Statement on Israel/Palestine by the School of Peace and Conflict Studies
We write as faculty and staff of an academic unit created over 50 years ago by Kent State University (KSU) with a mission to research, teach, and advocate for the principles of peaceful change, and whose original degree program began in 1973, the same year as the Yom Kippur War. This is a reminder that the recent violence in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank has its roots in a deeper history, and that the search for sustainable peace will not be achieved by further perpetuation of violence and militarism.
We are appalled at the steep escalation of violence in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, as well as the spread of this violence to other areas. This includes the recent attacks in Israel by Hamas involving the killing of Israeli citizens and the taking of hostages; and the attacks by the Israeli state on Gaza and the West Bank involving the killing and forcible displacement of Palestinian civilians. We are also deeply concerned about the risks of an escalating conflict in the region, and the rise in antisemitism, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Islamic hate speech around the world, including in the United States, and Ohio.
WE EMPHASIZE the urgent need for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law, including the safeguarding of civilians and the release of hostages.
WE CALL ON all states to abide by the principles elaborated in the 2013 United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, particularly its restrictions on the transfer of arms for use in breach of international humanitarian law.
WE ENDORSE calls for a ceasefire.
Our most local concern is for those students, faculty, and staff at KSU on all sides of the conflict who have already lost family members, relatives, and friends, those anxious for the continued safety of their loved ones, and those who may have experienced threats and hate speech. We grieve with all members of our KSU community and beyond who have lost their loved ones. WE UNEQUIVOCALLY CONDEMN hate speech and threats aimed at any individuals or communities.
Part of our mission as a School of Peace and Conflict Studies is to enhance understanding of the drivers of conflict, to equip our community with the knowledge and skills to prevent, resolve and transform conflicts, and to facilitate dialogue and conflict resolution. WE ARE COMMITTED TO working with all members of our university and local community to enhance understanding of the factors underpinning the current conflict, and to facilitate relevant dialogue and conflict resolution processes, both within KSU community, and further afield.
We also note that many of our own academic colleagues in the United States and around the world have been threatened with reprisals, including the threat of job termination, simply because they undertake research in and on the region. WE CONDEMN threats to academic freedom and call on all universities and governments to recognize the importance of protecting the freedom of academics to undertake legitimate research, writing, and commentary on issues related to the current conflict from across a range of perspectives. Indeed, given the wealth of misinformation distributed on social media, and even some mainstream news outlets, it is even more important to protect the freedom of academics to undertake the kind of deep and detailed research that can provide the basis for more informed discussion on Israel/Palestine.
WE SUPPORT actors in the region striving both for a temporary cessation of violence and a more long-lasting meaningful peace, particularly where this work is based on principles that include:
- A refusal to accept the resigned pessimism of those who consider there is no option but war and terror, and an embrace of the idea that peacemaking is not only possible in the darkest of moments, but made even more urgent by war and violence
- A rejection of dehumanizing logics and the politics of exclusion, in favor of recognizing the shared humanity of all parties to a conflict.
- The search for conflict transformation based on the identification and realization of common human needs and grounded in the inter-related principles of common security, human security, justice, and sustainable peace and development.
- Support for, and alignment with, bottom-up peace processes that provide agency and voice for civil society, particularly those courageous groups working to support peacebuilding processes across social, communal, and political divides.
WE RECOGNIZE that both the Israeli and Palestinian people have experienced long histories of oppression and unspeakable suffering. However, we also believe that these same histories reinforce both the urgent need, and potential, of work to address trauma and harm, promote dialogue, and support peacebuilding. Designed correctly, such work has the capacity to secure a future where Palestinians and Israelis alike can experience common security, human rights, self-determination, and the knowledge that current and future generations will no longer be at risk of ever more vicious violence. While recognizing the enormity of this goal, we firmly believe that the current moment reinforces both the urgency and necessity of work to achieve this end.