Stanford Physics & Applied Physics Graduate Student Workers Labor Divestment Pledge

We, graduate students of the Stanford Applied Physics and Physics departments, stand with the Palestinian people in their fight for liberation and refuse to be complicit in the ongoing occupation and genocide perpetrated against them.

1. Background/Context

For over 100 years, Palestinians have suffered under Zionist military occupation, starting with the 1917 Balfour declaration, solidified with the 1948 Nakba (during which 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes), and further entrenched in the following 75 years of intensifying occupation, apartheid, and genocide [1]. Today, we are witnessing yet another horrifying escalation of the Zionist colonial project: since October 7th, Israel has relentlessly and deliberately terrorized the Palestinian people in Gaza. Its atrocities include killing over 34,000* people, displacing over two million, and systematically starving and withholding medical aid from the entire civilian population of 2.5 million people, half of whom are children – a war crime known as collective punishment [2]. Countless more war crimes have been documented already, including attacks upon hospitals, refugee camps, and places of worship [3], the targeting of journalists and medical personnel [4], and the use of banned weapons such as white phosphorus [5].

On October 16th, 2023, Palestinian Trade Unions put out an urgent call for international solidarity with Palestine [6]. The call to action states, “Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes — most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research.” As workers whose research labor is deeply entangled in the U.S. military-industrial-academic complex which is backing the Zionist genocide in Gaza, this statement is our response to their call.

* This number comes from the official Gaza Health Ministry county. However, due to Israel’s systematic destruction of all hospitals/health infrastructure in Gaza, this official count is likely much lower than the actual death toll. This count also does not include the thousands who are missing and buried under the rubble.

2. Stanford’s Complicity

Since its creation, the Zionist state’s military has been heavily supported by the United States. By last year, the U.S. had given a total of $158 billion (non-inflation-adjusted) in bilateral assistance (most of which is in the form of military assistance) and missile defense funding to Israel [7]. Since 2016, Israel has received an annual $3.8 billion in military aid and missile defense from the U.S. [7]. Since October 7th, Joe Biden has approved a total of $247.5 million in weapons sales for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, in addition to over 100 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) to Israel [8]. The House of Representatives recently approved an additional $26 billion in military aid [9]. As a result of Israel’s U.S.-backed genocide in Gaza, the stock prices of some of the largest military contractors like Raytheon and General Dynamics are soaring [10].

Stanford University is deeply entrenched in this business of war. While the details of its 35 billion dollar endowment aren’t publicly available, its financial and academic ties to companies such as HP and Lockheed Martin are undeniable. The former provides data services to the Israeli military and prison systems used to uphold apartheid across Palestine. The latter is infamously the United States’ largest weapons manufacturer and has manufactured many of the missiles used by Israel in Gaza.

Beyond its financial investments, Stanford received over $75 Million in research funding from the U.S. Department of Defense in 2022 alone [11]. $17.5 Million of research funding went directly into the Physical Sciences [12], with $7.8 million going to Physics and Applied Physics research. Stanford Physics labs have also received at least $140,000 in research funding directly from Northrop Grumman Corp and $280,000 from Lockheed Martin Corp [13].  For a more complete breakdown of funding received by Stanford Physics and Physics Independent Labs by the U.S. military and private war profiteers, see Table 1.

3. Physics and War

The widespread funding of physics research by the U.S. military and private war profiteers is not coincidental – it is directly tied to a long history of physics research being used to advance military technology. The integration of physics research into the U.S. war machine began in World War I and solidified in World War II with the Manhattan Project (from which the DOE National Laboratories, including SLAC, emerged). Despite witnessing the horrors caused by nuclear weapons, physicists have continued to funnel their academic labor into the machinery of war. Throughout the Cold War, physicists contributed to mass nuclear proliferation in the name of “national security”, playing a major role in destabilizing the world and motivating imperialist proxy wars in the Global South. Physicists have contributed to the development of anti-submarine and ballistic missiles, cryptography, radar detection, and more, and breakthroughs in physics (such as the laser) have in turn motivated ongoing excessive military spending through programs like Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. A large focus in current physics research is quantum information and computing. This is at least in part due to the high military interest in quantum computing technology for data security and artificial intelligence [16]. The latter has been increasingly used by the Israeli occupation forces to surveil and massacre Palestinians in Gaza [17].

Conducting research that is funded by the U.S. military and private war profiteers will never be morally neutral. The U.S. military is rooted in settler militias that displaced and massacred the Indigenous people of this land en masse. It continued this legacy through imperial wars in Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and more. Now, with the U.S. providing instrumental military support to Zionism to enact genocide in Gaza, the U.S. military is once again inextricably linked to the genocide of Indigenous people, driven from their land and murdered en masse by a settler colonial state. It is not possible for us in the physics community to accept ongoing military funding without bearing moral responsibility for the destruction that the U.S. military-industrial-academic complex has unleashed in the world. We have an urgent duty to reject the ties between physics research and U.S. militarism.

4. Our Pledge

We, the Stanford Physics and Applied Physics graduate students, represent the future of our field. We unequivocally demand an end to Stanford’s complicity in the Israeli settler colonial regime. We join the Students Against Apartheid in Palestine (SAAP) [18] in calling for Stanford to divest its money from complicit companies and industries, and end all academic partnerships with corporations and institutions fueling occupation and genocide in Palestine.

Additionally, we pledge

  • To withhold all academic labor benefitting militarism. This includes divesting our labor from research projects funded by the U.S. military and private military contractors.
  • To refuse to work for the U.S. military as well as private weapons/weapons adjacent industries both for internships and in post-graduation careers.
  • To refuse to work for or with companies complicit in Israeli occupation and genocide for both internships and post-graduation jobs, especially those specifically listed in the Palestinian-led BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) campaign.
  • To heed the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, following the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [19] guidelines.

We call on Stanford faculty to disclose their funding sources and support their students in withholding their academic labor. We also ask them to consider the ethical implications of their research and join PACBI [19]. We call on academic workers everywhere to withhold academic labor benefiting militarism, occupation, and genocide.

5. UCSC and Resources

If you are looking to organize within your own department, we highly recommend reading “UCSC Astronomers Reject Researchers’ Complicity with the Genocide of Palestine“. As part of this impactful statement, the UCSC graduate students put together several documents with resources and organizing advice. Beyond this, we recommend reaching out to your local SJP or FJP (Students/Faculty for Justice in Palestine) chapters.

6. Closing

This statement comes over half a year into the raging genocide in Gaza. We are grieved and enraged at the horrifying range of atrocities that the people of Gaza have experienced in this time span, as well as in the prior decades of siege and occupation. We also see clearly that despite its mass slaughter and forced starvation of the Palestinians in Gaza, Israel has failed to achieve any military or political gains. Instead, it has only become increasingly isolated on the global stage, with several countries severing diplomatic ties, while global solidarity with Palestine has reached historic levels. We wholeheartedly believe that Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea, within our lifetimes. Free Palestine. 

Sephora Ruppert, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Rupini Kamat, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Elena Corbae, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Shintaro Fushida-Hardy,  Graduate Student Worker, Mathematics
Anonymous  Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Sydney Erickson,  Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Erin Fleck, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Nicole Ticea, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Chris Gustin, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Sara Irvine, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Jered Zhang, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Tori Ankel, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Ocean Zhou, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Paris Franz, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Neelanjan, Graduate Student Worker, Mechanical Engineering
Eesh Gupta, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Bernardita Ried Guachalla, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Cindy Wang, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Viraj Manwadkar, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Sophie Allen, Graduate Student Worker, Sociology
Matiwos Mebratu, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Tara Dacunha, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Martin Grassl, Graduate Student Worker, SLAC
Benjamin Dodge, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Sam Robison, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
David Monteserin Narayana, Graduate Student Worker, Religious Studies
Abby Pan, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Hephzibah Akinleye, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Liam Herndon, Graduate Student Worker, Chemical Engineering
Cindy Wang, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Chemistry
Vidushi Bansal, Graduate Student Worker, Chemical engineering
Sarah, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Gauri Batra, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Javan Tahir, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Emma Simmerman, Graduate Student Worker, Applied Physics
Danial Shadmany, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Miriam Moore, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Haley Stueber, Graduate Student Worker, Physics
Anonymous Postdoctoral Fellow, Physics
Daniela de Angeli Dutra, Postdoctoral Fellow, Biology
Jesse Goldstein, Research Staff, “Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute”
Vyoma Sahani, Staff, Radiology
Anonymous Staff, Physics
McKayla Roberts, Supporter
Anonymous Undergraduate, Physics
Anonymous Undergraduate, Physics
Gabriela Rincon, Undergraduate, Physics
Anonymous Undergraduate, Physics
EJ Daniels, Undergraduate, Physics
Sathya, Undergraduate, Physics
Sophia, Undergraduate, Psychology
Marc Soong, Undergraduate, Statistics
Mira Banks, Undergraduate, Physics
Nupur Kapadia, Undergraduate, Physics
Lucas Imren, Undergraduate, Physics
Anonymous GSB SO, GSB
Anoop, Alum, Computer science
Leif Erickson, Alumni
Stanford Against Apartheid in Palestine (SAAP), Club/Organization
Black in Physics @ Stanford, Club/Organization

Table 1: Physics Research Funding according to Stanford 2023 Sponsored Projects Report [14]

 

Physics Department Ginzton Lab Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials (GLAM) Hansen Experimental Physics Lab (HEPL)
Military Funding
Air Force: $687,671 $1,144,727 $715,978 $241,012 $2,789,388
Army: $1,245,921 $541,091 $544,135 $2,331,147
Navy: $304,872 $1,636,211 $111,633 $2,052,716
Military Funding subtotal: $7,173,251
Private War Profiteer Funding
Lockheed Martin Corporation: $17,999 $283,061 $301,060
Intel Corporation: $233,657 $233,657
Naval Research Laboratory: $3,966 $3,966
Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation: $141,525 $141,525
Private War Profiteer Funding subtotal: $680,208
Total $2,238,464 $3,340,028 $949,635 $1,325,332 $7,853,459

Police Repression of UCLA SJP Encampment Led to the UAW4811 Strike Vote—So Why Isn’t 4811 Leadership Calling UCLA Out on Strike?

On April 30, two days before UAW4811’s Triennial elections—in which President Rafael Jaime would face a challenger running on a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for all, and a work-to-rule strike for Palestine platform—UCLA’s SJP encampment was violently attacked by Zionist agitators. Jaime was said to have stood alongside beleaguered encampment protestors and demanded answers to UCLA’s negligence. Jaime announced the next day to a crowd at UCLA that 4811 would be filing unfair labor practices charges against the UC for failing to protect workers’ right to free speech. That same night, LAPD violently swept the encampment. Jaime and his “Union MADE” Caucus (previously OSWP, affiliated with the UAW Administration Caucus) then called for a strike authorization vote, effectively opening the door for the union to strike in support of divestment demands.

Three weeks and an overwhelming “yes” vote later, the re-elected leadership continues to publicize the police brutality that occurred at UCLA, UCSD, and UCI on the official 4811 website and social media, but is yet to call a strike anywhere but UCSC. Meanwhile, they declined to offer a timeline or criteria for assessing strike readiness, and have barred rank-and-file members from attending Executive Board meetings to discuss the strike.

Since October 2023, local union chapters at UCLA, UCD, UCB, UCSC, and UCSB have passed numerous BDS resolutions and resolutions to commit to bargaining over BDS. Yet, Jaime and the leadership refused to disseminate this information to the membership; 4811 and Region 6 even endorsed the California Senate candidacy of Katie Porter, who repeatedly voted to send more money to Israel. Now, diverting attention from their weak position on Palestine and the perceived unwillingness to strike, the leadership claims that Science, Engineering, Technology and Math (STEM) workers in 4811, which make up the majority of the current workforce during the summer break, are ambivalent about the strike.

This is false. Not only is the strike action widely and vocally supported in our locals, as evidenced by the strike authorization vote, many STEM workers have joined hand-in-hand with students defending the encampments, protested the US-funded genocide, and were themselves violently attacked by the police. Consider that the call to solidarity with Palestine reflects US public opinion, of which 52 percent of registered voters support an end to US military aid to Israel and 77 percent of Democrats are pro-ceasefire. By deriding our professions, workplaces, and ourselves as regressive, the 4811 leadership is using a trite stereotype as a wedge to divide us from our fellow workers and union siblings. Instead, they should be leveraging the power of STEM workers in the strike.

The urgency to end the US-funded genocide notwithstanding, the future of the labor movement will depend on a clear STEM organizing strategy. The US economy is becoming more and more intertwined with high technology, and universities like UC are rapidly expanding their STEM research operations. The composition of higher ed labor will thus be increasingly STEM-heavy, bolstered by the Department of Defense, the weapons manufacturers, and other industries profiting from developing harmful technologies. It will take a powerful labor movement consisting of a large number of militant STEM workers to disrupt the war machine and protect the rights and safety of all workers and communities.

Concretely at this current moment, it is time to implement the try-and-tested research strike strategy around work-to-rule, which allows STEM workers to withhold labor in the long run. We need to expand the strike to include as many people and as much labor-time as possible to achieve maximum leverage, as well as ensuring that striking workers are protected from retaliation. All of this requires decisive action from the union leadership, which has thus far not gone beyond publicizing slogans, wasting mobilizing energies, while blaming STEM workers for its own inaction.

We, STEM workers of UAW4811, insist that Rafael Jaime and the UAW4811 leadership comply with the popular mandate, seize this historical moment, and immediately call all UC campuses on strike for Palestine.

SftP Canada in solidarity with campus encampments

Science for the People (SftP) Canada stands with student-led encampments for Gaza that have arisen across Turtle Island (North America) and around the world. We condemn the militarization of campuses and the accompanying police violence against protesters, the defamation of student organizers by university administrators and politicians, and the violent attacks on students by Zionist vigilante groups.

Students with a passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are refusing to work in the service of occupation, apartheid, and genocide. Futures of AI are experimentally tested in occupied Palestine; legacies of racial science live on in eugenicist anti-Palestinian slurs; technological research assumes the inevitability of capitalist domination of the globe. But a generation of students dreams of an anti-imperialist science. We owe them the work of dismantling the histories that link militarism, scientific progress, racial science, and settler colonialism. We must reimagine STEM for liberation.

Our universities all express their commitment to “reconciliation” with the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Yet, these same universities not only suppress their role in the genocide of the Indigenous inhabitants of the lands upon which they are built, but, through their financial and academic support of the Zionist occupation, are also actively complicit in the ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous Palestinian people. The struggle for Palestine is entwined with the struggle for the liberation of the Indigenous nations of Turtle Island.

Universities in North America have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with their peers in Gaza and cut their ties to illegal occupation, apartheid, and genocide. Since 2004, a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups and unions, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, has been calling for a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and it is long past time for higher education institutions in North America to heed that call.

We unite in support of students’ demands on universities:

  • to disclose investments in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law
  • to divest from companies and institutions complicit in the occupation, apartheid, and genocide of Palestinians
  • to remove police from university campuses
  • to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine
  • to endorse academic boycotts of Israeli universities, including study abroad programs, fellowships, seminars, and research collaborations. 

Most importantly, SftP Canada unites with the call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to the occupation and genocide in Palestine.

UCSC Physicists Reject UC Complicity with Genocide of Palestine

In the past 75 years, the colonization and occupation of Palestine has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Before October 7th, 217 Palestinians had already been killed in the year 2023 alone.[1] Additionally, Gaza has been under a complete blockade -by land, sea and air- for the past 16 years by the Israeli military.[2] This violence has reached a new level of depravity in the last five months. There have been well over 30,000 Palestinian deaths since October 7th; 92% of these deaths are civilians, with nearly half of these civilians being children.[3] Over 50% of all buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed, including hospitals, schools, mosques, churches and essential infrastructure for human existence, such as electricity and water.[4,5] In the West Bank, outside of Gaza, an additional 413 people have been killed since October 7th, 107 of whom were children. Countless more have been injured or detained indefinitely, often without charge.[6] Furthermore, 853 West Bank citizens have been made homeless by demolitions. As we were writing this document, Israel approved 3476 more houses for illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.[7] As this unspeakable violence continues to claim more Palestinian life every hour, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions has called “on [their] counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes – most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research,” further emphasizing that “this urgent, genocidal situation can only be prevented by a mass increase of global solidarity with the people of Palestine and that can restrain the Israeli war machine.”[8] 

We, the academic workers of the UC Santa Cruz Physics Department, commit to honoring this request of solidarity by:

  1. Withholding academic labor benefiting militarism.
  2. Refusing research collaboration with federal military institutions as well as private arms and defense companies.
  3. Calling upon faculty and PIs in our department to disclose funding sources, resist suppression of political speech, and support their students in divesting their labor in the pursuit of ethical research.

The United States is Israel’s foremost benefactor. It has provided a cumulative $158 billion (non-inflation adjusted) in bilateral aid to Israel, 86% of which finances a sixth of the Israeli military budget, providing the military infrastructure used to carry out this genocide.[9] The University of California received $295 million in funding from the Department of Defense in 2022 alone, with UCSC receiving $10.5 million dollars to support research to make violence on this scale possible and efficient for the perpetrators.[10,11]

Additionally, demilitarization is a climate crisis necessity. The United States military produces more emissions than entire industrialized countries.[12] There is no teaching or learning on an uninhabitable planet.

For these reasons, demilitarizing our department and school is an ethical priority for graduate researchers and the faculty alike. Beyond our own department and in solidarity with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, we call on University of California graduate researchers and faculty to:

  • At minimum, disclose all sources of funding that support your research and students. Support students who wish to divest their intellectual labor in pursuit of “ethical science.”
  • Fight to withhold your research and patents from military applications. Campaign your institutions to reclaim ownership of your intellectual property and its applications.
  • Disclose and critically consider collaborations with any Israeli companies, NGOs and academic institutions that have shown themselves to be complicit in the genocide.  Support of the military action, economic strangling, and colonization of Palestine, even without active contribution, are some examples of such complicity.
  • Make your anti-genocide position clear to Israeli collaborators, share information on the actions of the military and human rights violations, and open discourse on what can be done from within an Israeli university to take action. Academic institutions have long been bastions of free speech and revolutionary thought, and so have acted as natural homes for the fight against oppression and tyranny. Encourage the condemnation of the Palestinian genocide by Israeli citizens, especially respected public figures like professors.
  • Critically evaluate the appeal of your work to military applications. For example, plenty of astrophysics of star formation and evolution, as well as fusion energy research informs nuclear weapons testing and development.[13] Lasers are integral to guided munitions as well as plenty of other military purposes. As the ones performing this research we have a unique responsibility in understanding the possible consequences of our work and advocating for our work to not be used to these ends.
  • Spread these actions beyond our department and into your own.

In solidarity,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As faculty in the physics department we commit to supporting our graduate students and postdocs in their goals as outlined above:

Science magazine’s editorial bias against Palestinians

After reading Science’s absurdly one-sided story (February 28, 2024) on the effect of the genocide in Gaza on Israeli academics, I wrote an email to the news editor to intervene. He responded by offering to publish parts of the email as a “letter” in response to the story. I then reworked the text of the email to prepare it for publication and submitted a draft. The editor sent it back with substantial deletions, notably removing the paragraph describing the deliberate nature of the Israeli military’s destruction of academic life in Gaza. The sentence in which I explained the principles of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was also removed, on the grounds that “[w]e often don’t know the motivations of those calling for or practicing a boycott.” I pointed out to the editor that the initial story had speculated freely about the supposed antisemitic motivations of alleged boycotts of Israeli academics and insisted on retaining the deleted passages. The editor declined to withdraw the deletions and I decided not to allow the text to be published in amputated form. Below is the text, including the passages Science refused to publish.

It is grotesquely disproportionate to run a story on Israeli academics’ self-reported worries about possible difficulties in getting their articles published without so much as mentioning that the Israeli military has reportedly killed at least 94 Palestinian university professors and over 4,000 students since October. All 12 universities in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 625,000 students in Gaza currently have no access to education, not to mention the 1.7 million internally displaced people and the 2.2 million currently facing acute starvation at IPC Phase 3 levels or above.

The article dismissively refers in passing to “the Gaza Strip’s relatively small scientific enterprise” and contrasts it with “Israel’s far larger research community,” to which the rest of the article is dedicated. It seems as though we’re meant to conclude that the destruction of the “relatively small scientific enterprise” in Gaza doesn’t matter in comparison with Israeli academics potentially being invited less frequently to conferences. Failing to mention the 16-year Israeli blockade of Gaza, which—long before 7 October—prevented the entry of equipment and materials needed for research as well as the exit of academics trying to collaborate with partners outside Gaza, is an egregious omission.

The article states that “attacks on Hamas forces by Israel’s military have destroyed university buildings and other infrastructure,” despite the overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces have deliberately targeted civilian structures such as universities rather than simply destroying them incidentally in attacks on Hamas. The clearest instance is the Israeli military’s apparent controlled demolition of Al-Israa University in January, after they had used the site as a base and detention center for several weeks. This and other targeted attacks on academic life in Gaza have led the organization Scholars Against the War on Palestine to describe the Israeli military as committing “scholasticide”: “systemic destruction, in whole or in part, of the educational life of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.”

Finally, the article quotes without comment an Israeli academic’s unfounded speculation about a “slippery slope of hatred” leading to anyone with a “Jewish name” being subject to boycott. However, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) clearly states in its “Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel” that “the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.” Individual Israeli academics, not to mention Jewish academics outside Israel, are not the target of the campaign, which is instead focused on partnerships with Israeli institutions such as the European Union’s Horizon Europe program.

By not explaining the principles of the academic boycott of Israel or even quoting a single critic of Israel’s policies and actions towards the Palestinian people, the article conflates opposition to the decades-long displacement and oppression of Palestinians with antisemitism, which is a common manifestation of anti-Palestinian racism. In addition to providing cover for that oppression, this conflation makes combatting actual antisemitism harder by falsely tying the Jewish people as a whole to the actions of the State of Israel. 

I hope Science will begin to devote a more proportionate amount of attention to the Palestinian scientists living under indiscriminate bombardment and now facing famine conditions due to Israeli restrictions on aid entering Gaza, as well as the continual raids, arrests, and other obstructions on universities in the West Bank.

Josh Lalonde
Science for the People

UCSC Astronomers Reject Researchers’ Complicity with the Genocide of Palestine

This letter is written 100 days and 75 years since the beginning of the Israeli state’s genocide and ethnic cleansing of occupied Palestine. After 57 years of colonization of Palestinian land in the West bank; after 16 years of siege on the Gaza strip; after Palestinians have been subjugated under a dehumanizing apartheid state on their own ancestral lands,[1] we now watch with horror as the Israeli government (hereafter referred to as “Israel”) accelerates its project of genocide under an international spotlight. Since renewed Israeli aggression on October 7 2023, at least 31,497 Palestinians have been killed – 92% of whom are civilians, and nearly half of whom are children.[2] This is a staggering number – compare this to the infamously deadly Syrian Civil War, with a 25-38% civilian casualty rate.[3] 

As internationally banned white phosphorus bombs rained down on Gaza,4 a call to action came from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions to end our complicity with the slaughter:

“Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes – most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research. […] This urgent, genocidal situation can only be prevented by a mass increase of global solidarity with the people of Palestine and that can restrain the Israeli war machine.” [5]

As people of conscience who love life and wish to see it protected, as astrophysicists who keenly understand just how precious and lonely life is in the vast universe, and as researchers who are made complicit in Israel’s war crimes by our university’s investments and research products, we can no longer in good faith engage in academic research that enables the murder and subjugation of our siblings around the globe.

We, academic workers of the UC Santa Cruz Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, commit to demilitarizing our research by:

(1) withholding academic labor benefiting militarism; 

(2) refusing research collaboration with federal military institutions as well as private arms and defense companies;

(3) calling upon faculty and PIs within our department to disclose funding sources, resist suppression of political speech, and support their students in divesting their labor in the pursuit of ethical research.

The United States military is Israel’s greatest supporter. Without the U.S., Israel’s military infrastructure, which is actively being used for the mass slaughter of civilians in the West Bank, Gaza, and targets outside occupied Palestine, would crumble. To date, the U.S. has sent $158 billion (non-inflation adjusted) in bilateral aid, 86% of which flows into the Israeli military – the U.S. is single-handedly bankrolling one sixth of Israel’s military budget.[6] 

Our University of California holds an ugly place in this ecosystem of blood money. UC has received $295 million in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2022 alone.[7]** UC Santa Cruz alone received $10.5 million in FY 2022.[8] In return, the products of our research lubricate the churning gears of the war machine.

Technology that astronomers have developed for science is being misused to surveil and target people both within and outside the U.S. While astronomers prefer to look up, airborne and satellite military surveillance look down, using many of the same optics, image processing techniques, and controls used by astronomical satellites and developed by astronomers. Hyperspectral imagers (known as integral field spectrographs to us) were first developed by astronomers[9] and have been workhorses for our field since – but they are also used for identifying and surveilling targets[10] (and proposed for use in facial recognition[11]). Adaptive optics, independently invented by military and civilian astronomers, can de-blur images taken through the Earth’s atmosphere, allowing ever more precise surveillance[12] – which curtails the freedom of everyone, from civilian protesters[13] to occupied Palestinians.[14]

Beyond astronomy, the UCSC Applied Mathematics department received a 5-year $170,000 grant for “Mathematical Analysis Of Human Response To Millimeter Wave Heating.” The nightmarish weapon using this heating effect already exists and is in use by the U.S. Military – the Active Denial System (ADS) is a millimeter wave ranged weapon that causes heating and intolerable pain in its target, and has been proposed for use in both active combat and controlling protesters.[15] 

UC’s continuing unwillingness to divest from Israel[16] as it commits genocide under an international spotlight demonstrates that, unlike us, they are not bothered by the suffering that our research actively propagates. 

Demilitarizing education is an ethical priority: our research enables the surveillance and slaughter of our Palestinian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Syrian siblings with ever-greater efficiency. Further, demilitarizing education is a climate crisis priority: the U.S. military’s emissions are greater than those of entire industrialized countries,[17] and there is no teaching and learning on a dead planet. Universities must put their monetary and intellectual resources towards building a world where war is not necessary, not stoking the flames of rabid militarism. 

We call on the University of California to divest its money from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. Cut the flow of money and intellectual property from UC’s coffers into those of the US military, defense companies, and the apartheid state of Israel. 

We call on UC faculty to divest their research from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. 

  • At minimum, disclose all sources of funding that support your research and students. Support students who wish to divest their intellectual labor in pursuit of ethical science.
  • Fight to withhold your research and patents from military applications. Campaign your institutions to reclaim ownership of your intellectual property and its applications – it’s your research, you deserve to control its use.
  • Disclose and critically consider your collaborations with Israeli universities. Isolating individual researchers is unacceptable punishment that conflates an individual with their institution; however, universities are institutions that launder money, intellectual property, and prestige for the countries in which they are based. Academic collaboration is tacit approval of these institutions’ complicity, theft, and violence.

We call on all academic workers everywhere – graduate students, postdocs, lecturers, faculty – to divest their labor from apartheid, genocide, and militarism. 

  • Think critically about why the fruits of your labor are enticing to military funders, and work to prevent your beautiful science from being used for inhumane purposes.
  • Spread these actions beyond our own department and into yours. Here is our Action Packet to help you get started!

Solidarity forever. Within our lifetimes, Palestine will be free.

Isabel Kain, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Malik Bossett, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Douglas dos Santos Grion Filho, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Tenley Hutchinson-Smith, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Kyle Davis, Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Nicholas Scarsdale, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Alexandra Mannings, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Deno Stelter, Assistant Project Scientist, UAW 5810
Tyler Gordon, Postdoctoral Fellow, UAW 5810
Madelyn Broome, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Sierra Dodd, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Mikayla Wilson, Graduate Student Worker
Kendall Sullivan, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Maissa Salama, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Diego Garza, Graduate Student Worker, UAW 2865
Sven Heydenreich, Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810
Anne Dattilo, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Pedro Jesus Quiñonez, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Prasiddha Arunachalam
Jules Fowler, graduate student worker, UAW 2865
Anonymous Graduate Student, UAW 2865
Anonymous Faculty Member
Anonymous Faculty Member
Anonymous Staff Member
Anonymous Postdoctoral Scholar, UAW 5810

**Corrigendum:

• In the original letter, we stated: “UC has received $25.86 billion in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2023 alone.[7]” This has now been corrected to “$295 million in research funding from the Department of Defense in FY 2022 alone” and the link to reference [7] updated.

Notes from Palestine organizing 11.22

Just wanted to send a quick update before the Thanksgiving holiday (in the US), which, of course, is a twisted concept under the framework of settler-colonization. On this note:

Events:

  • Nov 25 (Saturday 1pm ET): “Science under Occupation” hybrid teach-in/forum hosted by SftP Montreal, joined by Palestinian medical trainees in Cuba.
  • Nov 27: No Tech for Apartheid’s online panel.
  • Nov 29–Dec 5 is “Read Palestine Week.” SftP magazine has joined with >300 publications on a solidarity statement. Please see the list of all articles on Palestine we published in the past. We encourage everyone to read, discuss among you, and help advertise them (hashtags #ReadPalestine, #LirelaPalestine and #اقرأ_فلسطين)

Info:

  • We are collecting and updating testimonials from scientists in occupied Palestine, and working toward providing material support.
  • We are building a coalition with Just Mathematics Collective and Particle for Palestine (please sign-on their respective statements) to expand our current organizing activities.
  • More letters to sign from the “Responsible AI Community”
  • A survey of cultural institutions and their political stance. *We are trying to expand on this by focusing on academic institutions and labor unions* Please sign up to join our organizing teams.

For those who get some time off from work, it’s a great opportunity to bring your whole family to your local protests!

Palestinian Scientists Speak

Thank you very much for reaching out. The situation is horrid. Birzeit went online right away but it is limping along and the students are refusing to attend online classes. I wish they would attend online classes. It is not safe for them to travel to campus due to the safety on the roads leading to campus. We are unsure if the universities will be able to pay salaries in coming months.

My research on biodiversity is greatly restricted, yet I continue to make collections and conduct research on native plant propagation and restoration.

At this current stage my field research and collection work is too vulnerable to interference to be made public, but I do appreciate your assistance.

Perhaps we could discuss ways in providing research support to faculty at Palestinian universities who are attempting to carry out research, with small grants, research assistance, server/cloud donations, software, equipment, etc.

Thank you,

—O (Birzeit University)

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to say what is happening to us right now. In fact [the atrocity] started years ago when we were occupied and forcibly removed from our homes and land in Palestine. From that time till now we are suffering all horrible ethnic cleansing and mistreatment.

I don’t know if the world forgets that we are under occupation and blindly took all the Israeli media that “we are terrorists and want to kill them,” or that they know that we are so oppressed. Either way, I don’t know why they never move to help us.

We just want to live in peace and have our freedom like any other people in the world.

Here, we don’t have rights to move freely. Any moment they will stop you and tell you to “go back.” Where? I don’t know. “Just go back.” That’s all. Here, the soldiers have full rights to kill any Palestinian and at the end they will tell you that we threaten them. Settlers with the help of the army are terrorising Palestinian civilians and killed many poor civilian Palestinians. Israelis have full access to roads built in Palestine area A,B, or C. But we don’t.

We are living in concentrated camps waiting to be killed.  Here you have gates at every village. They will close it whenever they want. In some villages they close the gate after 6 pm and open it for a specific period of time. Like a jail. It is a military occupation running for 75 years.

Every day when I go to work I kiss my kids because I don’t know if I would come back. Just why?

The problem is that the majority of Israeli were taught that we are animals and should be killed. They don’t want to give us our basic needs of life. They want to suffocate us and force us to leave. They do it slowly and systematically so the world can’t see. They build settlements in all hilltops and for us we are not allowed to build at all in area C. Where to go? It is my home here; I was born  here; I will die here.

For doing research, we don’t have access to many chemicals and equipments. Yes, many chemicals are being refused, me personally, 2,4-D, a plant hormone is refused.

Gaza is a concentration camp, controlled by sea , land and air. There are 2.2 million peoples in 360 square km.

No clean water, no jobs , no hopes. What to do? Fight back. That’s what they did. They know that this will cost them a lot. But in any case, they are being killed solely in this open prison. What the Israelis are doing is killing children and women, terrorising Gazans so they will leave. Here, their plan is being carried out: kick them out to Sinai. This is not self defense.

No sir. They want Gaza because it has a huge gas revenue and the proposed route (alternative route) to transfer good from East to West that is to pass through Gaza. Americans know this; European know this; that’s why they are silent about the horrific killing of kids and women.

We are living under a brutal regime.

Regards,

—N (Tulkarm, West Bank)

Thank you for your kind solidarity and for being fully aware about what is happening here in Palestine.

I am a professor located in Nablus, West Bank. Despite being quite away of war in Gaza, we are in direct touch an effect of this war. Currently we are facing a full closure in the West Bank which made us living in total isolated cities. Moreover we are experiencing daily military invasions from the Israeli army which made us unable to pursue the academic semester and convert to virtual teaching. In addition to these challenging circumstances we are experiencing the following issues:

1. There is a massive anger towards the Western governments as we now believe that human rights are just private tools for the benefit of white people. The students as well as professors are not being able to exercise their daily routine because of the horrifying news coming from Gaza as well as the current conflict in the West Bank. We simply believe that we are the next target. We believe that is war is not against armed resistance, but also against any civilized existence of Palestinians including hospitals, economy, universities and history.

2. We start believing that the racism in the West turns from individual behavior to a national policy, especially when we see the official promotion of the fake posts and stories about what is happening in Gaza.

3. We feel, especially in the UK, that there is a “Black masking” of racism by putting all Black officials in the front.

4. We simply believe that the West’s colonization of the East is still existing, but instead of being directed by Western governments, they outsourced to Arab governments who are doing that.

5. In simple words,  all Palestinians now are supporting war-based solutions as we now believe that the Israeli and the Western governments will only appreciate peace when they only feel war.

Please stay in solidarity and let the people know that all what we need is be treated as humans.

Kind regards,

—T (Nablus, West Bank)

Notes from Palestine Organizing 11.14

It’s been 38 days of genocide, with no end in sight. Millions of people marching, agitating, and calling for a ceasefire are signs for hope, but class war is a protracted war, and there is much more to be done.

  • Join our organizing teams by filling out this form: https://forms.gle/2NcMzQ6K38AjcVxH6
  •  All SftPers should follow PACBI and join the academic and cultural boycott of Israel both as individuals and as members of your institution (see USACBI) or unions (see Labor 4 Palestine). Please get in touch with us if you’re unsure how to push your institution/union to take a firm stance against genocide.
  • SftP Montreal–Canada will be hosting a forum on November 25 (and see flyer attached) to discuss science and healthcare in Palestine and Cuba. We will be joined by Palestinian medical students from Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Please attend and show solidarity.
  • SftP magazine will be soliciting articles and onboarding editors for a new Science & Palestine issue. Please read our statement and pitch your article ideas.
Here are other sign-on letters, campaigns, and organizing events from our coalition partners:
  • American Medical Association (AMA), a well-known reactionary political entity, unsurprisingly voted against a ceasefire. If you work in healthcare—espeically in light of Israel Occupation Forces attacking hospitals as its military objective—please sign see this open letter.
  • UAW Region 9A’s call for ceasefire.
  • Just Mathematics Collective (JMC) has joined USACBI. If you work in mathematics, consider joining JMC’s campaign.
  • Breakthrough Science Society India is circulating a sign-on letter. They are also organizing an “International Convention Against War and Destructive Use of Science” of which SftP will play a part. Please reach out if you’d like to help with this.
Other resources:

Notes from Palestine Organizing 11.3

It’s been 27 days since the slow genocide perpetrated by Zionists accelerated into a full-on massacre. The contradictions inherent to this unjust system in which we live are brought to the fore for many to see. The responses to the atrocities of those in power vis-a-vis those of ordinary people in the streets are but only one salient example. SftP has not only made a clear stance but also begun mobilizing. While we’re still in the early phase of coordinating, below we’d like to share a few resources, calls to action, and related events in the coming days:

Here are also some other items initiated by our partner orgs. Please consider responding/attending in solidarity:

  • Heathcare Workers for Palestine petition and event. For more on healthcare in Palestine, it’s also worth checking out the health blog from Jewish Voice for Peace
  • People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty sign-on in solidarity with Gaza
  • No Tech for Apartheid and Tech Workers Coalition’s joint media campaign
  • Rank-and-file UAW members sign-on letter to UAW International to issue a statement in support of Palestine. This is of our particular interest for STEM labor agitation.
  • Letter to HHMI (parent company of the journal eLife) regarding its recent Zionist-enabled firing of its chief editor
  • teach-in about the complicity of science in genocide organized by a few planetary scientists in our network
  • Comprehensive analysis of current events from Palestinian perspectives (by the publication Electronic Intifada).

Elsewhere in SftP:

  • Climate change teach-in on Nov 11 in NYC+live stream
  • “Science under Occupation” teach-in on November 25 in Montreal+live stream (detail and link TBD)

Lastly, please consult this calendar, be in the streets, be with the mass, and protest.