domestic Students

Know Your Rights as an Activist/Protester – International/Non-Citizen Students

  • Know Your Rights: International Students – ACLU
  • Know Your Rights: Immigrants’ Participation in Protests – NILC
  • Know Your Rights: Non-Citizens – Yale: “It is important for you, as a non-citizen, to be aware that if you are arrested, charged, or convicted while participating in a protest, this could impact your current and future immigration status, any future immigration or visa applications, and your interactions with immigration and consular authorities. In addition to considering the possible immigration consequences in the U.S., we encourage you to also consider how your actions could be interpreted in your home country and what, if any, consequences may result when you return home. Each country has its own laws and expectations regarding what is acceptable speech both at protests and when posting on social media and online.”
  • Visa Considerations: International students should feel free to exercise risk reduction however they see appropriate. Although there have been no suspensions (or threats of suspension) at the UO, the DHS has stated that student suspensions could impact international visa status. GTFF stands by all international graduates and our International Caucus is available to you if you need further community support.

Know Your Rights as a Student/Worker – Academic Freedom at UO

Sources Referenced

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