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Members of Tohono O’odham Community College release open letter in support of Palestine

Protesters+chant+as+a+speaker+addresses+the+crowd+at+a+protest+supporting+Palestine+on+the+UA+Mall+on+April+25.+Some+of+the+speakers+shared+that+their+own+family+has+died+in+Gaza+as+a+result+of+the+war.%0A
Noor Haghighi
Protesters chant as a speaker addresses the crowd at a protest supporting Palestine on the UA Mall on April 25. Some of the speakers shared that their own family has died in Gaza as a result of the war.

President Paul Robertson of Tohono O’odham Community College and 21 faculty members and administrators signed an open letter on May 29, saying they stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and the students and faculty in Arizona and across the country who are protesting.

The letter also draws similarities between the historical struggles of Native Americans and Palestinians, referencing their shared experiences of violence and displacement.

This letter comes as a response to the destruction in Gaza and the loss of Palestinian lives following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, as well as the subsequent protests and activism that have followed. The letter does not reflect any official opinion of the college. 

“We are appalled at the disproportionate destruction of Gaza and Palestinian lives carried out under the orders of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his War Cabinet, in response to the Oct 7th attack by the terrorist organization Hamas,” the letter read. 

Amid the ongoing global conflict, student and community activists across the country have called for universities and colleges to divest from corporations and companies that support Israel. Faculty members from TOCC and the president of the college are committed to divestment, according to the letter.

“As members of TOCC faculty and administration, and in solidarity with other college and university actions to divest, we will advocate for the College to ensure that any investments it has or may make in the future are free of connections to Israel and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Palestine,” the letter read. 

The response from most universities and colleges to these protests and encampments has been heavy police enforcement. At the University of Arizona, police suspended, arrested and used physical measures like tear gas and rubber bullets against student and community protesters. Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University had similar responses. 

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins responded to police enforcement and physical action being used on protestors in a May 1 statement.

“While freedom of speech and free expression are encouraged at our University, we will not allow students, faculty, staff, or outside agitators to violate the law or our policies and put anyone at risk,” Robbins said in the statement.

However, the faculty members from TOCC that signed the letter said that they stand in solidarity with those protesting and are in, “solidarity with all students and faculty who are committed to free speech and justice and who are taking a stand for those principles and against wanton destruction of human life in Gaza. We join with them through invocation of the Tohono O’odham Community College’s value of T-Pi:k Elida, our deepest respect for people, the land, and all things upon it.”

 

*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from a previous version to clarify that the letter released does not reflect the opinion of the Tohono O’odham Community College.


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