Statement for immediate release: November 30th, 2015
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), University of Minnesota chapter
On November 3, 2015, a talk by Moshe Halbertal titled “Protecting Civilians: Moral Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare” was hosted by the University of Minnesota Law school.
Moshe Halbertal is the co-author of the ‘code of ethics’ for the Israeli Defense Forces. Halbertal uses his co-authored ‘code of ethics’ for Israeli Defense Forces to justify military excursions such as the so-called “Operation Protective Edge” launched in the summer of 2014 by the Israeli military which killed upwards of 2000 Palestinians in a 51-day assault, including at least 551 children. He has also used his “ethical expertise” to condemn the Goldstone Report which exposed war crimes and crimes against humanity by the IDF in the so-called “Operation Cast Lead” which killed upwards of 1400 Palestinians including at least 318 children. Halbertal excuses these barbaric mass killings and other human rights violations, including the construction of an apartheid wall, by misinterpreting international law contrary to the findings of respected international bodies, including the United Nations and the International Court of Justice.
Students for Justice in Palestine is disappointed that the University of Minnesota would invite and pay money to any person claiming to be an ethicist to justify the murder of civilians as part of a military operation to maintain an illegal occupation and military blockade. Inviting such a speaker to preach about humanitarian law, the law of warfare, and how to correctly kill civilians during times of conflict is shockingly and morally offensive. By inviting such a person to speak, the law school has given a platform to an apologist for war and a brutal illegal military occupation. The law school has not merely allowed speech, but has formally provided a platform through official promotion by the law school and participation by the dean to a person who espouses a warped interpretation of international humanitarian law, the law of warfare, and the correct way to kill civilians during times of conflict. In doing so, our university becomes complicit in Israel’s continued crimes.
For the above reasons, SJP endorsed a non-violent protest.
The protest action was organized by the Anti-War Committee (AWC) to denounce Halbertal’s alleged expertise on ethics. The AWC action included a verbal disruption of the speaker as he began to talk. Halbertal was able to finish his talk. SJP was not aware of plans to disrupt the speech, but planned to support a protest outside the auditorium. SJP members exercised their First Amendment right to protest the speech outside the auditorium to expose and challenge Halbertal’s unsavory position and our university’s complicity with respect to Israel’s war crimes.
In light of recent attacks on SJP, we would like to make it clear what our role was in this action. None of our members participated in the disruption of the speaker during his talk. We welcome criticism of the action but ask that such criticism not be based on false claims.
We, as supporters of human rights, believe that silence is complicity. Staying silent while our university hosts a speaker with no regard for human life would injure our claim that we support human rights, and our collective consciousness as a campus community. As supporters of ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine, we have the right to speak out and to encourage our institution to do the same in the interest of social responsibility. The law school has had a history of sponsoring exclusively pro-Zionist speakers and to our knowledge, has never sponsored a speaker espousing Palestinian views. We call on the law school to invite Palestinian speakers who are able to share their side of the story, and we call on the university to stop marginalizing Palestinian students and silencing our voices.