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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: This campus needs to call it what it is; a genocide

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On Oct. 13, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz released a statement following the Hamas attack on Israel condemning the act of violence and this “horrifying” act of terror. It came at a time of contentious debate over Israel and Palestine’s place in the Middle East and the two countries' geopolitical relationship. Regardless, Guskiewicz understood then that the killing of innocent civilians was an act of terror. 

It’s shocking then, that last month, Guskiewicz and Provost Christopher Clemens declined to take a stance in a subsequent statement regarding the continued violence and massacre of civilians in Gaza, because they were “committed to institutional neutrality on political matters.” 

Institutional neutrality is a recently adopted resolution by the UNC Board of Trustees regarding the University’s role in political social action. It posits that universities should remain “neutral on issues of the day.” But why is it that this position of neutrality is only present when refusing to discuss the deaths of Palestinians? If University communications can clearly label the Hamas attack as an act of terror, why are they unable to do so when thousands of innocent citizens in Gaza are decimated by Israel? 

When this second statement was released, more than 10,000 people in Gaza had been killed, of which more than 4,000 were children. Videos had been released of dead bodies being loaded into ice cream trucks on account of morgues overflowing. Innocent children were obliterated and massacred by weapons funded by United States tax dollars. 

Guskiewicz was seemingly unable to make a comment on this.

There is not a single mention of neutrality in Guskiewicz's initial statement. If the chancellor can comprehend that innocent people dying is not a political matter when discussing Israel, why was the murder of thousands of Palestinians suddenly subject to talks of institutional neutrality? As parents in Gaza grieve for their dead children, the University is silent.

For the University to label what’s happening in Gaza as a “political matter” is reductive and hypocritical. It is appalling that this institution has not demonstrated an ounce of support for the same senseless acts of terror that are currently occurring in Gaza, yet was able to do so for Israel with ease. 

Perhaps Guskiewicz has developed a different opinion as more and more children have been killed, but has been too busy campaigning for Michigan State University president to update us — but the point stands. If this University can separate a terrorist attack from politics, then they are weak and cowardly for refusing to do the same thing for the ceaseless bombing of an occupied people. 

Today, it's easy to become desensitized to the issues of the world because of social media and the instantaneous nature of the news cycle. I’m sure you’ve seen constant videos about what’s going on in Gaza right now. You may have grown tired of them, scrolling past them so you can watch something lighthearted instead. It’s the natural news cycle on social media. But when you watch these videos, try to process the reality of bodies piled in the streets. 

If people are truly processing and understanding the depth of these videos and deaths, then why is it that everyone on this campus is so scared to say the word genocide? 

The Daily Tar Heel itself labeled this mass murder as the “Israel-Gaza war” in its series of op-eds on the issue. A war. This newspaper's motto is “Printing news. Raising hell.” Them refusing to call this a genocide for the sole purpose of avoiding upset is certainly not raising hell. I'm not sure how many more innocent people and children need to die before this news organization does the bare minimum by simply calling it what it really is: a genocide. 

This University has been on the wrong side of history since its inception. UNC has a historical acknowledgment page on its website. It says that the land it is built on was stolen from indigenous people. It was constructed with the use of slave labor. And UNC did not admit a Black student into its undergraduate population until 1955, 166 years after its founding. 

That same acknowledgement page says, “UNC-Chapel Hill continues to reckon with its past.” What is the point of this University reckoning with its past if it refuses to reckon with its present and support the oppressed? 

When will we take a real stance, and will it be too late? When thousands more Palestinians are dead and time shows us how disgraceful this mass killing was? History is made by those who show up, not those who cower in the corner and defend themselves with talks of “institutional neutrality.” 

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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