The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is horrified and heartbroken over the senseless killing of innocent people in Israel and Palestine during the Hamas attack in Israel and the ensuing Israeli military assault on Gaza. The brutal hostilities, including the targeting of noncombatants and the destruction of critical infrastructure are unacceptable under any circumstances.
As an association of anthropologists with diverse and sometimes conflicting viewpoints, we have to navigate the complexities of competing truths, presenting perspectives that can be both thought-provoking and challenging. We have deep compassion for the victims of the Oct 7 violence perpetrated by Hamas – there can be no justification for what took place. We also understand the tragic process that produced the current war and that the fraught history of the region must be reckoned with.
Over the last several decades, anthropological literature has empirically demonstrated the many forms of structural and everyday violence imposed by the Israeli government on the Palestinian population. This includes the steady expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory, violent land grabs, the demolition of Palestinian homes and entire villages, forced evictions, the curtailing of movement by the use of walls and checkpoints, and the discriminatory treatment of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
By cutting off access to food, electricity, water and fuel to the residents of Gaza, a humanitarian catastrophe is well underway. Gaza’s already fragile health care system is at a breaking point, and the disruption of its educational institutions is unacceptable.
We are also deeply concerned about academic freedom and campus community safety at US universities and beyond. Students and faculty have a right to be heard and their safety, including protection from harassment, intimidation, and outright attack is paramount. While there is room for productive debate and dissent, there is no tolerance for menacing conduct, including physical threats as well as online harassment and doxxing. Acts of discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity have no place in our communities and, especially, at our educational institutions. We call on academic institutions to support vulnerable students, faculty, and staff and nurture an atmosphere of inclusivity, understanding and acceptance.
The mission of the AAA has human rights and dignity at its core. This means we must work to dismantle the systems of oppression that deny basic human rights and dignity, but also remember that peace never comes from violence. Even in the most volatile situations of war and conflict, one must not forget the humanity and respect for other people and other faiths. Let us continue to push for a peaceful resolution to a war that has plagued the Middle East, and the world, for far too long.