The University of Chile and complicit blindness in the face of the Palestinian conflict

The University of Chile and complicit blindness in the face of the Palestinian conflict
The University of Chile and complicit blindness in the face of the Palestinian conflict

Instead of criticizing the undemocratic practices that occur in countries like Germany, where protesters cannot carry Palestinian flags or scarves –kufiyas– in the protests and where debate in universities is restricted to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism, Devés, instead of showing solidarity with the camp or taking a critical position during his trip to the German country, accused the students of being undemocratic and unethical. feminists for the content of the canvas. While in Europe and the United States many academics and researchers are harassed and receive death threats for their support of the Palestinian people, at the University of Chile tri-state assemblies are held seeking the greatest possible participation and debate.

Camila Ponce Lara. Santiago. 6/19/2024

. Last Sunday, instead of showing empathy towards the solidarity movement with the Palestinian people that is currently taking place at the University of Chile, La Tercera published a series of columns directly condemning it.

Criticism focused mainly on the sexist nature of a canvas displayed on the front of the Central House, deliberately ignoring the satire and the context behind it. The columns branded the student encampment in support of the Palestinian people as undemocratic, accused the students of following fashions imported from the global north, and finally compared them to Nazi practices for allegedly branding professors to allow them into the university.

It is difficult to imagine that one of the most robust and significant student movements in Latin America, the Chilean student movement, could be left out of a global movement that denounces the inability of many governments to confront and repudiate the genocide currently taking place in Gaza. The camping movement, although it originated in the main universities of the United States, has spread throughout Europe and Latin America. For this reason, the University of Chile could not be left behind in this global wave of protest and demand for justice, demanding the breaking of relations with Israel, relations that are materialized through agreements between different universities.Instead of criticizing the undemocratic practices that occur in countries like Germany, where protesters cannot carry Palestinian flags or scarves –kufiyas

– in the protests and where debate in universities is restricted to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism, Devés, instead of showing solidarity with the camp or taking a critical position during his trip to the German country, accused the students of being undemocratic and unethical. feminists for the content of the canvas. While in Europe and the United States many academics and researchers are harassed and receive death threats for their support of the Palestinian people, at the University of Chile tri-state assemblies are held seeking the greatest possible participation and debate. The canvas in question, which has been the subject of so much criticism, can be interpreted in multiple ways. However, the students’ purpose was to satirize power asymmetries, based on the graffiti

original of the Berlin Wall where communist leaders Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker kiss. Devés, rather than simply being mocked, is portrayed as someone who makes deals with Israel rather than opposing its policies. Students, feminist or not, expected much more from the first female Rector of the University of Chile: a leader capable of empathizing with the needs and struggles of her students, instead of blindly following the trends of many universities that ignore the demands of their own students.

On Monday, on the front of the Central House, a new canvas depicting a scale was installed. On one side are the bodies of the victims in Gaza, while on the other is a satirical political poster with the image of Prime Minister Netanyahu. All this is accompanied by the text “Let’s not close our eyes to true gender violence.” It is crucial to emphasize that feminism should not be instrumentalized for individual purposes or particular interests. The fight for gender equality is essential, but it must be framed within a broader context of inequality and oppression that affects various groups, as in the case of Palestine. In this territory, the Palestinian population faces multiple forms of violence, in addition to the ongoing genocide, such as massive human rights violations, discrimination, colonialism, forced displacement and apartheid.

In short, instead of joining the voices that condemn violence and injustice, the main Chilean media, like the Rectorate of the University of Chile and the Government, have chosen to divert attention from the underlying issues. and focus on details that do not capture the essence of the problem. This superficial approach minimizes the seriousness of the situation in Gaza and the validity of the student protests. The University of Chile, with its extensive history of activism and defense of human rights, continues to be a beacon of solidarity and action in these critical times. The students, through their camping movement, represent an urgent call for justice and to take concrete actions against the atrocities that are committed daily. It is imperative that the university administration, as well as the media, recognize and support these legitimate demands, instead of disqualifying and ridiculing them.

Camila Ponce Lara has a PhD in Sociology from the École des Hautes Études en Sciencies Sociales in Paris and the Center d Études Sociologiques et Politiques Raymond Aron (CESPRA). 
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