“Hearing Palestine” stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people in this time of escalating Israeli bombardment of Gaza, of relentless assaults on Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, in Haifa, Lydd and other towns.
“Hearing Palestine” is an initiative housed at UofT’s Institute of Islamic Studies to provide an intellectual space for Palestinians and those interested in the history and future of Palestine to share their experience and research free from interference and disruption. Many of us—UofT faculty and students of Arab and Muslim heritage, or dissidents of other backgrounds—face ostracization for talking about the Palestinian right to self-determination or for criticizing the Israeli state. “Hearing Palestine” offers a vision of better scholarship and campus experience, one committed to the principle that justice is indivisible.
In September 2020, it was brought to the attention of the academic community that a right-wing donor and supporter of the Israeli state was allowed to interfere in the hiring process for the Director of UofT’s International Human Rights Programme at the Faculty of Law—ostensibly on the grounds that the new Director was too critical of Israeli human rights violations. The shocking revelations of this scuttled process have led to a rare and unanimous censure by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, a body protecting academic freedom and university autonomy and representing no less than 72,000 university teachers across the country. The scandal at the University and the CAUT censure coincided with Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) report “A Threshold Crossed” which explicitly found Israeli state practices amount to Apartheid. The HRW report confirmed what many have said for long time, including what UofT’s “Israeli Apartheid Week” has argued since 2005; what President Jimmy Carter’s book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid” raised in 2006; and what the Israeli NGO B’Tselem stated in its own report “A regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean” earlier this year.
We recognize that the donor interference, the HRW report, and the current violence against Palestinian populations in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are distinct, and take shape across different geographies. But they center on a fundamental issue that is “Hearing Palestine’s” foundational principle: that the Palestinian people are a people in exile and deserve to be heard on their own terms. To that end, and in the current context, we therefore affirm that:
- Palestine is a country which has been denied the state that UN resolution 181 promised, in principle, in 1947;
- Palestinians are a people who for 73 years have faced expulsion, expropriation, incarceration and execution;
- All people have a right to support the non-violent, anti-racist criticism of Israel, such as the BDS movement, without the threat of criminalization or government repudiation;
- Criticism of Israel is not tantamount to anti-Semitism, and that any attempt to conflate opposition to Zionism with anti-Semitism runs contrary to the freedoms of expression and democratic debate that we hold dear.
The current violence against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank prompts us to call upon the Canadian government, judiciary, media, business community and universities to recognize whether and how its practices and policies cover up the voices of Palestinians and/or benefit from the dispossession of Palestinians. As violence escalates in the region, we demand that Canadian institutions hold Israel accountable for its actions and demand it comply with international law.
While UofT has begun to offer spaces for engaged students and scholars to tackle racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia, speaking about Palestine remains all too often subject to (self) censorship individually, and at the institutional level, it is treated as risky. At a University committed to “radical, critical teaching and research,” we recognize that Palestine offers an important analytic site where racism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia all-too-often intersect.
Anver Emon, Director, Institute of Islamic Studies
Jens Hanssen, Associate Professor, History
Alejandro Paz, Associate Professor, Anthropology
- Global scholars petition in solidarity with Palestine
- Palestine is a feminist issue pledge
- Scholars Strike panel discussion on Thursday on “Censuring the Neoliberal University: Academic Freedom, Donors & Equity”
- The Legal Centre for Palestine in Canada
- Visualizing Palestine: great poster project visualizing enormous data on contemporary Palestinian conditions
- Learning Palestine: a teaching tool and oral history project on the Palestinian revolution from 1948-1983
Syllabi & films: