Student government declares support for permanent ceasefire

The resolution draws support from 20 student orgs and calls on UTD to officially recognize the "ongoing atrocity" in Gaza

Gregory Binu | Mercury Staff

S.R. 2023-12, addresses what is described as a humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the “direct actions of the IDF.” The resolution supports a release of Israeli hostages in exchange for the permanent ceasefire, a rejection of dehumanizing language against Palestinians, a condemnation of both antisemitism and Islamophobia and a request that President Benson officially recognize the suffering of students because of the “ongoing atrocity.”

The resolution highlights a 2022 UNICEF report on the effects of Israel’s periodic blockade and movement restrictions which increased in intensity since 2007. It also relies on the January 2024 ruling by the International Court of Justice, which held that Israel must do everything it can to prevent acts of genocide in the region, because it may plausibly be violating the Genocide Convention. The authors of the resolution wrote that over 90% of the people in Gaza have been internally displaced, citing United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs statistics, which indicate that as of Feb. 21, over 29,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 69,000 injured. A February 2024 survey indicates that 67% of U.S. voters support a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Saying that Israel has a right to defend itself while also calling for a ceasefire is hypocritical because this framework of Israel’s right to defend itself has been used to justify the genocide against Palestinians, and justifying the genocide is opposed to calling for a ceasefire,” said Nour Saad, a board member of SJP.

A petition signed by over 1,000 UTD students and faculty supported the resolution, in addition to support from 20 student organizations including DFW Jewish Voice for Peace, Deeds not Words, SJP, the Period Project and oSTEM.

“The average menstruator in Gaza does not have access to pads or tampons, they have to resort to using cut up pieces of tent,” Period Project president Meghana Kalavagunta said. “Compounded by the lack of access to running water for sanitation, they are prone to diseases like sepsis and toxic shock syndrome. Menstruators in Gaza deserve the dignity of experiencing their periods in peace, with access to clean water and adequate menstrual supplies. This is a humanitarian crisis.”

SG entered a closed session to discuss S.R. 2023-12. After the closed session ended, SG returned to open session before moving to an anonymous electronic vote, after which the resolution passed.

Of the 20 students and alumni who spoke during the public comment section, only UTD Hillel president Jade Steinberg opposed the resolution on the grounds that it would have no material impact on the situation in Gaza while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus.

“Instead of focusing on creating a better campus for all, the rhetoric you will hear in favor of the resolution today aims only to disparage Israel and those who support the Israeli people,” Steinberg said. “The resolution would only embolden anti semitic hate crimes on campus; the Jewish people of this campus refuse to be silenced or intimidated in a place which is supposed to be a safe haven for learning.”

UTD graduate student Dániel Terényi said most American Jews do not support Israel’s military actions against the Palestinian people. Pew Research data from 2020 found that 37% of Jewish Americans under the age of the 30 felt that the U.S. was too supportive of Israel; American Jews 65 and older had a much stronger affinity for the state.

“If you believe that publicly expressing your concerns about Israel’s crimes against humanity will be construed as antisemitic, then please take it from us as American Jews: Israel is not the Jewish Vatican and Netanyahu is not the Jewish Pope,” Terényi said on behalf of DFW JVP.

SG passed a similar resolution last spring, calling for UTD to divest from five major weapons manufacturers because of their involvement in providing weapons to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

UTD’s SG joins dozens of other student bodies and civil organizations such as the University of Michigan, San Diego State University, Penn State University and cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Ann Arbor and Iowa City in calling for a permanent ceasefire. Alum and former SJP president Nidaa Lafi said that the call for a ceasefire was a continuation of the advocacy the divestment resolution established.

“If we stood last year against these weapon manufacturers, then we must stand this year against crimes committed by Israel,” Lafi said. “Even if every other body of power in this university stands blatantly in favor of supporting a genocide, I ask that you be the contrarian voice that values life and dignity over profit.”

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