The University of Colorado Department of Ethnic Studies removed from its website a statement that argued Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel was not "terrorism," arguing that the United States uses the term "to justify the Israeli state killing machine."
The department issued the statement on Oct. 23, expressing its condemnation of the "horrific on-going settler violence of the Israeli state occupation."
"The state of Israel's violence against Palestinians in Gaza and other parts of occupied Palestine is not a 'conflict' that is equally violent 'on both sides,'" the statement said. "We also reject the language of 'terrorism' used by the US and Israel to justify the Israeli state killing machine."
While the department removed that statement from its site one week later, it did not distance itself from its anti-Semitic rhetoric. Instead, the department said it pulled the statement due to "intersectional oppression and attacks," which it said jeopardized the safety of its faculty and students.
"Because the Department of Ethnic Studies and our faculty, staff, and students find ourselves under attack for the statement we had previously shared on our website, we are removing the statement because we do not wish anyone in our community to feel unsafe," the department said in an Oct. 30 update. "We condemn the intersectional oppression and attacks that our community is facing for exercising our academic freedom."
The department's decision to issue the statement comes as faculty at top universities across the country defend Hamas's assault on the Jewish state, which killed at least 1,400 Israelis, including women and children. More than 100 professors at Columbia University, for example, signed an open letter characterizing the attack as a "military response" and expressing support for students who called the Israeli government "fascist, racist, and colonial."
While the Ivy League university has remained silent on that letter, the University of Colorado denounced the Department of Ethnic Studies statement, with Chancellor Philip DiStefano saying the statement "is not an official CU Boulder position on the Israel-Hamas War." Former GOP senator Cory Gardner also blasted the department, calling its statement a "shameful expression from academics who clearly have no business teaching."
University of Colorado professor Arturo Aldama, who chairs the school's Department of Ethnic Studies, did not return a request for comment. Daryl Joji Maeda, who in addition to teaching in the department serves as the university's dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, also did not return a request for comment.
The school's Department of Ethnic Studies in its mission statement says it works to advance "the epistemologies, histories, and lived experiences of marginalized communities of color and Indigenous nations in order to challenge and critique all forms of oppression and to advance emancipatory, self-determining futures for all people." In addition to its argument that Hamas did not commit "terrorism," the department's Oct. 23 statement framed the war in Israel as a "feminist issue."
"As a department whose work is informed by intersectional, anti-racist, and decolonial feminist, queer, and trans scholarship and activism, we join the scholars and activists of the Palestinian Feminist Collective in affirming Palestine as a feminist issue," the statement said. "Building on our prior commitments to antiracist feminist perspectives in our scholarship and activism, we amplify the legacy of Black, Indigenous, Arab, Muslim, and Jewish feminist and queer scholars and activists, in support of the long Palestinian struggle for liberation."