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King’s Academic Criticises University’s “Silence” On “Genocidal Violence”

KCL banner outside Strand campus
Image courtesy of Emma Carmichael

Professor Hanna Kienzler yesterday published an open letter to King’s Vice Chancellor Shitij Kapur. In it she called for stronger action from the university, including by “boycotting and disinvesting in academic partnerships with Israeli universities”.

On Tuesday 5 December, Professor Kienzler published an open letter which admonished King’s College London (KCL), and Professor Kapur personally, for failing to ‘call out’ Israel for its warfare tactics in the Gaza Strip and broader treatment of Palestine. Professor Kienzler, of the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, has publicly championed pro-Palestinian marches and posted about the situation on social media for some time, but this is the first case of an individual academic issuing a letter expressly condemning the university.

In her message, Professor Kienzler decries what she terms a “genocide perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip”. She goes on to call out the university’s ‘silence’ on the issue. “How is it possible for King’s College London to remain silent while all major Human Rights organisations worldwide are calling Israel out in the face of the unspeakable horror it inflicts on Palestinians through calculated and incessant warfare? Your staff and students are distressed. Those of us who have family, friends, students, and colleagues in Gaza are suffocating under the cloak of silence that you are enforcing and upholding.”

She asks Vice Principal Kapur to i) “demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire”, ii) advocate for “freedom and justice for Palestinians” and iii) “put pressure on Israeli colleges to speak up and take a stance against genocide”. She also advocates for an end to partnerships with Israeli universities and a boycott and disinvestment campaign. The message ends with three short lines: “Silence is not an option. Silence is complicity. You have a duty to speak out.”

Should KCL issue a formal response, Roar will update its coverage.

Last month, the UNISON and UCU unions of King’s College London issued a joint statement which criticised the university for a ‘lack of balance’ in its public messaging, such as by avoiding the term ‘Palestine’. Since this date, Professor Kapur has affirmed that KCL “are committed to upholding and protecting freedom of expression within the law” and offered support to Palestinian members of the university community. Over the past few weeks, King’s has also seen several high-profile walk-outs of students and staff members calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

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