Letter to the Editor: Endorsing the IDF is offensive to the Oxy community

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Dear Oxy Community,

Two individuals from the Occidental football team posted images on their personal Instagram accounts featuring several players posing with the official flag of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the college’s football field Nov. 14. One image was captioned, “@oxyfootball stands in solidarity with our Israeli brothers in their fights against terror @IDF.” The other photo was captioned, “Stand up against terror @IDF.” This endorsement of the IDF is offensive not only to Palestinian students, but it is offensive to the Oxy community as a whole.

According to Human Rights Watch, the United Nations (UN) and Amnesty International, the IDF is compliant in major violations of international human rights law, including unlawful killings, forced expulsion, torture, protection of illegal settlement developments and other discriminatory policies that restrict the freedoms of Palestinians every day. Although the IDF has historically perpetrated excessive violence in the Palestinian territories, its recent actions against demonstrations in Gaza have been particularly heinous. During last year’s Great March of Return protests, a UN probe found that “Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such.” At the time of the Instagram posts, the IDF launched airstrikes against Palestinian “militants” in Gaza, but instead targeted civilians, including children as young as 2 years old, resulting in the death of 34 Palestinians after two days of continuous bombardment. 

These events are already traumatic for Palestinian students. However, these posts compound this harm by commending the IDF’s actions as “fighting against terror.” This kind of rhetoric propagates the inaccurate portrayal of Palestinians as terrorists and alienates already marginalized students through what appears to be an endorsement by the college. This harm has a wider target than Palestinian students on campus; there are serious implications against all Muslim and Middle Eastern students as well. The framing of Palestinian people as a terror that must be combatted is emblematic of broader trends of Islamophobia, demonization and dehumanization of brown people.

 It is our responsibility as a community to ensure that Occidental College is safe for members of all backgrounds. Because the posts include Occidental football players on the Occidental field in Occidental uniforms at an official Occidental practice with the college tagged as the location, this harm seems to not only exist in the Oxy community but becomes sanctioned by the college. Dean of Students Rob Flot’s email to the Oxy community Nov. 18 addressing the incident does not address the harm caused to students, but rather attempts to absolve the college of responsibility. Flot condemns the players’ poor judgment in associating the team with a “political cause.” However, reducing the posts and the IDF to a  nondescript “political cause” diminishes the severity of the violence committed. This response fails to uphold Oxy’s purported mission of equity and responsibility to the community. Our aim in writing this statement is to create and support an environment of accountability from all members of the Oxy community and an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the violence that Palestinians endure. 

Students for Justice in Palestine Organizing Committee

Numerous Oxy Football players have co-signed this letter to acknowledge the poor judgment, the harm it caused and to continue to cultivate an inclusive community:

Tré Hairston (first year)

Kevin Hoare (first year)

Thomas Mercogliano (first year)

Alika Williams (first year)

Justin Martinez  (sophomore)

Kyler Parris (sophomore)

Garrett Pittman  (sophomore)

Andrew Solís (sophomore)

Javion Tinsley (senior)

Harrison Wakefield (senior)