ASA scholars speak out for Palestine – Mondoweiss
Editor’s Note: The American Studies Association annual meeting is taking place November 2-5, 2023 in Montreal, Canada. Below are two statements related to the ASA: a statement from the ASA Academic & Community Activism Caucus, and a statement by Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi upon winning the 2023 Angela Y. Davis Award for Outstanding Public Scholarship along with Cathy Cohen.
ASA Academic & Community Activism Caucus statement on Gaza, Palestine, and Israel, the United States, and Canada
October 31, 2023
The genocide underway in Palestine is unbearable, torturous, a hellscape. We are incandescent with rage and pain. In North America, Europe, and Australia, the institutions of civic life – legislators, media, universities, non-profits – have openly declared themselves for the dehumanization of colonized people, and for ethnic cleansing. The Israeli military decimates Gaza, then denies or attacks reporting to destabilize public knowledge of what it is doing. Palestinians reporting their own agony from the ground, scholars who provide context, and anti-genocide protesters are censored and vilified. In these ways, comparisons to 9/11 are apt, and we are reminded that four million people were killed using much the same rationales that, later, were admitted as lies.
In this moment also, revolt is everywhere. Countless protesters, certainly numbering millions, have filled the streets to demand an end to Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Gaza and the decolonization of Palestine. Palestinian reporters are publicly schooling news anchors who ask only “what about Hamas?” Student organizers are no longer only teaching each other about Palestine, but leading a movement that centers decolonization. Thousands of scholars have signed letters refuting the racist statements of their institutions.
We send solidarity to Palestinians who are trapped under the control of a relentlessly violent state that is supported by other world powers. We celebrate the rising international movement against ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and for decolonization. We grieve the dead and the deaths to come, and we are filled with outrage at the colonial contortions of discourse that instrumentalize our pain – using expressions of grief over Israeli lives to fuel genocide, and claiming grief over Palestinian lives as evidence, unimaginably, of antisemitism. In doing so, we amplify the calls to stop Israeli- and US-fueled violence that come from Palestinian, Jewish, Indigenous, Black, antiracist, queer, disability justice, climate change, and other movements across the world, including inside the state of Israel.
As scholars of American studies, we must emphasize the role of the United States and Canada in enabling Israeli militarism and apartheid. The deep alliance and co-construction of these settler states has produced $244 billion in US aid to shore up Israel’s economy as it pours funds into settlements and military repression. It has also produced a North American political culture in which post-WWII notions of racial justice have been mined and stripped, perversely, to brand opposition to settler colonial violence as “antisemitism.” The U.S. Senate, the White House, and the Canadian government denounce student protests against genocide as “hate” and “terror”. College presidents have organized themselves as a constituency against faculty and students protesting war. Student organizations are labeled “terrorist” as lobby groups pressure university administrators to attack them. The reverberations of this soft power project are felt especially painfully now, as our news feed is filled with the dehumanization of Palestinians, the lionization of Israeli military assaults, and the US’s seemingly limitless material support for the latter.
We uphold, with intent and urgency, the importance of refusing popular consent for US, Canadian, and Israeli actions – as our Association has done for a decade, since endorsing the boycott of Israel with the overwhelming support of its membership. Refusing is a matter of life and death for five million people in Palestine and six million Palestinian refugees awaiting their return home as international law guarantees. Refusing is resistance to colonialism and war. Refusing is life against death.
We reaffirm our commitment to the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, to decolonization, and to liberation for all people in Palestine.
American Studies Association Awards Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi the 2023 Angela Y. Davis Award for Outstanding Public Scholarship
Professor Rabab Abdulhadi is the founding Director and Senior Scholar of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas (AMED) Studies and Professor of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. The American Studies Association honored her as a co-recipient of the 2023 Angela Y. Davis Award for Outstanding Public Scholarship. This award is a recognition of her life’s work as an organic intellectual building scholarship, public education, and activism on Palestine and American Studies. Read Dr. Abdulhadi’s statement on receiving the award below. Dr. Abdulhadi is also donating all her award’s funds to grassroots organizations in Palestine, as part of a collective effort by this year’s award recipients by the the American Studies Association and the Middle East Studies Association.
Dr. Abdulhadi’s statement:
I am honored that the ASA and its Award Committee have selected me as a co-recipient of the Angela Davis Award, along with my colleague, sister/comrade, and former professor, Cathy Cohen. I also express my sincere thanks to my students, colleagues and community members who nominated me and who have collectively recognized my life’s work. And I thank Angela Davis, after whom this award is named, for her inspiring leadership, intellect, and passion and why she was so revered and welcomed in Palestine along with our other members of the 2011 Indigenous and Women of Color Feminist Delegation. Words cannot capture my gratitude to my internationalist communities of justice, especially in Palestine, whose resilience, resistance, and steadfastness keep me going, resisting and defying the attacks to which I’ve been subjected. Only two days ago, acting at the behest of and collusion with Zionist groups, such as Students Supporting Israel, Hillel and the Academic Engagement Network, to name a few, Syracuse University canceled my teach-in on Gaza/Palestine. Organized by the African Graduate Student Network, Black Student Union and the African American Studies Department, the teach-in aimed at bringing our communities together to reciprocally co-learn and produce knowledge for justice toward the freedom of all our peoples.
Receiving the ASA’s Angela Davis Award reflects an affirmation of its principles and the anti-colonial Internationalist turn in American Studies that has increasingly centered justice in its production of knowledge. This includes the clear and unequivocal recognition of the genocidal history of US settler colonialism in Turtle Island; the kidnapping and forced enslavement of African peoples; the Chinese exclusions; Japanese concentration camps; shutting the doors to Jews and other victims of Nazism and the Holocaust; the deportation of leftists, Marxists and anarchists; McCarthyism; and COINTELPRO. These systematic strategies have officially sanctioned assassinations, criminalization and incarceration of movements that have courageously defied and refused to treat repression as “business-as-usual.” Instead, they participated in Black Power, Indigenous sovereignty, and other Third World-identified struggles, and the historical movements against the US war in Vietnam. These struggles have been unabashedly committed to the rejection of the “foreign/domestic” dichotomy, imposed by the US elite, insisting on the Indivisibility of Justice for marginalized and colonized communities against all forms of racism and racial discrimination, including Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-Blackness, and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism, with gender and sexual justice, labor and disability rights, and against racial capitalism.
I am especially grateful for this recognition that defies the chilling effects of New McCarthyism that have been imposed on campuses and academic associations by the Israel lobby industry and our complicit neoliberal and corporatized university administrations. We are now witnessing a marked escalation of this intensive, coordinated campaign to smear, bully, and retaliate against anyone who speaks up for justice in and for Palestine. ASA has certainly had its own share of being the target of such attacks. For me, this award symbolizes our collective refusal to be intimidated, and our commitment to uplift scholarship, pedagogy, and advocacy for justice in/for Palestine as part and parcel of the Indivisibility of Justice.
While I too remain a target of these attacks, I am doubly appreciative of ASA for its intentionality to award this honor not because of such victimization, but precisely because I refuse to acquiesce to the will of the Israel lobby industry and the complicit university administration and to be silenced in the face of injustice but insist on raising my voice even louder to advocate for Palestinian freedom and an indivisible understanding of justice for all, in the manner Angela Davis has modeled throughout her life and why she was so revered and welcomed in Palestine along with our other members of the 2011 Indigenous and Women of Color Feminist Delegation. As scholar-activists, challenging injustice is always worth it no matter how high the cost. While awards like this highlight scholarly accomplishments, they simultaneously remind us that we can and must act according to our conscience. It is my hope that this recognition will inspire colleagues who stand on the sidelines to reject being seduced by the carrot or afraid of the im stick, but to think critically about the connectedness of our collective liberation and to never ever stop fighting despite difficulties, obstacles, and the toll it takes on every aspect of our lives and careers.
This honor, however, is bittersweet. It comes at a very painful time for Palestinians and all people of conscience around the world. As I received news of this award, my people in Gaza and throughout Palestine are facing genocide at the hands of the violent Israeli settler colonial regime. Let’s not forget that this genocide has been accompanied by daily raids, bombings, killings, theft of land and crops, and destruction in other Palestinian and Arab areas occupied in 1967, such as the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights; bombardment and destruction in South Lebanon; and an unreported war in the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 where Israel is waging war against Palestinians and their anti-Zionist Israeli comrades to silence them and push them out to empty the land of its people. Hundreds have been attacked, arrested, detained and interrogated by the Israeli fascist state and its security and intelligence apparatus.
This relentless destruction of all forms of Palestinian life is “anything but random”– this is a deliberate, intentional, and systematic design to erase and eradicate Palestine. How else can the Zionist settler colonial project justify and realize its motto of “a land without a people for a people without a land”, crush the Palestinian spirit of steadfastness, and silence and intimidate any criticism of the Israeli fascist state? Here in the Palestinian shatat too, we are experiencing heightened censorship and repression and the overt Islamophobic, Orientalist, and colonial-feminist discourses and actions against Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, as well as our allies. Collectively, we have been subjected to an orchestrated campaign to harm us, prevent us from speaking truth to power and stop us from employing our intellectual resources to expose the horrors Palestinians have been facing for over 100 years of European colonialism and Zionist settler colonialism. But like other generations before us and many who will come after us, we refuse to be complicit in perpetuating injustice.
To me, as I am sure it is to many of my colleagues, inaction is not an option. We must place the voices and liberation of Palestine and all oppressed at the center of our scholarship, pedagogy and advocacy. We cannot even for a moment ignore the genocide, siege in Gaza, violence, racism, and Apartheid under Israeli settler-colonial and military rule for over 75 years. We mourn the rising number of martyrs that have at this time of writing reached 8,935, the families who have been completely decimated during the last 25 days alone. We hold in our hearts those missing under the rubble and the over 23,643 injured. The number of hospitals that have been carpet bombed, the lack of medical supplies, food, fuel and clean water is astounding. The magnitude of the genocide that is taking place before our own eyes and the obscene collusion of the US and other imperialist powers and their client states, including Arab governments, leave us speechless. We simply cannot stand by and do nothing. Those who refuse to stand up and be counted, especially now, are as complicit in these atrocities as their perpetrators. Perhaps I don’t need to repeat that silence is complicity as our siblings in Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, International Jewish AntiZionist Network, and many other anti-Zionist Jewish organizations have loudly and clearly said, “Never Again for Anyone”; “Not in our Name.” These expressions are not lost on our valiant people in Gaza, the West Bank, the ‘48 areas or throughout the Palestinian refugee camps and broader shatat. Here are our Jewish sisters and brothers, siblings and comrades with whom we have struggled together and with whom we will build a different future. Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and other People of Color (BIPOC) have been speaking up at the cost of their livelihoods and safety as well. They have been fired, dismissed, harassed and threatened with physical and psychological violence. These threats are not unfamiliar to me. I stand in awe and complete solidarity and comradeship with all of you. I have drawn my strength and the will to fight and speak truth to power from all of you. You’ve had my back and rejected gaslighting, smearing, bullying and criminalization for over a decade. Today you/we stand up for Palestine. Like all other colonized and marginalized people before and after us, surrender is not an option and defeatism cannot be allowed to set in even for one second. We must draw our inspiration from the steadfastness of our people who refuse to submit to the will of the colonizers or denounce their legitimate right to break out of their captivity and prevent a new Nakba. They/we choose to insist on freedom, liberation and return, and a real and just peace.
To be recognized by the American Studies Association, especially at this critical time illustrates without a doubt the unwavering principled stand, love, and solidarity ASA has manifested before and since its historic vote 10 years ago in response to the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) by Palestinian civil society. The high cost exacted on the ASA leadership and membership, including at our respective institutions has been valiantly resisted, winning us one victory after another against the forces of repression and the New McCarthyism.
The sumoud of ASA against threats and even a Federal lawsuit clearly demonstrated that resisting oppression and standing up for justice for all does and can produce victories. These are not hollow and empty slogans. In making its internationalist turn, ASA has modeled in material terms our peoples’ movements that fought and continue to fight against colonial, racial, and all forms of violence, demonstrating that defeat is not inevitable.
We can and we will win when we come together, collectively resist oppression and repression and loudly say, as Palestinian late poet, Samih El Qasem, whose words were re-written and found in the cell of George Jackson:
Enemy of the Sun:
We will not surrender nor compromise.
We will resist, and resist and resist!
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