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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.
The Caucus on Academic and Community Activism of the American Studies Association seeks to provide a network and resource exchange for scholars within ASA interested in issues of academic activism and social justice specific to American studies. Realizing that some of this activity already takes place within existing ASA Caucuses and Committees, a central task of the Caucus will be to act as a liaison between many committees and caucuses. Issues to be taken up by the caucus include forms of academic activism within and without the University; work conditions and means of supporting full-time and part-time instructors in American Studies; the extent to which diversity is substantiated by the curricula, agendas, and demographics of institutions and organizations affiliated with the ASA; the relationship between race, gender and sexuality and academic work; prisons, war, imperialism, globalization and their impact on knowledge formation within American Studies. In addition, the Caucus’ mission would foreground issues and concerns relevant to annual meeting host sites.