Statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people

Statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people

We, the Yugoslawomen+ Collective, express our solidarity with the Palestinian population and join the calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza.

The Israeli regime’s ongoing brutal attacks on the Gaza Strip – breaching international law and warfare conventions – are merely an extension of the longest occupation in contemporary time and Israel’s settler colonialism. This occupation started and proliferated long before Hamas existed. Following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israeli citizens on October 7 and the hostage crisis that continues to date, Israel’s actions and rhetoric against Palestinians have not been subtle – militarized speeches with genocidal language, dehumanization of Palestinians, a lack of differentiation between Hamas and civilians, and a push towards destruction and devastation of an already shrinking and long-terrorized population. Nearly half of the two million who live in Gaza are children – lives in the Gaza Strip are generally not susceptible to old age due to the 16-year blockade, related poverty, lacking health care, displacement, and statelessness that many Palestinians experience. 

The ongoing attacks on the Gaza Strip have also raised the question for countries in the region to consider accepting refugees. Palestinians have no guarantees of opportunity to return to Gaza, and the refugee regimes in place discount them in multiple ways, fostering further problems. Effectively, short of dual citizenship, there is little option to leave Gaza. The state-led violence experienced on the Gaza Strip will lead to the expulsion, if not total obliteration of the population. Palestinians living in Gaza are thus being trapped, vilified, targeted, and dehumanized, all the while being expected to “audition for [people’s] empathy” as the West has watched on, hesitant to call for a ceasefire and actively encouraging Israel in its attacks under the pretext of self-defense. 

There is now a silencing we are witnessing when it comes not even to expressing solidarity, but rather humanizing victims on the Palestinian side. Academic events with Palestinian voices are being canceled, solidarity events including peace protests are shared in hushed tones, declarations and support of state responses are expected to be left unquestioned. Any mention of solidarity with the Palestinian people is expected, if not policed, to come with a number of provisos, in a way we have not seen in any other context. The public forum for discussion and exchange is limited, nearly closed. Amidst polarizing discourse, there is a conflation between Israel’s regime, Israelis, and Jewish people, and a conflation between Hamas, Palestinians, and Palestine, leaving little room for Jewish voices speaking out against Israel’s war on Gaza on one hand and portraying solidarity with Palestine as being antisemitic and/or supporting terrorism on the other. Calls for ceasefire, for peace and justice are ironically being vilified as support for killing civilians. 

At the same time, the silence and idle statements such as “this is too complicated” in academic circles, including in social science disciplines such as Political Science and International Relations, not unlike the ones we heard in relation to the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, are hypocritical at best and complicit in an unfolding genocide at worst. While “decolonise” has been the keyword of (self-proclaimed critical) academic institutions over the past decade, it is shocking to see how “decolonise” as a political and epistemological stance is erasing one of the most obvious cases of colonialism in contemporary politics – Israel’s settler colonialism of Palestine.  

Simultaneously, we are deeply concerned and alarmed with curtailment of academic freedoms and repressive measures put in place by some universities and national governments in Europe (Germany, France, UK, Austria) and elsewhere against those who speak against Israeli settler-colonialism and publicly express their solidarity with Palestinians, and/or have peacefully taken their protest to the streets. Criminalisation of solidarity with Palestinians and academic silences about decontextualized narratives of the “conflict” and repression of dissent while  genocide is happening in real time are frightening. They are also a reminder to all of us that decolonisation and anti-racism must not be understood as thought experiments and fads of the corporate academic industrial complex. They demand praxis and holding our academic institutions accountable for their complicities in systems of oppression. 

Voices from the former Yugoslav space have weighed in on their frustration, warning about the potential of human atrocities turning to genocide, the silencing happening within public spaces, and retraumatization. All the while, most of the political leaders in the post-Yugoslav region, either oblivious in the hopes of becoming “more EU-ropean” or wilfully forgetful of the region’s recent past, have remained silent on demanding ceasefire in Gaza, with Croatia going as far as voting against and Serbia and North Macedonia abstaining from voting for the UN General Assembly resolution calling for “immediate and sustained humanitarian truce.” The irony is not lost on us. In the post-Yugoslav region, the repercussions of silencing injustice continue to be experienced on a day-to-day basis in a negative peace scenario which remains neglected by the West until the next flare-up. Nowhere has this been more clear than in Serbia’s recent attacks against Kosovo, to which, yet again, the EU and the US have turned a blind eye. It is this continued role of the West in reproducing imperial and colonial violences, creating a hierarchy of “peripheral and semi-peripheral lives” that matter, whether actively or by remaining silent in situations where the promise of “never again” calls for action, that we witness across different geographies and times.

We condemn the ongoing systematic, state-orchestrated and internationally supported, genocidal violence and apartheid against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. We are in solidarity with Palestinian demands for freedom and self-determination. Our solidarity is also, but not solely, informed by our own embodied experiences with war, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Our solidarity stems from our anger as we witness, yet again, the unfolding of a textbook case of genocide at the backdrop of powerpolitics, and media and intellectual discourses dehumanizing an entire population. It is in this context, with the blueprint and the work for genocide in Palestine unfolding for many decades, where the responsibility of academics to raise our voices, to educate and push back against polarizing discourses that close the space for discussion, to talk to our students and to the public at large becomes ever more important. This is even more critical as we witness a reverberation among our own academic communities and what we see in the societies we live in. Anti-semitism, Islamophobia, othering, and Anti-Arab sentiment are on the rise as a response to what is happening, and universities and academics ought to not derelict the duty and responsibility to teach otherwise, but we must openly counter them instead.

As post-Yugoslav subjects with lived, embodied memories and experiences of the devastating consequences of wars, genocidal violence and state oppression, and as scholars committed to (re-)learning to engage with anti-colonial knowledges, pedagogies, collaborative and coalitional solidarities and praxis, we find it to be our political, academic, moral, and, simply, human responsibility to speak (and act in any way possible) against the imperial and colonial frameworks and structures that persistently breed, legitimize, and re-produce dehumanization, oppression, dispossession, displacement, epistemic erasures, political silencing and carceral racial capitalist policies against those deemed to be “vulnerable to premature death” (to borrow from Ruth Wilson Gilmore). On a final note, we also acknowledge that for those who have experienced expulsion, war, a rise in authoritarianism, this time has been triggering, and will continue to be. The spillover of conflict happens not only in neighboring regions and amidst the populations affected by it, but among all of us. And yet, silence will make us all complicit in this tragedy and even more, in the words of Audre Lorde: silence will not protect anyone.

Categories: Solidarity