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More than 1,000 professors call for cease-fire in Gaza in open letter to New England senators

A pro-Palestinian rally in Boston last monthPat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Professors and academics from Harvard University, Brown University, and other colleges across the region sent an open letter on Tuesday to all New England senators, urging them to call for a permanent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

The letter was published online Wednesday after collecting more than 1,000 signatures since it began circulating among college scholars on Friday.

The academics, including professors and instructors from institutions across New England who wrote and signed the letter, are calling for a cease-fire so that humanitarian aid like food, water, medicine, and electricity can reach the roughly 2 million people who are unable to leave the blockaded enclave, according to the letter.

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“As a physician, I feel as though we cannot overstate the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe that has been created and we are appalled by the military campaigning that is being funded by our tax dollars,” Lara Jirmanus, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School who contributed to writing and organizing the letter, told the Globe.

The open letter also calls for the release, through negotiations, of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7and of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of whom “are children, arbitrarily detained, and held indefinitely without charges.” The letter also called for a United Nations peacekeeping group to help maintain a permanent cease-fire, and to establish an independent commission to investigate war crimes in Gaza since Hamas’s surprise attack.

The letter states that the professors “unequivocally condemn any attacks on civilians” regardless of whether the attacks were committed by Hamas or Israeli forces, and that their primary concern is “stopping the carnage, preventing a wider scale war, and saving those who are still alive.”

“As scholars and educators, we refuse to impart to our students, our country’s youth, and the American public that massacring civilians is ever an acceptable or necessary course of action — irrespective of whether the victims or perpetrators are Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, or anyone else in the human family,” the letter states.

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The professors also called on the senators to condemn campaigns that work to silence college students who are standing up for Palestinian rights by conflating their speech with antisemitism, the letter stated.

“There should be no ‘Palestine Exception’ to free speech and scholarship at American universities, so that the most rigorous, principled, and compelling arguments for US policy in the region can be heard, and we hope, heeded,” the letter stated.

Jirmanus said that she and the other professors who wrote the letter are hoping to accomplish an open conversation with legislators who she said “are becoming less and less accountable to the public.”

“We are trying to call our senators in and be a voice of reason that says ‘violence only begets more violence,’” Jirmanus said. “The only way to move forward is through a political solution.”

Thea Riofrancos, a political science professor at Providence College who is Jewish, said she signed the open letter because she is horrified at the “genocide” being committed in her name and with the support of her tax dollars.

“The question is now clear,” Riofrancos said. “Will elected leaders listen to the strong majorities in favor of a cease-fire? Or will they continue to aid and abet war crimes and ethnic cleansing?”

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“Now, more than ever, is the time for the United States government to help break the cycle of violence in Israel-Palestine by supporting a just and durable political resolution which addresses the root causes of this conflict — and by refusing to support further bloodshed and repression,” the letter states.

The letter comes at a deadly time as a week-long ceasefire ended Friday.

Israel said Tuesday that its troops had entered Gaza’s second-largest city, Khan Younis, as intensified bombardment sent streams of ambulances and cars racing to hospitals with wounded and dead Palestinians, including children, in a bloody new phase of the war, according to the Associated Press.

Israel says it must dismantle Hamas’s extensive military infrastructure and remove it from power to prevent a repeat of the Oct. 7 attack, in which Hamas and other Palestinian militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took captive some 240 men, women and children, according to the Associated Press.

Israel’s assault since Oct. 7 has killed more than 15,890 people in Gaza — 70 percent of them women and children — with more than 42,000 wounded, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. The ministry says hundreds have been killed or wounded since Friday, and many still are trapped under rubble, according to the Associated Press.

The letter was sent to Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, New Hampshire Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Vermont Senators Bernie Sanders and Peter Welch, and Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

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“Senator Collins supports humanitarian assistance for the civilian population in Gaza, including food, water, and medicine,” said Annie Clark, Collins’s communication director. “As Senator Collins recently said to Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken during an Appropriations Committee hearing, ‘a cease-fire would be a strategic victory for Hamas. It would simply allow Hamas to bide its time and prepare for future attacks, and pay no price for the greatest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust.’”

The other senators did not immediately respond to the Globe.


Maggie Scales can be reached at maggie.scales@globe.com. Follow her @scales_maggie.