As mentioned in an update to this post, a group of philosophers posted an open letter, dated November 1, 2023, under the heading “Philosophy for Palestine.”
As of the time of this post, the letter has 127 signatories.
We are a group of philosophy professors in North America, Latin America, and Europe writing to publicly and unequivocally express our solidarity with the Palestinian people and to denounce the ongoing and rapidly escalating massacre being committed in Gaza by Israel and with the full financial, material, and ideological support of our own governments.
We do not claim any unique authority—moral, intellectual, or otherwise—on the basis of our being philosophers. However, our discipline has made admirable strides recently in confronting philosophy’s historically exclusionary practices and in engaging directly with pressing and urgent injustices. To this end, we call on our colleagues in philosophy to join us in overcoming complicity and silence.
As we write, bombs have killed over 8,500 people in Gaza. By the time you read this, that number will have risen. Thousands more are trapped under rubble. For over three weeks, a siege of the territory has cut off food, water, medicine, fuel, and electricity. A million inhabitants of northern Gaza have been ordered to flee their homes amid airstrikes and in advance of an ongoing ground invasion with nowhere safe to go. Talk of a second nakba is chilling, yet apt. People of conscience have an obligation to speak out against these atrocities. This is not a difficult step to take; what is far more difficult for us is to turn away in silence and complicity from an unfolding genocide.
The whole letter is here.
On November 4th, philosopher and political theorist Seyla Benhabib (Yale) posted a response to the letter, explaining why she cannot endorse it. She writes:
My objection to your letter is that it sees the conflict in Israel-Palestine through the lens of “settler-colonialism” alone, and elevates Hamas’s atrocities of October 7, 2023 to an act of legitimate resistance against an occupying force. By construing the Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of settler-colonialism, you elide the historical evolution of both peoples…
There is no sense of history in your statement nor any sense of the tragedies that befell these peoples, and the many missed moments when another future seemed possible. Although you refer to “the conditions that produce violence,” you do not mention that Yitzhak Rabin was killed by a Jewish extremist and Anwar Sadat, after his visit to Israel, was killed by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological progenitor of Hamas.
You write: “the people of Gaza have urged allies worldwide to exert pressure on their governments to demand an immediate ceasefire. But they have been clear that this should — this must — be the beginning and not the end of collective action for liberation.” In endorsing these demands, you also endorse Hamas’s position as the supposed vanguard of the Palestinian “liberation struggle.” This is a colossal mistake. Hamas is a nihilistic organization which treats the civilian population of Gaza as its hostage. The leader of the organization, Ismail Hanniye, sits in a luxury hotel in Qatar, while children on the streets of Gaza die. Yes, as Amnesty International has said, “Gaza is the largest open-air prison in the world,” but this is also due to the fact that Hamas is an exterminationist organization, whose Charter endorses the destruction of the State of Israel. You also implicitly seem to support this when you write that, “If there is to be justice and peace, the siege of Gaza must be lifted; the occupation must end, and the rights must be respected of all people currently living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, as well as those of Palestinian refugees in exile.” Amen to that! but do you see Hamas a political organization dedicated to “respecting the rights of all people currently living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean”? This defies history and logic. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel; I do not support that. Do you? What moral or political logic is guiding your reasoning here?
Her full response is here.
(Thanks to several readers for bringing these to my attention.)
UPDATE (11/21/23): Muhammad Ali Khalidi (CUNY) responds to Benhabib here.