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OPINION: A Truly Inclusive Learning Community: FJP Perspective

Editor’s Note: This piece was published following unanimous approval by our Editorial Board and careful consideration of our opinions policy, which states that The Clerk will evaluate submissions from Haverford administrators on an individual basis.

By: Guangtian Ha and Maud McInerney, for Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP)

After reading the recent email missive from President Raymond and feeling dismayed by its one-sidedness, we thought it might be a useful contribution to the campus community to write our own letter using much of the same language and format of the president’s statement, for symmetry: 


Haverford’s mission and values rest on the principle of continuous learning in an inclusive community. As you well know, engaging in dialogue is essential to building our Haverford community of learning, collaboration, and care. For the past several decades, many people in our community have felt fearful, silenced, or a protective need to self-censor while trying to navigate the issue of settler colonialism and apartheid in Palestine.

This letter is our invitation to you – all students, faculty, and staff – to address, together, how Haverford can begin to live into its values as a community dedicated to traditional Quaker values of pacifism, social justice, and liberation. 

In this invitation, we are calling for genuinely radical (as in, pertaining to the roots of an issue) empathy and into building community. We ground this call in the principles of the Honor Code, which guide students, alums, and the ethos of Haverford. 

We make this call amidst growing concern about antisemitism on our campus. Questions have arisen in the context of a number of specific situations, including external influences from Lower Merion, from donors, and from some alumni who are hell-bent on defining the “acceptable” ways to be Jewish. This, of course, flies in the face of thousands of years of Jewish tradition which is fundamentally based on interrogation, questioning, and truth-seeking. We take these attacks on our anti-Zionist Jewish community members seriously and we understand the real damage the state of Israel causes for the entire Jewish world when it claims to be acting on behalf of all Jews while engaging in horrific atrocities that— truth be told— mirror some of the worst stereotypes of Jews that have been a part of European racism for centuries. We will be clear: antisemitism should be unacceptable at Haverford, but the energy and consideration which some in our administration have granted these bad faith actors suggests otherwise. 

We are far from alone in this interpretation of events— see for instance the recent open letter penned by Jewish students at Columbia, as well as the statement released by Jewish faculty, who rightly see the weaponization of accusations of anti-semitism as being a constraining, limiting, and dangerous force in their own lives as Jews. Mirroring this is the recent statement by many of our own Jewish students in Haverford’s chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, in the context of the recent controversy surrounding a student-led teach-in that we will mention again below. 

This is to say nothing of the plight of Muslim, Arab, Black, and Brown students on campus, who have, as we allude to above, spent decades feeling silenced and alienated on the subject of Palestine. The courage of students in SJP, Haverford Students for Peace, and BiCo Jewish Voice for Peace needs to be understood in the context of the years and years of explicit discouragement and a culture of extreme self-censorship, inspired by Zionist witch hunts that have seen scholars and students fired, black listed, and expelled. These brave students are now speaking up as we witness unspeakable genocidal violence inflicted against Palestinians in Gaza. 

To be clear: we understand why and how standing up for genuine justice in Palestine causes pain for some members of our community, and we empathize with that, precisely because we understand the efficacy of Israel’s cynical public relations strategy: to make Jewish people all over the world feel as though their safety and the well-being of their community is somehow intertwined with its genocidal, settler-colonial project.  But it is for this very reason why clarity is so important in these difficult times, especially for an institution like Haverford that claims a commitment to justice: we must search for a coherent political lens through which we can express our values, as opposed to relying on what may be the genuine pain of some (while ignoring the pain of many others) as the sole gauge or compass for our collective decision-making. 

We emphasize that a mere handful of months before the official fall of Apartheid in South Africa, a vast majority of white South Africans felt very uncomfortable with the possibility of the dismantling of the system that placed them atop a racial hierarchy. Haverford —as an institution— correctly took a stand against apartheid then, in spite of the fact that this white South African majority opinion was shared by many in our own community (as anyone can check for themselves by querying the official records of alumni letters in the library). Now, when faced with Zionist discomfort, we must find this courage again, and we’d do well to look to our students in SJP, Haverford Students for Peace, and BiCo JVP for the inspiration we’ll need. 


A number of Jewish, Arab, Black, and Brown students have expressed deep frustration around the extent to which fully grown adults with seemingly no official connection to our community have tried to sow discord on campus and corrupt the student governmental process. There is something deeply wrong when adults with no official Haverford affiliation are leading the charge to demand that students boycott plenary, a process meant to facilitate the democratic expression of student will. There is also something deeply wrong with a system that allows people to descend upon campus and threaten, intimidate, and scream at our students (as is what happened recently on Sunday, April 14 when many Zionists came to campus to watch a documentary being hosted by the Center for Peace and Global Studies). We note also the appalling act of racist desecration of an exhibit honoring Asian and Asian-American students in VCAM which occurred over this same weekend. Racism directed at students of color is definitely alive on this campus, and both of these incidents should be roundly denounced, every bit as roundly as antisemitism. 

Beyond this, many Arab, Black, and Brown students have experienced genuinely disgusting and racist harassment (both on and offline) from Zionist groups in Lower Merion. A truly inclusive learning community would necessitate our administration taking a clear and careful stance against this sort of hatred, as opposed to expressing “disappointment” when those students stand up for themselves, for their families, and for their people at a time when doing so places those students at serious risk for personal attack. 


We invite members of the community to see our instagram for references that support the claims made by SJP and Haverford Students for Peace regarding the Israeli state’s use of the Covid pandemic to further their settler colonial project. We also remind community members that the lion’s share of the intense outrage this event inspired from local Zionists came to the fore before the event occurred and without any context of what would, or did, happen there. When our administration takes such outrage seriously and publicly distances itself from its own students, we wonder about the message it sends to the student body regarding the ways in which Haverford truly honors freedom of speech. 

As mentioned above, we ground our analysis in the Honor Code, which eloquently expresses our collective aspirations:

…For our diverse community to prosper, we must embrace our differences and be mindful of our varied perspectives and backgrounds; this goal is only possible if students seek mutual understanding by means of respectful communication. The Honor Code holds us accountable for our words and actions, and guides us in resolving conflicts by engaging each other in dialogue.

The Constitution of the Haverford Students’ Association (Fall 2023) Article III; Section 3.01 Preamble. 

Implicit in this passage is the equally important implication that the honor code holds us accountable for our silence and our inactions.  We are witnessing a genocide, and contrary to the messaging some in our administration have put out, this is a genocide in which we— as representatives of a prestigious academic institution in the United States— are all implicated. It is simply not morally responsible for administrators to claim a right to silence from the point of view that this has nothing to do with higher education. Every university in Gaza has been destroyed. Many of us have Palestinian colleagues who have been displaced, injured, targeted for assassination, and murdered. 

This reality punctures the Haverford bubble on a daily basis, and there can be no “radical empathy” without engaging with this, which is after all at the root of all of the conflicts and tensions we’ve experienced as a campus community over the last 6 months. And— especially in light of the plenary resolution in which an overwhelming majority of students expressed their views — we call on our administration to follow the example of the growing number of legislators, public figures, artists, creatives, scholars, and now university presidents who have called for a permanent and lasting ceasefire. 


  1. Collin Kawan-Hemler '22 April 19, 2024

    In the 2020-2021 year I and other anti-Zionist students disrupted a Bi-Co Friends of Israel event which platformed a former IDF soldier. One of the pro-Israel students especially didn’t like that I changed my profile to the iconic image of Leila Khaled. I was summoned to a mediated-conversation where an administrator heard both sides out and facilitated a discussion of how we could move forward. Nothing really came out of that process but looking at how Haverford’s administration is acting today I can only see political repression at the behest of outsiders.

    I felt strong in my conviction to disrupt that event because only a year prior I met other former IDF soldiers. Instead of being propagandists for Israeli occupation and apartheid though, these former soldiers were a part of the organization Breaking the Silence. These former soldiers’ recounting of their participation in the occupation of Palestine–in ways of both banal and spectacular evil–still haunts me today.

    I hope that Haverford College’s administration can one day end the ruse to which they seem so committed. You do realize students are applying the education they are receiving to not just interpret the world for intellectual stimulation but to actually change it for the better of all people? The separation between campus life and the “real world” is a tool to squeeze hope out of young people’s minds. Haverford students today understand all too well what awaits them after graduation. Kudos to those who keep their expectations high.

  2. Meliorist April 21, 2024

    What self-regarding piffle.

    Ha and McInerney call for “radical empathy,” but I don’t see any evidence that they are capable of even the basic level of empathy needed to contribute usefully to a community that aspires to inclusion.

    Does everyone on Haverford’s campus really believe that Israel’s wars with Hamas and Hezbollah are simple matters of “genocide” to be blamed wholly on Israel, which may easily be summed up as a “genocidal, settler-colonial project”? Can Ha and McInerney summon any empathy for those who suspect that matters might be a teensy bit more complicated? For those troubled by the possibility that Hamas and Hezbollah (and their Iranian backers) might have some shred of agency here? For those who wonder if perhaps Hamas and Hezbollah are aspirational genocidaires and if invoking the academic buzz words of the moment–while undoubtedly useful for impressing undergraduates–might not be the cure for all human ills?

    What empathy do Ha and McInerney demonstrate for Zionist Haverfordians (or, I suspect, Jewish Haverfordians more broadly), when they purport to condemn antisemitism, but insist that Israel is “engaging in horrific atrocities that— truth be told— mirror some of the worst stereotypes of Jews that have been a part of European racism for centuries.” That’s a pretty serious accusation, so why don’t these self-proclaimed truth-tellers give us the specifics here — which stereotypical atrocities are they accusing Israel of? Do they think that Israel murders Christian children to use in religious ceremonies (the blood libel)? That Israel controls the international media or international finance in some sort of octopus-like way? Are Ha and McInerney saying the Israelis are Christ-killers? We know it can’t be that Israeli sometimes has a less than ideal integration of military tactics with political-military strategy since that failing (common to many countries) obviously does not involve a traditional European stereotype of Jews. So what is it?

    I’ll end by noting that empathy is a good idea, so Ha and McInerney have at least that right. But before smugly asserting their capacity for “radical” empathy, they would be better off demonstrating that they can articulate (1) a factually accurate description of the situation (in which the words Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and October 7th should appear), and (2) a sympathetic account of the clash of national, political, and religious interests in the Middle East. Until then, the only “radical” thing about their essay is its pompous self-congratulation. Of course, this is not a new failing at Haverford: Steve Cary used to joke that the correct translation of the College’s motto was “Not smarter, but holier than thou.”

    • Asya Sigelman April 21, 2024

      Shame on you, Ha and McInerney.
      You may lecture us on “radical empathy” on the day when you address the brutal murders and rapes of innocent Israeli civilians perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7th. You may lecture us on “radical empathy” on the day when you call out Hamas for inflicting boundless suffering on its own people for seven long months by refusing to free the hostages. You may lecture us on “radical empathy” when you acknowledge that the tiny Jewish state is fighting not just barbaric Hamas but also its puppeteer — the powerful Iran. You may lecture us on “radical empathy” on the day when you explain why you are so fixated on the war in Gaza when you are completely unbothered by actual genocides and ethnic cleansings perpetrated in recent years in China, Russia, and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, as we eagerly await for that day to arrive, Ha McInerney are using their spare time to sic the Bi-Co community on its Jewish students and on the Jewish community of the Main Line by suggesting that the latter has somehow discriminated against minority college students. I did not think that I would live to see the day when such explicit antisemitic libel is perpatrated by my esteemed colleagues.

      In disgust,
      Asya Sigelman, Bryn Mawr faculty and proud Zionist.

  3. Michelle April 22, 2024

    If only you knew the world didn’t begin in 1948.

    If only you knew the actual history of the Jewish people and the fact that their story is the oldest anticolonial movement in the world.

    If only you knew what Islamism was really about.

    If only you understood that you are the useful idiots of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    If only you had a conversation with a real Arab Israeli.

    If only you were educated.

  4. Emily H. April 22, 2024

    This is what I got out of this piece:
    A small group of masked students went to “protest” a movie (protesting… what exactly??) and cried to their professors that somebody yelled at them.
    Cry me a river! Let’s see how they handle the real world.

  5. Kim April 22, 2024

    This whole situation makes me really sad for the college I once belonged to. Why were students protesting an event about mourning the victims of terrorism, not about increasing aggression in Gaza or the current Israeli regime? But also why would community members think it’s OK to verbally attack students and mock them for wearing masks in an ongoing pandemic? Would it be possible to have a little empathy for those in different situations, especially when they are students? How can we expect better from people living in Israel and Gaza when we can’t even be considerate humans in the privileged position that we’re in?

  6. Disgusted Alum April 22, 2024

    Professor Ha and Professor McInerney-

    Thank you for the jewsplaining. As a Jew, I’d like to point out that as the actual indigenous people of Israel, we have had about 3,000 years of radical NON-empathy thrown our way ( I know it’s shocking that the world wasn’t created in 1948, as they must teach in the humanities these days). It’s good to know that anti-semitism must be behind us, so we don’t need the ONE Jewish country out of 165 to exist. If we are once again being marched to our actual death during an actual genocide, I’ll make sure to let them know that Ha and McInerney said we were all good.

    I won’t go paragraph by paragraph responding to your ignorant propagandist drivel. I can’t comment on genocide in Palestine, but in Israel the Palestinian population has grown by 170% in the past 35 years, while the Israeli population has grown 100%. For such a smart people, those Israelis sure are bad at genocide. Regarding the ridiculous apartheid nonsense, once again those Israelis just can’t figure it out- as Arabs are full citizens, legislators and on the judiciary. Want to comment on Jewish positions in the dozens of Arab countries?

    Regarding a ceasefire, there was one on October 6th. Care to comment how that one ended? Hamas, supported by 70% of the Palestinian population according to recent polls, wants solely a one state solution, and it doesn’t involve Jews. If the Palestinians had wanted a state of their own, they should have elected leaders that wanted one, having turned down the opportunity several times. Maybe look at Hamas, and start explaining radical empathy to them.

    Finally, I’m impressed by your rhetorical skills. While antisemitism has exploded throughout the world following the massacre of innocent Israelis by barbaric Palestinians, you manage to make the dead people the perps, , and the perps the victims. Bravo.

    If you represent the quality of instruction and critical thinking on that campus, I am sorry for the student body which must be subjected to this propaganda.

  7. Gustavus Stadler, William R. Kenan Professor of English April 23, 2024

    When I read a piece like this by my esteemed colleagues, or watch Tri-Co student activists devote hours upon hours of work to the ceasefire cause–all in a country whose most powerful people are bending over backward to align themselves with MAGA cultists like Elise Stefanik (a person who consorts with actual dyed in the wool white nationalists and anti-Semites)–I see people who believe Israeli and Palestinian lives have the same value. When I read some of these replies, I see people who don’t, or whose words certainly suggest they don’t. People able to write off the directed killing of over 30,000 of their fellow human beings, and the continuing slaughter by weapons provided by their own country. It’s in this environment that empathy with Gazans becomes radical.

    I ask these people–I genuinely ask them, not rhetorically: what do you believe is, or should be, the end game here? how many dead and maimed Palestinians will be enough for adequate retribution, for mission accomplished? What is your calculus, your ratio? Do you actually believe this assault on the Palestinian people will make Israel safer? Or do anything besides incite more war, more dead on both sides?

    Finally, on the “ignoring other genocides” charge, though I hesitate to get involved in the “what about ___” game, it warrants pointing out that much of Professor Ha’s research focuses on the Uyghur people in China, as the briefest of Google searches would have shown.

    • Disgusted Alum April 24, 2024

      Professor Stadler- nonsense. Throwing MAGA in is a rhetorical distraction. . I agree it’s too bad a whole series of university Presidents have shown and continue to show they have high IQs and non existent EQs -but that isn’t Stefanik’s fault.

      As to your genuine question, the answer obviously is no one wants anyone to be killed or maimed. I’d ask, however, why you ask that question to Israel and Jews, and supporters of the only democracy in the Middle East and only Jewish country in the world, and not to Palestinians and Hamas? Do you honestly think Israelis want to send their children to war? Wow, what fun! Ironically, most of the Jews slaughtered on October 7 were the Israeli left wing peace advocates ( sort of the equivalent of JVP). The Palestinians have been invited into peace negotiations, and have been offered a clear path to statehood, more than once. They have been incredibly well funded by many countries ( with the money used instead to build tunnels and buy rockets and arms). Israel peacefully turned over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, evicting her own citizens. And how did Palestinians react? Electing Hamas, a terrorist group dedicated not to a two state solution, but to the eradication of Israel. That is still the majority position of the Palestinians who you don’t question. Their leaders have always chosen conflict and war. Current Palestinian Gaza leadership advocates the death of every Israeli ( and Jew worldwide). Why do they escape your genuine questioning? Nothing will make the Israelis safer until leadership emerges from the Palestinian side that genuinely wants peace, with a Jewish state of Israel as a neighbor. The Hamas barbarism has pushed that goal further away than ever.

  8. Marc Bernstein '88 April 23, 2024

    Good-bye Haverford

  9. Meliorist April 23, 2024

    I’m happy to share my thoughts about your questions, but of course I have some questions of my own. Perhaps we can trade answers?

    Your first Q: What do you believe is, or should be, the end game here?

    A: I would like to see the Islamists soundly defeated, as quickly and bloodlessly as possible, and the Israeli far right discredited, with, in the medium term, a resulting growth in somewhat more moderate policy desires by the Israeli and Palestinian populations. This would be a very good, but I think (and hope) a possible outcome here. Possible, of course, emphatically does not mean certain or even likely, so good faith actors, locally and internationally, would have to work hard to achieve something like this. In the much longer term, I hope that more moderate political preferences by the Israeli and Palestinian populations would lead to something close to (but likely not exactly) a two state solution.

    My first Q: You seem quite taken by Ha and McInerney’s essay. These colleagues of yours lack, as you know, any expertise in Israel, politics, international relations, terrorism, Islamism, or political-military strategy. You also have another colleague, Barak Mendelsohn, who, as luck would have it, does have expertise in these relevant areas. Since what you call “the ceasefire cause” falls so neatly within Mendelsohn’s area of expertise, do you agree with his take on it and if not, why not?

  10. Jaime B April 24, 2024

    “External influences from Lower Merion,” you say? BicoSJP and BicoJVP have managed to create a hostile climate for the Jewish residents of the surrounding township. You might want to look up the definition of “radical” in the dictionary.

  11. Someone with "official" ties to Haverford April 25, 2024

    “Zionist groups in Lower Merion” — A clear dog whistle of the authors’ true beliefs.

  12. HC Alum April 28, 2024

    Dear Ha and Maud,

    Stop tokenizing the few Jews who support your genocidal cause–know that the vast majority of us see your “anti-Zionism” for what it really is. For Haverford’s sake, I really hope your academic research is of higher quality than this sophistry.

    A (once-proud) HC alum

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