Editor's Note: The DePauw is an independently financed and operated publication. Letters to the Editor reflect the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DePauw University or The DePauw.

An email written by President Lori White was forwarded to students on October 12, with the subject “May Peace and Love Prevail.” White’s stance raised many red flags for those of us keeping up with the war crimes being committed by Israel; in this open letter to President White, we will debunk and address the harmful rhetoric that sides with the oppressor, and ways she can help rectify the original sentiments.

President White,

Some say that the damage and trauma of living in a continuous warzone is “unimaginable.” However, we don’t have to imagine the bodies being crushed under buildings, children orphaned or separated from their families, white phosphorus being sprayed on civilians, hospitals and schools under siege… Even children in the West Bank - where Hamas is not in control - are killed by Israeli soldiers every day. These are examples of Collective Punishment, which is a war crime per Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel brazenly violates international law every day. The suffering is right in front of us. It is evident in the death toll, photos, and the cries of Palestinians being shared around the world. Please read the following letter carefully and seriously as we reckon with and grieve this man-made tragedy. 

Your email states: 

“We do not currently have any students from the affected regions here at DePauw; however, we do have members of our community who have shared that for some time their Jewish identity has made them a target on and off campus and whose sense of safety may feel even more compromised now.”

The first part of this statement is false. There are students, alumni, and individuals from all over Southwest Asia and North Africa in DePauw’s community. Even then, DePauw must stand against genocide regardless of Palestine’s proximity to our lives. It is also unfitting to bring religion into the discussion after mentioning the geography; while antisemitism and Islamophobia—the latter which you did not mention— are very real, the bloodshed in Palestine is a result of more than 75 years of settler colonialism. Your statement contributes to the antisemitic myth that conflates Zionism with Judaism, and is, in actuality, a key method in furthering antisemitic rhetoric. Additionally, bringing in religion to the statement further disregards the religious diversity of Palestinians, such as Christians, Druze, Jews, Muslims, and non-religious individuals; not to mention, the diversity within each religion’s various sects and denominations. 

Your email also states: 

“As an educational institution, we can educate ourselves about the historical and contemporary issues affecting the region so that we can engage in conversation, dialogue and debate from an informed perspective.”

There is no conversation, dialogue, or debate – nor should there be – about colonization and genocide. Furthermore your call for dialogue has not been followed by substantial institutional action. The only spaces that have been provided for education and dialogue have been created by student leaders with no support from the institution.

By October 12, the day of your email, at least 1,345 Palestinians had died. As of November 29, the death toll is 15,000 and climbing. This does not include those who died slowly from disease, hunger, hypothermia; those still trapped under rubble or not yet found; those who died from treatable injuries inside besieged hospitals. You did not mention Palestine or Palestinians once in your email. Your language erases the disproportionate loss of life in Palestine. In your promotion of peace you fail to acknowledge that injustice may exist in “peaceful” conditions. As we demand a ceasefire, we also demand liberation for Palestine.

One university president cannot stop the war crimes being committed, but she may educate herself and use her position to create a healthier and more informed campus. Dr. White, we candidly do not expect a response from you or your office. However we would urge that you acknowledge the following: 

  • Israel is a settler-colonial, apartheid state.
  • Israel is committing genocide in Palestine. 
  • The United States is instrumental in funding and upholding colonial violence in Israel, and all over the world. 

The DePauw community is disappointed in your response. We condemn neutrality and taking the middle-road, which permits the killings to persist. Proclaiming peace does not actually ensure it —a word that is said 14 times in your email—and it certainly will not prevail until those with institutional power take a stance.


The Democratic Socialists of DePauw