Earlier this year, 187 Israeli professors signed an "Urgent Warning" letter titled "The Israeli government may be contemplating crimes against humanity." As of today, 800 American professors have signed a similar document, warning of coming Israeli ethnic cleansing.
Released on 29 September 2002, the original Israeli letter began by stating, "We, members and friends of Israeli academe, are horrified by US buildup of aggression towards Iraq and by the Israeli political leadership's enthusiastic support for it. We are deeply worried by indications that the 'fog of war' could be exploited by the Israeli government to commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing."
The letter continued on to note that the coalition ruling Israel included parties that promote ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population as a "solution" to the conflict, the letter cited several examples of senior Israeli government and military officials using the language of ethnic cleansing, and called on the international community to "pay close attention to events that unfold within Israel and in the Occupied Territories."
The American letter, released on 18 December 2002, opens with expressions of full support for the Israeli letter. Signed by 800 professors and intellectuals to date, the U.S. letter concludes:
We join with our Israeli colleagues in calling for vigilance as events unfold in Israel and the Occupied Territories. With an average of more than $10 million dollars per day of American tax dollars going to Israel, we believe Americans cannot remain silent while crimes as abhorrent as ethnic cleansing are being openly advocated.
We urge our government to communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and will not be tolerated.
More information about the U.S. letter, including instructions on how to sign it, can be found at www.professorsofconscience.org.
This initiative by American academics represents a highly significant mainstream articulation of Palestinian concerns about where the international community's tacit acceptance of Israel's now regular excessive use of force will ultimately lead.
The letter is expected to draw much criticism and praise in the hotly-contested arena of Middle East education. Earlier this year, a few days before the Israeli academics' letter was released, EI reported on the launch of the Campus Watch website, an initiative by Daniel Pipes to encourage McCarthyite monitoring of faculty opinion and lesson plans in U.S. higher education institutions.
Such initiatives would seem to have failed. It appears from today's letter and several other recent moves to encourage universities to remove Israeli stocks from their investment portfolios, that U.S. faculty are increasingly feeling the need to express an opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and their message is not one that Mr. Pipes or his ilk wish to hear.