Dear President Vinson III, Dean Crooms-Robinson, and Members of the Board of Trustees,
As alumni of the Howard University School of Law, we are writing to you today with the utmost respect and commitment to our institution’s values and legacy. Our beloved university has a distinguished history of promoting social justice, equality, and human rights, and it is from this perspective that we wish to address a pressing matter – the ongoing crisis in Israel-Palestine.
We believe it is incumbent upon Howard University, an institution that prides itself on the principles of justice and equity, to advocate for a just and lasting solution that prioritizes the welfare of people on both sides of the conflict. The rising human toll and suffering on both sides are staggering and cannot be ignored. Both the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and Israel’s disproportionate military response against Gaza have been gruesome. We must condemn the massacre of innocent families and civilians – whether at gunpoint or by American-made missiles.
We take pride in Howard University’s rich history, intricately connected to the pursuits of justice and liberation, both at home and abroad. Our institution played a pivotal role as the home to generations of legal minds, such as Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall, both of whom went on to lead the legal battles of the Civil Rights Movement. During the era of South African Apartheid, these values shone brightly as Howard University actively participated in the anti-apartheid movement by partaking in and organizing divestment campaigns, educational initiatives, conferences and eventually awarding honorary degrees to Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
It is now vital that we emphasize our unwavering support for security for both Israelis and Palestinians through a lasting, amicable peace based on Howard professor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Ralph Bunche’s two-state solution and the internationally recognized pre-1967 borders. In the alternative, we support a one-state solution that grants displaced Palestinians the right to return under a legal framework that ensures recourse, equal rights and legal protection of all its citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. We must also openly denounce any calls for the destruction of Israel or any acts of violence against Jewish people worldwide. It is critical that our institution, dedicated to producing leaders committed to justice, adopts a clear and principled stance in favor of peaceful coexistence.
As an HBCU with roots in America’s segregated past, it is imperative that Howard University express solidarity with the Palestinian people who continue to endure erasure, displacement and dehumanization. While we acknowledge the historical and political complexities of the conflict, we cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians. The international community, especially the United States, has fulfilled its role in acknowledging and supporting Israel’s statehood and its right to self-defense. However, there has been a historic failure in addressing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians for their own state, sovereignty and a just and peaceful resolution – free from occupation and apartheid – in their native homeland.
It is because of our robust legal education that we denounce all violations of international law, including illegal settlements, civilian targeting and any actions undermining justice and human rights. Unfortunately, the encroachment and violence against Palestinians and their land is legitimized through a legal system founded upon the principles of settler colonialism and Zionism, a nationalist movement aimed at establishing a homeland for the Jewish people as the ethnic and religious majority. For decades, extremist Zionist elements have enacted policies that effectuate an incremental ethnic cleansing of Palestine, particularly visible in the West Bank. These policies involve mass evictions, home demolitions and the expansion of illegal settlements. This is noteworthy given that the West Bank is a territory where the ruling Palestinian Authority has renounced violence and cooperates with the Israeli Government, while Hamas has little to no power or presence.
It is essential to emphasize that, as we recognize the nuanced historical context, we empathize with our Jewish brothers and sisters, the Israeli state project, and the Palestinian cause. We understand that much of the harmful Israeli policies toward Palestinians are rooted in personal loss, historical trauma and religious narratives, with the lasting impact of the Holocaust still vivid in the memories of many. Our sincere criticisms of Israeli policies must not be misconstrued as antisemitism, as we often see done in bad faith – in media, academia, and corporate spaces. This conflation stifles legitimate political discourse and perpetuates false narratives that link authentic antisemitic incidents with advocacy for Palestinian rights.
International law recognizes the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as part of the Occupied Territories under Israeli control. Within this context of military occupation, extremist settlers and organizations engage in state-sanctioned efforts to appropriate Palestinian land and force residents into displacement. We are steadfast in our commitment to promoting peaceful methods to halt these practices. In this effort, we find inspiration in the non-violent methods employed during the Civil Rights and anti-apartheid movements to achieve a just resolution to the conflict. We therefore endorse a targeted divestment initiative to express our opposition to the ongoing extremist campaign and its inconsistency with our university’s values. Concurrently, we acknowledge the unconstitutionality of local and state laws enacted nationwide that often impede this fundamental act of political expression.
Constructive dialogue and sustainable solutions may only materialize when extremist, expansionist ambitions are abandoned and a more rational and reconciliatory approach is adopted, which, given the current political landscape, seems unlikely. In lieu of this, the international community must play the vital role of embracing non-violent initiatives to exert pressure on Israel to dismantle its military occupation, apartheid practices, and re-engage relevant stakeholders in good-faith negotiations to settle this long-standing conflict.
We respectfully demand from the University the following:
- Express unequivocal support for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all captives, and the initiation of genuine, good-faith dialogue for a just, long-term solution.
- Establish a divestment committee comprising students, faculty, and alumni who are deeply committed to rationally addressing the conflict. Their initial tasks should involve drafting a university-wide policy focused on divestment and disassociation from entities that support or profit from the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories.
- Provide protection and resources for students and faculty who may face retaliation and harassment due to their Jewish identity or advocacy for Palestinian rights.
By taking these steps to address the conflict, Howard University and the School of Law can uphold the values of social justice and human rights that have been its guiding principles for over 150 years. It is our hope that our institution’s voice, grounded in these values, can lead and inspire other institutions to contribute to a brighter and more peaceful future for all of humanity.
We have the utmost faith in Howard University to make a positive impact in this critical moment. We look forward to our alma mater’s continued leadership in promoting justice and equity, not only within our borders but across the world. The undersigned stand united in solidarity, endorsing the sentiments in this letter. The list of consignatories continue to grow.
Signed in an individual and personal capacity:
Mohsen Farshneshani, Class of 2019
Victoria Mansoor, Class of 2018
Kayla Gardner, Class of 2023
Jamila Cambridge, Class of 2020
Ivy Brewer, Class of 2020
Maria Nasir, Class of 2021
Toni Jennings Hodge, Class of 2019
Miles A. Taylor, Class of 2018
Lotus Bell, Class of 2020
Zach Shepperd, Class of 2019
Shanzah Khan, Class of 2022
Anthony Cherry, Jr., Class of 2019
Maryam Emory, Class of 2021
Sharifa Clark, Class of 2019
Korey T. Johnson, Class of 2019
Ohireime Eromosele, Class of 2019
Iesha Sumerall Eromosele, Class of 2019
Tyahija Martin, ESQ., Class of 2021
Kiara McGill, Class of 2021
Edgar Gonzalez, Class of 2018
Khadeja T., Class of 2018
Kailyn Townsend, Class of 2019
Diana K. Le, Class of 2019
Candis Meetra Dastmalchi, Class of 2018
Tyrese Ford, Class of 2023
Titilope A. Titcombe, Class of 2019
Yolanda Long, Class of 2019
Honor Williams, Class of 2019
Rishele Ellison, Class of 2019
Jonathan-Michael Kenneth Pryor, Class of 2020
Samuel Hewlett, Class of 1982
Carl Tropnas, Class of 2018
Amanda Price, Class of 2018
Ayana Johnson, Class of 2019
Dara Johnson, Class of 2017
Diesha Cole, Class of 2020
B.H., Class of 2019
E.P., Class of 2020
B.H., Class of 2019
L.Y., Class of 2023
C.B., Class of 2023
A.W., Class of 2020
A.G., Class of 2018
E.G., Class of 2020
N.W., Class of 2019
D.D., Class of 2020
I.I., Class of 2021
M.S., Class of 2020
E.A., Class of 2019
F.S., Class of 2017
N.J., Class of 2019
P.Q., Class of 2023
A.C., Class of 2020
T.C., Class of 2019
A.A., Class of 2019
H.O., Class of 2017
A.L., Class of 2020
Copy edited by Azaria Jackson