Introduction

The Coalition of Graduate Employees-AFT 6069 at Oregon State University (OSU) calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire as the first step toward long-term peace in Palestine. At the time of writing, the Palestinian death toll stands at over 20,000¹ and the Israeli death toll stands at about 1,200.² We strongly condemn the terrorist attack committed by Hamas on October 7th. We also recognize that Israel’s response to these attacks has had a catastrophic impact on Palestinian life, land, and culture, and especially for Gazans, who have been terrorized under constant bombardment by Israeli forces. We stand against the mass murder and kidnapping of civilians on both sides in this conflict, and call for the safe release and return of all hostages.

We condemn the collective punishment of the Palestinian people by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has continued unabated into the drafting of this letter. Approximately 86% of the Gazan population has been displaced due to this conflict,³ and over half of Gaza’s population (approximately 1 million people) are reported to be starving due to lack of access to food, water, and nutrition.⁴ As US residents, taxpayers, and indirect contributors to these actions in the form of military aid and weaponry, we call for the liberation of Palestine and an end to its occupation by the Israeli state.

From its inception, Zionists sought to link the state of Israel to all Jewish people. Israel was created as an ethnostate, a “homeland” for Jewish people based on biblical prophecy. The error of linking Israel and Jewish people encourages the conflation of the state and this ethnic group, thereby insulating the Israeli government from legitimate criticism without prompting accusations of antisemitism. We are firm in our stance that the policies of the state of Israel do not represent all Jewish people and as such, criticism of Israeli policy is not inherently antisemitic, just as the actions of Hamas do not represent the will of all Palestinians. We condemn all forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia and view this misconception of ethnicity/state equivalence as contributing to antisemitism, including within the pro-Palestinian movement, the reckless disregard for Palestinian life, and Islamophobic attacks worldwide. This statement is not an indictment of Jewish people; rather, it is an indictment of the actions of the state of Israel, as well as U.S. governmental and corporate interests in the imperialist system that supports them.

Connections to Oregon State University and Graduate Employee Labor

A crucial facet of Israel’s ongoing destruction of Palestine is the direct targeting of educational and cultural institutions, including schools, universities, and archives. Since November 4th, 2023, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) reports that 258 school facilities (representing about 51% of all schools in Gaza)¹ have been damaged or destroyed by IDF assaults. The targeting of these institutions is part of a larger historical pattern2 of destroying Palestinian cultural heritage sites3 (including churches, mosques, and more) in order to erase Palestinian history, intellectual labor, and culture. Oregon State’s silence on the destruction of Palestinian educational and cultural institutions, specifically, is antithetical to the university’s explicitly-stated mission4 of “[promoting] economic, social, cultural, and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, the nation, and the world.”

As graduate employees, we collect data, perform analyses, write publications, and provide critical research to our fields of study, all for the creation of knowledge within those fields. Our labor does not only benefit our employers and their affiliates—it also has a direct impact on local and global communities beyond our immediate working environments. This is why labor unions are a crucial representative voice for workers who take ethical issues with their employer’s actions.

Oregon State graduate student employees have connections to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the actions and relationships of the university. OSU receives tuition from the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) detachments for each branch of the US Military.5 Several OSU departments also have and may still receive research funding from the Department of Defense (DOD), including the College of Agricultural Sciences (CAS), the Department of Chemistry, College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS), and the College of Engineering: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Civil Engineering.6 Currently, the DOD is sending troops to the area surrounding Israel and Gaza and is providing U.S. Iron Dome systems directly to Israel.7

OSU also has a collaborative partnership with HP, Inc. through the College of Engineering: Manufacturing, Industrial and Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.8 Hewlett Packard Israel (HP Israel, an HP subsidiary), has contracts with other companies in Israel, including the Israeli Prison Service.9, 10 Though HP split into HP, Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) in 2015, this split was notably executed during a period in which HP received heavy criticism for HP Israel actions.11, 12, 13 HP Israel remains a subsidiary of HP Inc. and has been in Israel as early as 2006.14

It is crucial to examine the relationships between one’s labor, the corporate and bureaucratic interests of their employer, and the effects of their employer’s actions on populations inside and outside of the United States. OSU’s partnerships with the DOD and HP tie the institution to the violence, dispossession, and segregation upheld by the Israeli government. To honor the values and objectives of our organization, and to amplify the calls for Palestinian solidarity made by labor unions (including graduate employee unions) across the world,15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 we stand against the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in all the forms it takes. We also recognize the value in using our Union’s collective voice to stand with marginalized people in our own community and around the world.

Article II Section 7, the anticolonialism bylaw of our Union’s Constitution, is a call for us to “fight for the liberation of indigenous people everywhere and oppose colonial projects.” This bylaw builds upon other objectives within our Constitution, including Solidarity; Community; and Equity and Justice. As such, we wish to call attention to the following historical facts.

Historical Timeline

For 75 years, Israel has displayed a pattern of settler-colonization, characterized by its exploitation of conflict to ethnically cleanse Palestine of non-Jewish people and settle new Jewish communities in former Palestinian lands and structures. In 1948, Israel was founded after many years of petitioning by Zionists who sought to leverage both “the Jewish question” (a prompt for how to remove Jewish people from antisemitic European society) and the prospect of a proxy for British imperial interests in the region of Palestine.1, 2, 3, 4 However, Palestine was inhabited by a majority indigenous Arab population who feared being expelled from their land. Zionist founders understood that Israel could not be a homeland for Jewish people without a majority Jewish population and adopted a strategy of “transfer,” which involved the forced expulsion of indigenous Arabs from the land by means of the purchasing of land, destruction of Arab villages, and civilian massacres.5, 6, 7, 8 David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, said in 1948, “The war will give us the land. The concepts of ‘ours’ and ‘not ours’ are only concepts for peacetime…”9 When Israel was established, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan invaded Palestine and Zionist leaders used the war as a pretext to expel over 700,000 (>80%) indigenous Palestinians by fear and force in an event known as the Nakba.10, 11, 12

Major conflicts resulting in the acquisition of land since 1948 began in 1956 with an Israeli attack on Egypt in collaboration with the British and French, who aimed to control the Suez Canal (with land only returned due to US intervention). In 1967, Israel preemptively attacked Egypt and, during the ensuing Six-Day War, occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of Jordan, the Golan Heights in Syria, and the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip, where many Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war had resettled.13, 14, 15, 16 In response to this war, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, which included specific language, accepted by Israel, that emphasized “the inadmissibility of acquisition of territory by war,” and the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.”17 The Israeli government moved to settle in the other occupied territories and unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem, including a large portion of the surrounding area.18, 19 The occupation of these lands are in flagrant violation of international law.20 In 1973, the fourth Arab-Israeli war was launched by a coalition of Arab states, including Egypt and Syria, with the intention of recovering the occupied territories. However, the Sinai was only fully decolonized after 15 years, and Israel continues to actively occupy the West Bank and Golan Heights to this day.21, 22 In 2005, Israel withdrew troops and settlers from Gaza, but the Israeli government maintains nearly complete control over Gaza’s land crossings, waterways, imports/exports, and communications to this day, leading the UN and various human rights organizations to contest Israel’s claim that it no longer occupies Gaza.23

Inside Israeli occupied territories, the existing Arab population has been subject to repression, harassment, and disenfranchisement.24 Gaza’s conditions today have been described by human rights organizations as an “open air prison.”25 Ultranationalist settlers continue to illegally stake claim to land and inflict violence on Arabs.26, 27 Since the Oct. 7th Hamas attack, Israeli current and former government officials have openly called for the genocide of the Palestinian people.28 With almost 2 million Gazans displaced and on the verge of starvation, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, has tasked his minister of strategic affairs to find ways of “thinning the population of Gaza to a minimum possible.”29

The facts listed above are not the full story of the conflict but are often left out of the western media narrative. Millions of Palestinian refugees have been forcefully removed from their lands to make room for the colonialist Israeli state, and life in the occupied territories is often described as akin to that of South African apartheid. With its current bombing campaign, the Israeli ethnic cleansing program of ‘transfer’ continues, and the danger of inciting a broader, regional, US-involved war in the Middle East increases by the hour. As Ilan Pappé, an Israeli historian, wrote in his book, Ten Myths About Israel, “History lies at the core of every conflict. A true and unbiased understanding of the past offers the possibility of peace. The distortion or manipulation of history, in contrast, will only sow disaster.” If we want peace in Palestine, we must acknowledge this history.

The United States can leverage its military, financial, and ideological support to force Israel to end its brutalization of the Palestinian people because Israel relies on that support to survive. As residents of the United States, we can exert pressure on our government to stop supporting a state that routinely commits war crimes, and we have a moral obligation to do so.

Actions We Can Take Now

While the Israeli government has severely limited humanitarian aid entering Gaza, charity organizations continue to collect supplies and prepare logistics for when the opportunity to enter Gaza arises. As fellow graduate employees, we understand that much of your paychecks go toward living expenses, however, please consider donating to any of the following organizations:

United Palestinian Appeal
Medical Aid for Palestinians
Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund

Since 2005, representatives of Palestinian civil society have called for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), an organized effort to boycott institutions and companies complicit in human rights violations in Palestine, to call for divestment from the State of Israel and organizations complicit in Israeli apartheid, and to impose sanctions against Israel. A list of companies that directly contribute to and profit from Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians, as well as more information on the BDS movement, can be found at https://bdsmovement.net/

We also encourage you to support local and global advocacy groups. Corvallis Palestine Solidarity is actively organizing through public demonstrations, appeals to our city council, and more. Finally, we encourage you to reach out to your elected representatives to express any objections about the allocation of our tax money to military aid and war materials provided to the Israeli government.

Federal
Ron Wyden (Senate)
Jeff Merkley (Senate)
Valerie Hoyle (Congress – OR 4th District)

State
Sara Gelser Blouin (Senate – 8th District)
Dan Rayfield (Congress – 16th District)

In Solidarity,
Coalition of Graduate Employees-AFT 6069
Oregon State University

References

Introduction

1. Stack, L., (2023, December 22). Gaza Deaths surpass any Arab loss in wars with Isreal in the past 40 years. The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/21/world/middleeast/gaza-death-toll-palestinians.html
2. Boxerman, A. (2023, November 30). Israel-hamas war: Israel lowers Oct. 7 death toll estimate to 1,200. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/11/10/world/israel-hamas-war-gaza-news
3. Magee, Z., Amer, R., & Zayara, S. (2023, December 10). Some besieged Gazans say they face “no future” there, want to leave for good. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/besieged-gazans-face-future-leave-good/story?id=105458658
4. Nimoni, F. (2023, December 10). Israel-gaza war: Half of Gaza’s population is starving, warns Un. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-67670679

Connections to Oregon State University and Graduate Employee Labor

1. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2023, November 4). Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel: Flash update #29. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – occupied Palestinian territory. https://www.ochaopt.org/content/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-29
2. Riemer, N. (2018, December 30). The attack on Palestinian universities. Jacobin. https://jacobin.com/2018/12/palestinian-universities-higher-eduction-israeli-violence/
3. Veltman, C. (2023, December 3). More than 100 gaza heritage sites have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli attacks. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2023/12/03/1216200754/gaza-heritage-sites-destroyed-israel
4. Oregon State University. (2023, September 20). Oregon State University Mission Statement. Leadership. https://leadership.oregonstate.edu/trustees/about-board/oregon-state-university-mission-statement
5. ROTC programs. Military & Veteran Resources. (2021, November 29). https://veterans.oregonstate.edu/rotc-programs
6. Department of Defense. Research Office. (2017, May 10). https://research.oregonstate.edu/department-defense
7. Garamone, J. (2023, October 26). U.S. military continues focus on supporting Israel, Ukraine. U.S. Department of Defense. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/3570670/us-military-continues-focus-on-supporting-israel-ukraine/
8. HP-Oregon State Partnership builds better products, stronger workforce. Oregon State University Advantage. (2016, November 9). https://advantage.oregonstate.edu/feature-story/hp-oregon-state-partnership-builds-better-products-stronger-workforce
9. The Prime Minister of Israel. (2016, January 20). Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/IsraeliPM/photos/prime-minister-benjamin-netanyahu-met/1228823677132375/?locale=ar_AR&paipv=0&eav=Afbw2wLGskHUF_4BNor4-UD5IULgDirfLoDQDb5tK0bZrtX1w5elfqRy8J05ZCIgFbQ&_rdr
10. Shauli, A. (2011, November 23). HP exec: Israel is our winning ticket. Ynetnews. https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3330211,00.html
11. United Nations. (2012, October 25). UN expert calls for boycott of international businesses profiting from Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Third Committee | UN press. United Nations. https://press.un.org/en/2012/gashc4048.doc.htm
12. Guardian News and Media. (2014, June 21). Presbyterian church votes to divest holdings to sanction Israel. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/21/presbyterian-church-votes-divest-holdings-to-sanction-israel
13. The case against Hewlett-Packard – Palestine Solidarity campaign. Palestine Solidarity Campaign. (2014, August 13). https://www.palestinecampaign.org/case-hewlett-packard/
14. Shamah, D. (2014, January 8). With no ‘defense,’ hp Israel faces a PR nightmare. The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/with-no-defense-hp-israel-faces-a-pr-nightmare/
15. Lazare, S. (2023, November 21). Why these teachers unions are demanding a cease-fire. The Nation. https://www.thenation.com/article/activism/labor-teachers-union-ceasefire-gaza-israel/
16. United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, et al. (2023). Sign on: The US labor movement calls for ceasefire in Israel and Palestine. EveryAction. https://secure.everyaction.com/w1qW7B3pek2rTtv9ny5bqw2
17. Rajagopalan, R. (2023, December 2). United Auto Workers Union calls for “immediate, permanent cease-fire” in Israel-hamas war, becoming largest labor union to do so. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-gaza-war-united-auto-workers-cease-fire/
18. A. P. W. U. (2023, November 8). Statement on the conflict in Israel and Palestine. https://apwu.org/news/international/statement-apwu-general-officers-conflict-israel-and-palestine
19. GEO-UAW 2322. (2023, October 10). Solidarity statement with Palestine. Graduate Employee Organization UAW 2322. https://www.geouaw.org/solidarity-statement-with-palestine/
20. SGWU-UE. (2023). SGWU-UE Statement of Solidarity with Palestinian Trade Unions.

21. York Federation of Students, et al. (2023, October 14). York University Student Unions’ statement of Solidarity with Palestine. Spring Magazine. https://springmag.ca/york-university-student-unions-statement-of-solidarity-with-palestine
22. Huddleston, S. (2023). SWC-UAW publishes statement of Solidarity, calls for acknowledgement of “pain, fear, and grief of Palestinians.” Columbia Daily Spectator. https://www.columbiaspectator.com/news/2023/10/19/swc-uaw-publishes-statement-of-solidarity-calls-for-acknowledgement-of-pain-fear-and-grief-of-palestinians/

Historical Timeline

1. A.W. Kayyālī, Palestine: A Modern History (Croom Helm, 1978), https://books.google.com/books?id=DsQNAAAAQAAJ. pp. 174.
2. Stork, Joe. “Understanding the Balfour Declaration.” MERIP Reports, no. 13, 1972, pp. 9–13. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/3012229. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.
3. “How Anti-Semitism Helped Create Israel.” Accessed December 22, 2023. https://foreignpolicy.com/2010/09/08/how-anti-semitism-helped-create-israel-2/.
4. Rose, John. The Myths of Zionism. London ; Pluto Press, 2004. pp. 117-123..
5. Lorena S Neal, “The Roots of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: 1882-1914,” n.d.
6. Israel Shahak, “A History of the Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionism,” Journal of Palestine Studies 18, no. 3 (1989): 22–37, https://doi.org/10.2307/2537340.
7. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Second edition., Cambridge Middle East Studies ; 18 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
8. Matthew Hogan, “The 1948 Massacre at Deir Yassin Revisited,” The Historian 63, no. 2 (2001): 309–33, http://www.jstor.org.oregonstate.idm.oclc.org/stable/24450239.
9. Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. p. 360.
10. Ilan Pappé, “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Journal of Palestine Studies 36, no. 1 (2006): 6–20, https://doi.org/10.1525/jps.2006.36.1.6.
11. Simha Flapan, “The Palestinian Exodus of 1948,” Journal of Palestine Studies 16, no. 4 (1987): 3–26, https://doi.org/10.2307/2536718.
12. Norman Finkelstein, “Myths, Old and New,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 1 (1991): 66–89, https://doi.org/10.2307/2537366.
13. Sami. Hadawi and Sami. Hadawi, Palestine Occupied, Revised edition. (New York, N.Y: Arab Information Center, 1968).
14. “Report of the Secretary-General on the Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force,” UNEF I withdrawal (16 May – 17 June 1967) – SecGen report, addenda, corrigendum, n.d., https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-182090/.
15. Farrell, S., al-Mughrabi , N., & O’Brien, R. (n.d.). A brief history of Gaza’s 75 years of woe. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/brief-history-gazas-75-years-woe-2023-10-10/
16. Finkelstein, N.G. (2018). Gaza: an Inquest into its Martyrdom. University of California Press, Oakland, CA. p 3.
17. Mideast situation/Withdrawal of Israeli forces, termination of states of belligerency – Resolution 242 – SecCo resolution. “Resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967,” n.d. https://www.un.org/unispal/document/auto-insert-184858/.
18. Harris, William Wilson. Taking Root : Israeli Settlement in the West Bank, the Golan and Gaza-Sinai, 1967-1980. Geographical Research Studies Series ; 1. Chichester: Research Studies Press, 1980. p. 35.
19. Pappé, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine : One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge, UK ; Cambridge University Press, 2004. pp. 199-204.
20. Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel (A/77/328). “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem, and Israel,” n.d. https://www.un.org/unispal/document/report-of-the-independent-international-commission-of-inquiry-on-the-occupied-palestinian-territory-including-east-jerusalem-and-israel-a-77-328/.
21. Shipler, David K., and Special To the New York Times. “ISRAELI COMPLETES PULLOUT, LEAVING SINAI TO EGYPT.” The New York Times, April 26, 1982, sec. World. https://www.nytimes.com/1982/04/26/world/israeli-completes-pullout-leaving-sinai-to-egypt.html.
22. BBC. (2023, October 11). Israel’s borders explained in maps. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-54116567
23. Bashi, Sari, Tamar Feldman, Iman Jabbour, Na’ama Adar, Brett Kaufman, Dr Katharina Penev, Tamar Feldman, Sari Bashi, and Noga Kadman. “Scale of Control: Israel’s Continued Responsibility in the Gaza Strip,” n.d.
24. Pappé, Ilan. A History of Modern Palestine : One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge, UK ; Cambridge University Press, 2004. pp. 204-207.
25. “Gaza: An ‘Open-Air Prison.’” Accessed December 22, 2023. https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/video/2022/06/13/gaza-open-air-prison.
26. “One-Year Report on Israeli Settlements in the Occupied West Bank, Including East Jerusalem (Reporting Period January – December 2022).Pdf,” n.d. https://www.eeas.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/2023/One-Year%20Report%20on%20Israeli%20Settlements%20in%20the%20occupied%20West%20Bank%2C%20including%20East%20Jerusalem%20%28Reporting%20period%20January%20-%20December%202022%29.pdf
27. “Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories : A Bimonthly Publication of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.” Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories : A Bimonthly Publication of the Foundation for Middle East Peace., 2014.
28. “Israeli MP Says It Clearly for World to Hear: ‘Erase All of Gaza From the Face of the Earth.’” Accessed December 22, 2023. https://www.commondreams.org/news/israel-gaza-genocide.
29. “The Prime Minister’s Plan for the Citizens of the Gaza Strip: The Direction – Out,” November 30, 2023. Accessed December 22, 2023. https://www.israelhayom.co.il/magazine/hashavua/article/14889801.