Statement on Humanitarian Crisis: Palestine and Israel

The Religious Studies department at the University of Kansas is dedicated to the academic study of religion to advance the public understanding of the role religion plays in society and the meaning it reveals for diverse contexts and groups around the world, past and present. Our research expertise is situated in Asian studies, Indigenous studies, Islamic studies, Jewish studies, Christian theology and ethics, and inter-religious dialogue. We are educators who teach courses across interdisciplinary fields exploring liberation, decolonialism, conflict, violence, peace, and other intersections aligned with the philosophical and practical study of religion. As a part of an academic community, we share a responsibility to center and care for our students by holding space to converse and learn. This dialogical process sometimes includes drawing from world events as a companion and catalyst for radical solidarity, critical engagement, and deep mutuality.

Our students enter our classrooms with a range of understanding about social issues, sometimes limited by their experiences in homogenous communities and sometimes deeply informed by how their social location is inextricably linked to others as global citizens. Students also raise questions. Recently, faculty in our department have increasingly experienced students seeking to think critically about the longstanding political unrest in and between the lands variously known as Palestine and Israel.

Many continue to be shocked and stunned by theOctober 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel that precipitated the current Israeli offensive. Having crossed the Gaza border, Hamas killed over 1,200 people, and took hundreds of hostages, including elders and babies. They attacked a music festival, entered towns and homes, and indiscriminately murdered people they encountered on the roads. There is also evidence of widespreadsexual assault during the attacks. Months later, the full toll of the attack remains unknown, as people thought to have been taken hostage are revealed to have been killed on October 7 itself.

Many are transfixed by the ongoing, inconceivable suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the past 150 days,the State of Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians across Gaza. Women and children have been killed in their beds by a massive bombing campaign that has left Gaza without schools or hospitals. According to the UN, 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation and another 80 percent are displaced. There is also a renewed threat of disease. This is an impossible, intolerable reality for a people who were subject to blockade, dehumanization, and deprivation even before the latest Israeli assault began in October. The situation is so serious that some have argued that the word “genocide” should apply.

It is important to recognize that we have on our campus people, including students, with personal ties to both the Israeli and Palestinian communities. Many are struggling to find footing between their compassion for Jewish people and solidarity for Palestinians. There is a sense that if one expresses sorrow for the victims of October 7 or rage against Hamas for its brutality, one thereby licenses the ongoing destruction of Gaza in response. On the other hand, some worry that expressing solidarity with Palestinians and revulsion at Israeli war crimes implicates them in antisemitism. In such a charged environment, both antisemitism and Islamophobia have surged worldwide.

As a religious studies department, we affirm that anti-Arabism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and other forms of identity oppression have no place on college and university campuses. It is not only possible but necessary to have compassion for all those who have suffered and are suffering, and not to dismiss, deny, or downplay such suffering as illusory or necessary. Our public discourse is filled with rhetorical traps designed to obscure this truth: claims that criticism of Israel or anti-Zionism are necessarily antisemitic, for example; as well as claims that the Islamist ideology and murderous tactics of Hamas are characteristic of the Palestinian people as a whole.

This statement seeks to model solidarity from which students can learn the importance of building communities of care, so that, even amongst divergent perspectives, it is possible to find mutuality for dialogue and collective action.


We, the faculty of the religious studies department, represent varied views. However, we stand together in this pledge of support:

 ·      We call for a permanent cease-fire and continued humanitarian aid, as well as the release of all hostages and political prisoners.

·      We stand against militarism, genocide, apartheid, Islamophobia, antisemitism, and anti-Arabism.

·      We call for the abolition of open-air, mass prisons, and walls of every kind.

·      We offer our compassion for people suffering from the atrocities of violence and war globally and domestically, not just in Israel/Palestine, but also the Congo, Sudan, Armenia, Ukraine, and state violence that disproportionately targets Black and brown communities here in the United States.

·      We support our students and commit to creating care-first approaches to learning that connect our classrooms to communities and contexts with real-life implications to cultivate global citizens who are prepared to respond to real-world issues as change agents oriented toward justice.