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Updated: Civilians will pay the terrible price of the conflict in Israel and Gaza

Update: In the wake of recent events, I would like to respond to the many people in our community who objected to a pro-Palestinian demonstration that occurred on our campus last week by sharing my response to a question about that demonstration during my Annual President’s Address. As I said in my address, there is no question that these Hamas attacks on civilians were absolutely reprehensible, and I condemn any celebration of violence against civilians. The demonstration in question was not condoned or supported by the University in any way, however it did fall under the definition of protected speech, which we are both legally and ethically required to permit. You can see my full response to this question below:


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The terror, loss of life and outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza over the weekend, which began with the reprehensible attacks by Hamas, is devastating to all of us, and my heart is with every member of our community who has ties to or loved ones in this deeply troubled region. The tragic reality is that civilians have borne and will bear the brunt of this violence. In their attacks, Hamas has killed hundreds of civilians and taken scores more hostage. And many more in Israel and Gaza continue to die as the violence escalates. Every life claimed by this conflict is a tragedy.

Our UW community is particularly grieving the loss of Hayim Katsman, ’21, who earned his Ph.D. from the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies. Hayim was reportedly killed by Hamas gunmen in Kibbutz Holit where he lived. Here at the UW, he dedicated his scholarship to understanding the interrelations of religion and politics in Israel and Palestine — a vital contribution to understanding this region in the hopes of finding reconciliation. He was greatly respected by his Jackson School colleagues and the field as a whole, and we send our condolences to his family, friends, teachers, colleagues, and students.

We know that this tragedy and the ensuing war is painful and frightening for many members of our community. The Office of Student Life is reaching out to students from the region who may have been affected, and resources are available in the sidebar if you need support.

I share the heartbreak, fear and uncertainty that so many of us are feeling right now. I recall returning from my trip to Israel several years ago with some hope that peace might be possible after witnessing firsthand the cooperation and goodwill between Israeli and Palestinian healthcare workers and families right outside contested territory. I hope and believe that their recognition of each other’s shared humanity continues to hold the key to peaceful coexistence.

We appreciate that there are longstanding issues shaping these conflicts and across our three campuses, we have scholars with considerable expertise on relevant issues, including in the Jackson School, the American Muslim Research Institute, the Israel Studies program, the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures and the Middle East Center, so that students and our community can better inform themselves.

And at a time when we have seen increased acts of antisemitism and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab violence, I want to reiterate that we must not allow our opinions, grief or anger about the conflict to spill over into abusive behavior or harassment of anyone — civility remains a core value of our academic community. Any instances of harassment, discrimination or violence based on someone’s religion or nationality only hinders efforts to achieve peace in this region and beyond and will not be tolerated here. I implore everyone in our community to hope and work for peace and understanding within our own community as we find ways to support the victims of the violence and work for peace, understanding and a swift end to the violence and war.

Updated on October 18, 2023 to include excerpted content from President Cauce’s  Annual President’s Address on October 12, 2023.