Defend Jodi Dean: Fight the Ban, Free Palestine!

Professor Jodi Dean has been banned from teaching for her piece “Palestine Speaks for Everyone (Verso blog, 9 April 2024). Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gaeran announced the ban with this justification: “there now may be students on our campus who feel threatened in or outside of the classroom.” This unconscionable violation of academic freedom is an attack not only on the renowned and well-loved professor and activist organizer but on each one of us who stand in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against the US-Zioniost genocidal war.

I doubt President Gaeran’s capacity to gauge students’ feelings as they move in and out of the campus. I know I’m not the only one as he himself says “may” in a manner so tentative, it avoids libel. Meanwhile, the ban is fully enforced. Nothing worse can be done to a great contemporary thinker who has made one of the oldest private colleges in the “new world” known and respected by many worldwide.

HWS is a beautiful campus in Geneva, a stunning city in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Geneva is known to many activists worldwide as a vibrant and joyful place for community mobilization and organizing mainly because of the Geneva Women’s Assembly (GWA), which Jodi Dean and comrades continue to build alongside other pro-people organizations.

I have no doubt about Comrade Jodi’s capacity to gauge students’ pulse and proclivities; aspirations and actual capacities. The year was 2018 when good people in the US were vigorously organizing for the March of Return, a worldwide campaign on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, to amplify the Palestinian right of return to the Israeli-Occupied Palestinian Territories. Comrade Jodi made sure I woke up early and ready for yet another campus tour in HWS. But indoors this time and around different nooks where students gather. I was introduced to young people, mostly female of various hues. All together in that table outside of the cafeteria, we were a kaleidoscope. The urgent issue was how to push back to an HWS event featuring a Zionist guest speaker.

That brief exposure to a segment of the HWS students left some lasting impressions on me. First, that there is student engagement in what is known in activist speak as AOM – arouse, organize, mobilize activities. Second, this AOM team has a clear idea of what a real threat is: HWS Administration platforms and exposes HWS students to a Zionist figure. Third, Jodi Dean is an ally and not a threat in this situation. Last, but not least, HWS is no stranger to the Palestinian cause.

Clearly, the HWS teaching ban on Jodi Dean is a symptom of a broader and systematic assault on the freedom of association through US Counterinsurgency. Comrade Jodi tweets about her predicament: “McCarthyism is real. I’ve been relieved of teaching responsibilities. Don’t stop talking about Palestine.”

She is correct to call the whole affair as McCarthyism happening in the 21st century. McCarthyism was a campaign launched between 1950 and 1954 by Senator Joseph McCarthy against accused communists in the US government and other organizations. Even though the majority of those charged were not Communist Party members, many of them were placed on a blacklist or lost their employment.

US Counterinsurgency did not stop in 1954. In fact, the most brutal McCarthyist US Counterinsurgency programs were implemented not the in US but in Third World countries in Asia (the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran, etc ), South America (Brazil, Guatemala, Chile, etc) and Africa ( the Congo,Libya, Egypt, etc). Peoples and some governments were rising up against US imperialism in the post-war period all throughout the end of the 70s.

The US imperialist cold war with the former USSR and China occurred with hot wars in the Third World. Western imperialism needs to inflict wars on the peoples of the Third World to maintain the system of unequal exchange marked by the drain of value from Third World labor and resources to the imperialist core. The accumulation of capital on a world scale is only possible with US-led imperialism’s Counterinsurgency program for these super exploited peripheral economies. US Counterinsurgency involves endless and atrocious wars and sanctions on national liberation struggles (from Palestine, Yemen to India and the Philippines, etc ) and nations asserting their sovereignty and right to self-determination against US imperialism (from Cuba and Venezuela to North Korea and Iran).

In the last decade, the world has witnessed on the one hand, the swift unfolding of a multi-polar world and the intensification of US sanctions and war, on the other. The latter also includes the US-NATO proxy war in Ukraine, which it can’t win against Russia and its war mongering in the Asian region using the Philippines and Taiwan as proxies against China. Then suddenly what has been suspended by neoliberal crisis management (through GATS-WTO and IMF-WB Structural Adjustment) and US Counterinsurgency (from militarism to civl society NGOism), Al Aqsa Flood on October 7, 2023 happened. It is the return of an organized armed resistance in Palestine after the Second Intifada of the early 2000s.

Jodi Dean’s piece is powerful in that it expresses the materiality of Palestine’s struggle for freedom—from concrete analysis of concrete conditions to the deepest and most cherished aspirations we cultivate for Palestinian freedom. These powerful segments bear repeating:

“The images from October 7 of paragliders evading Israeli air defenses were for many of us exhilarating. Here were moments of freedom, that defeated Zionist expectations of submission to occupation and siege. In them, we witnessed seemingly impossible acts of bravery and defiance in the face of the certain knowledge of the devastation that would follow (that Israel practices asymmetric warfare and responds with disproportionate force is no secret). Who could not feel energized seeing oppressed people bulldozing the fences enclosing them, taking to the skies in escape, and flying freely through the air? The shattering of the collective sense of the possible made it seem as if anyone could be free, as if imperialism, occupation, and oppression can and will be overthrown…

…The paragliders who flew into Israel on October 7 continue the revolutionary association of liberation and flight. Although imperialist and Zionist forces try to condense the action into a singular figure of Hamas terrorism, insisting against all evidence that with the extermination of Hamas Palestinian resistance will disappear, the will to fight for Palestinian freedom precedes and exceeds it. Hamas wasn’t the subject of the October 7 action; it was an agent hoping that the subject would emerge as an effect of its action, the latest instantiation of the Palestinian revolution…

…The struggle for Palestinian liberation today is led by the Islamic Resistance Movement — Hamas. Hamas is supported by the entirety of the organized Palestinian left. One might have expected that the left in the imperial core would follow the leadership of the Palestinian left in supporting Hamas. More often than not, though, left intellectuals echo the condemnations that imperialist states make the condition for speaking about Palestine. In so doing, they take a side against the Palestinian revolution, giving a progressive face to the repression of the Palestinian political project, and betraying the anti-imperialist aspirations of a previous generation.”

Doesn’t Dean stunningly capture what many comrades in the global anti-imperialist movement feel and think about an event that has enabled all current and favorable discussions and re-considerations of revolutionary wars for national liberation to end imperialist wars? It is too late to stop anyone from writing up, teaching and learning this lesson: US Counterinsurgency fails to defeat organized armed resistance in the Third World and especially in the last six months in Palestine. So, instead, US Counterinsurgency punishes even its very own, one of the most accomplished and well known anti-imperialist American thinkers of our time. See how our unfinished project glows and gains the gravity it fully deserves, read Jodi Dean’s “Palestine Speaks for Everyone.

Sign the petition here:“Revoke Professor Jodi Dean’s suspension from teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges:

Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.

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