Open letter for the Free Palestine Collective and in protest against choking anti-colonial critique in western academia

This statement is initiated by South/South Movement, which is not formally affiliated with Central European University or any other institution whatsoever.

We, the undersigned students, academics, civil society organizers, activists, and allies, express unwavering solidarity towards the Free Palestine Collective (FPC) at the Central European University (CEU). FPC has been the target of malicious attacks mounted by individuals and institutions in Austria who are working to silence pro-Palestinian anti-Zionist voices, thereby undermining the cause of Palestinian liberation.

On 18 October, FPC issued a statement in the form of an open letter co-signed by individuals from different departments across CEU. The statement, which was the first pro-Palestinian statement issued by a student collective in Austria, denounced the ongoing genocide in Gaza and petitioned the university administration to issue a statement in support of the Palestinian cause. It was circulated by CEU’s Student Union (SU) on 30 October with the aim of fostering “respectful dialogue” and “inclusivity” on the University’s campus. Outside of the University, the statement was amplified by Der Funke and LeftEast, in hopes of bringing the issue to the attention of the Austrian media and political establishment.

The following afternoon, on 31 October, the Austrian Union of Jewish Students (JöH) released a statement in response to the SU email, in the form of an Instagram infographic. The post made several inflammatory and spurious claims, accusing FPC of antisemitism and the spreading of conspiracy theories (slide 1). JöH further accused the statement shared by the CEU SU of historical revisionism (slide 3), and consistently conflated anti-Zionism and antisemitism (slides 5, 7, 8). 

In a subsequent post made on 1 November, the Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH) uncritically regurgitated JöH’s slanderous accusations and reproached the CEU SU of supporting Hamas and of being antisemitic in their emails. It did so through an Instagram post that presented FPC’s statement alongside reports of the recent antisemitic arson and vandalization of the Jewish section of the Vienna Central Cemetery, absurdly implying their connection. Moreover, their post also condemned the spray tags across University of Vienna (UNIVIE) campuses calling for a free Palestine and ending apartheid and settler-colonialism, branding these minor acts of civil disobedience as antisemitic and anti-Zionist smears. Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s leading news outlets, echoed ÖH’s malicious approach by presenting FPC’s statement alongside the attacks on the Cemetery. And in a subsequent post made on 2 November, JöH again doubled down on their defamatory accusations through another Instagram infographic compiling antisemitism cases in Austria that blatantly shoves the FPC open letter, the spray tags as well as the peaceful Palestine solidarity protests alongside the reported antisemitic arson attack. We reiterate that FPC’s statement has absolutely nothing to do with antisemitic attacks on cemeteries or other Jewish establishments.

We vehemently reject any attempts to equate actions by student activists and student organizations opposing the israeli settler-colonial ethnostate with a bonafide case of antisemitism—another regime of oppression we firmly reject. The CEU SU, as a result of these incendiary and unacceptable allegations, issued an email on 1 November apologizing for circulating FPC’s statement. Subsequently, on 3 November, a teach-in series on Palestine co-organized by the Gender Studies Department in CEU and the Social and Cultural Anthropology Department in UNIVIE was unilaterally canceled by UNIVIE. UNIVIE has done so under the pretext that the planned series was one-sided and would promote racism, intolerance, and antisemitism, further perpetuating the absurd and bad-faith accusations in an effort to continue to silence Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices. Equating a teach-in about the history of Palestine and the roots and realities of their struggle for liberation with racism and antisemitism perpetuates a dangerous discourse that attempts to paint Palestinians as villains and as such deserving of the current and previous political, military, and economic violence perpetrated against them over the last 75 years. It also is a dangerous undermining of academic freedom, by creating a narrative that those who are against the actions of state institutions and military and political regimes are not allowed a space to discuss in an academic forum their critiques. 

We quote from a letter published on 2 November by a group of Jewish artists, writers, and activists: “Israel and its defenders have long used this rhetorical tactic to shield Israel from accountability, dignify the US’s multibillion-dollar investment in Israel’s military, obscure the deadly reality of occupation, and deny Palestinian sovereignty. Now, this insidious gagging of free speech is being used to justify Israel’s ongoing military bombardment of Gaza and to silence criticism from the international community.”

We unconditionally condemn the abuse of antisemitism discourse, of calling any and all critique of israel antisemitic, to intimidate and silence pro-Palestinian voices. Such discourse does a grave disservice to the history of the anti-colonial struggles of the Palestinian peoples and obfuscates the past and present of antisemitism in Europe and elsewhere. It falsely equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism with the aim of stifling critique of israel, whose existence the North relies on to reconcile its guilt for centuries of injustice and oppression.

We moreover strongly object to the McCarthyist tactics deployed by the supposedly leftwing ÖH and their allied groups to divide and threaten collectives like FPC. Such tactics undoubtedly have a chilling effect on critical voices who should rather be given a safe and open space to express their dissent. We further denounce their negligent inaction over the past weeks as Palestinian and pro-Palestinian solidarity groups have become targets of Austria’s increasingly racist and xenophobic civil society and media landscape.

Like their German counterparts, the hypocritical indifference coming from the Austrian left in this regard is a gross betrayal of their every commitment to international solidarity and both anti-racist and anti-fascist struggles. With such passivity, they risk becoming complicit in the israeli war crimes and genocidal aggression committed against one of the world’s most marginalized populations. With every passing day, they continue to isolate themselves from the global progressive solidarity movement that is committed to the liberation of the Palestinian people—not least supported by thousands of Jewish people and many organizations like the Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost and the Jewish Voice for Peace who similarly and adamantly denounce the israeli settler-colonial project and its genocidal manifestations.

There is no denying that antisemitism continues to be a stark reality in Austrian and western society, and there needs to be a strong and compelling front to unquestionably oppose this. At the same time, this should never be at the expense of sustaining this deafening silence and refusal to proactively amplify genuine voices against other forms of repressions and injustices. The struggles against these can only prosper with a total and unified solidarity with the Palestinian people’s fight for their basic dignity and freedom. Progressive movements and institutions especially in the German-speaking world are falling way behind in this regard, and they are poised to further pave their own path towards long-lasting marginalization as long as they continue to ignore the undeniable reality of the ongoing atrocities and dismiss those speaking up against such transgressions. Those involved in anti-colonial struggles have the right to “offend, shock, and disturb” settler-colonial regimes and their allies through their critique. Attempts by pro-Zionist organizations to introduce a regime of self-censorship amount to nothing short of a violation of fundamental rights.

As activists and academics committed to questioning dominant knowledge regimes, we take offense at the attempt to read and pigeonhole the critique of collectives like FPC through familiar eurocentric frames of reference. As persons from the global souths, we undoubtedly inhabit different positionalities entangled in different geopolitical struggles. However, we unapologetically refuse to share those that prop up eurocentric views of world politics and asphyxiate other ways of being-knowing-living. An attempt to imply that we are somehow knowingly or unknowingly antisemitic in our anti-colonial critique of israel, therefore, amounts to a form of double epistemic violence insofar as our critiques, much like our knowledges from and for the global souths, are flattened and not taken seriously in the North.

Last but not least, we oppose the further neoliberalization and depoliticization of the university, and insist that the university’s role is to provide spaces for students and faculty to openly and safely contest and call out oppression, colonization, and violence. Instead, students and faculty alike, especially those already marginalized and precarious, are facing an active silencing, as they push back against these deeply troubling tendencies in western academia, despite facing threats and economic reprisals in the process. We stand with fellow travelers engaged in such struggles in UNIVIE, CEU, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and elsewhere. 

This active silencing should cause us to pause if we were genuinely committed to the values of academic freedom and critical thinking.

Unfazed, we stand in full and fierce solidarity with the anticolonial liberation struggles of Palestinians and of all peoples resisting colonialisms and colonialities everywhere. 

Please consider signing this statement:

    Note: Signatures are updated periodically.


    1. Taraf Abu Hamdan, South/South Movement
    2. Antonio Alcazar III, South/South Movement
    3. Carolina Bertazolli, South/South Movement
    4. Josh Makalintal, South/South Movement
    5. Rohit Sarma, South/South Movement
    6. Vijetha Ravi, Free Palestine Collective at CEU
    7. Bela Hümmelgen, Free Palestine Collective at CEU
    8. Laura Baker, Central European University
    9. Elisaveta Nikityuk
    10. Paolo Philips, CEU Nationalism Studies, Jewish Studies
    11. Anela Dumonjić, Student at the CSEES, KFU Graz
    12. Luca Szöllősi, Central European University
    13. Donny Marie Kish, Free Palestine Collective at CEU
    14. Frida Stenbäck, MA student of Social Design, University of Applied Arts Vienna
    15. Ramez Hayek, Irish Center for Human Rights
    16. Malavika Prasanna
    17. Oishi Sengupta, South/South Movement
    18. Siddarth Sridhar
    19. Pia Schuh, TU Vienna
    20. Ezra Schatzler, Student
    21. Jana Weissteiner, Student
    22. Adam Lee Smith, South/South Movement
    23. Omid Khoshbakht
    24. Annapurna Menon, University of Sheffield
    25. Apolonia Bokszycka, Student of Design Investigations at Universitat fur Angewandte Kunst Vienna
    26. Frida Robles, University of Applied Arts Vienna
    27. Andrea Chiurato, MA student, Central European University
    28. George Nicolas
    29. Alexandre DA TRINDADE E OLIVEIRA, University of Cambridge
    30. Ivana Mihaela Žimbrek, Central European University
    31. Nour Shantout, Phd candidate, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien
    32. Sruthisagar Yamunan
    33. Naiara Unzurrunzaga
    34. Kyungrim Lim Jang
    35. Uthara Geetha
    36. Junaid Ali, TU Wien
    37. Helin Çelik, Filmmaker
    38. Anushri Rastogi
    39. Cecilia Cienfuegos, PhD student, Carlos III University of Madrid
    40. Julie Chauvin
    41. Deepthi Gopinathan
    42. Shehreen Ataur Khan, South/South Movement
    43. Ena Šehić, Bh. Pride March Organizational Committee member
    44. Ulises Garcia Figueroa, Memorial University of Newfoundland
    45. Bayan Haddad, Birzeit University
    46. Prem Kumar Rajaram, Central European University
    47. Janie Grafinger, Universität Wien
    48. Ana Abril, Department of Gender Studies, CEU
    49. Suren Omar Mushir, University of Barcelona
    50. Sunna Kokkonen, Central European University
    51. Aishwarya V.  
    52. Elsa Bauer      
    53. Gowri Niranjana, CEU
    54. Jakub Gawkowski, Central European University
    55. Diana Yehorova, University of Copenhagen
    56. Jairo I. Fúnez-Flores, Texas Tech University
    57. Julia Boechat Machado, PhD Candidate, Central European University (CEU)
    58. Sarah Osmen
    59. Sherin Idais, Youth Against Settlements Hebron
    60. Maria Zaslavsky , CEU MA Gender Studies ’23, JBW*, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
    61. Martino Comelli, CEU
    62. Salsabil Salem, University of Vienna
    63. Arev Papazian, Central European University
    64. Emilija Maciunskaite, CEU
    65. Huiming Cai, CEU Alumni
    66. Seerat Fatima, University of Manchester
    67. Nadhirah H
    68. Anna Orinsky, European University Institute – PhD student
    69. Rigmor HvAV, University of Oslo/UiO
    70. AJ Kurdi, UC Berkeley
    71. Cody James Inglis, Central European University
    72. Amina Dessouki, Central European University
    73. Nadia Raza
    74. Marie Laur, Central European University
    75. Nadja Genschel-Kaylor, CEU
    76. Hager El-Sayed, Universität Wien
    77. Zosia Hołubowska          
    78. Viola Bulker, Austria
    79. Wen-Yu Wu, University of Plymouth
    80. Elettra Repetto, CEU alumna
    81. Fiammetta Bonfigli, Univie
    82. Una Blagojevic, Central European University
    83. Fathima Zahra H, Delhi University
    84. Ivan Nikolovski, Central European University
    85. Flavia Julius, Macquarie University
    86. Alaa Alssadi
    87. Khaoula Bengezi, South/South and SWANA Collective
    88. Jennifer Edwards, CEU alumni, MA critical gender studies ‘20
    89. Monica Lafaire, Central European University
    90. Britton Perry, Central European University
    91. Barbora Horská          
    92. Criostóir King, Maynooth University
    93. Nada Abdel, Student
    94. Renny Hahamovitch, University of Michigan (alum of CEU)
    95. Srishagon Abraham, Católica Global School of Law, Universidade Católica Portuguesa
    96. Aleks Matuska, University of Łódź graduate
    97. Reka Marton  
    98. Lilit Hakobyan, Central European University Alumni
    99. Stefan Kamola, Austrian Academy of Sciences
    100. Ikshaku Bezbaroa, CEU
    101. Edina Zelenyánszky, Central European University
    102. Dr Anissa Haddadi, South/South Movement
    103. Ruadhán James Flynn, University of Vienna
    104. canan coskan, Independent researcher
    105. Mikel oleaga, University of Vienna, PhD
    106. Marlene, Universität Wien
    107. Aaron Reinelt
    108. Anaïs Duong-Pedica, Åbo Akademi University
    109. Sladjana Lazic, University of Innsbruck
    110. Erdost Akin, Ceu alumn
    111. Mostafa Elkadi, PhD researcher at Central European University
    112. Gabriel Bittencourt Bodenmuller de Oliveira, Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUC-PR)
    113. Michelle Dworak
    114. Madeline Knowles, Student
    115. Afreen Jawaharlal, Nehru University
    116. Nadyaa Azerin, National Research University – Higher School of Economics
    117. Kristina Vasic, CEU
    118. Sanat Sogani, CEU
    119. Deborah Biging, CEU, DSPS
    120. Ana Ivasiuc, Maynooth University
    121. Emina Baralić, Faculty of medicine, University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina
    122. Nefertiti Bikin-kita          
    123. Diana Bashur, University of Vienna
    124. Ebrar Keskin, University of Vienna
    125. Bilal Hisham, Free Palestine Collective at CEU
    126. Tathagata Bhattacharya
    127. Tomas Palpallatoc          
    128. Ivanka Custodio, CEU
    129. Yuvraj Chaudhry, academic
    130. Nerea González, Central European University
    131. Rabbya Akbild
    132. Rose Heffernan, CEU
    133. Cristina C., University of Vienna
    134. Andrés Paz        
    135. Jennifer Baumgartner   
    136. Ipek Untuna, Central European University
    137. Bianca Zapp, University Vienna
    138. Eliška Kubicová, University of Vienna
    139. Udeepta Chakravarty , New School for Social Research
    140. Ines Bammert, human medicine student at Medizinische Universität Wien
    141. Naveen Isarapu, South/South Movement
    142. Kate Karklina, CEU
    143. Luqman Muraina, University of York, UK
    144. Elena Stavrevska, University of Bristol
    145. Teodora Miljojkovic, CEU
    146. Héctor Ortiz Elizondo, Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, México
    147. Mara
    148. Martina Daidone, MA Student
    149. Katharina Fornetran
    150. Hani Abou Fadel, Lund University
    151. Nelly Bassily
    152. Tiffeny Jimenez, National Louis University
    153. jazlyn O’Bonsawin, Wilfrid Laurier University
    154. Gaetano Marco Latronico, Centre for Social Studies University of Coimbra
    155. Anna Maria Rosińska
    156. Geoffrey Aung, University of Vienna
    157. Ana Ivasiuc, Maynooth University
    158. Ifeanyichukwu Charles Nweke, Institute of Security & Global Affairs, Leiden University
    159. Aritra Mukherjee, University of Delhi
    160. Danna Aduna, Macquarie University
    161. Maria Khristine Alvarez, University College London
    162. Sandeep Bakshi, Université Paris Cité
    163. Sonja Riegler, University of Vienna
    164. Khushbu Sharma, Jawaharlal Nehru University
    165. Flavio Hoeck
    166. Fajar Al Hadi, CEU
    167. Dinara Satbayeva, Ceu alumni
    168. Awonke Baba, Dullar Omar Institute, South Africa
    169. Andi Shiraz, Independent Scholar / Poet
    170. Sarah Ahmad, UMass-Amherst
    171. Bahareh, Vienna University
    172. Vijay Kishor Tiwari, WBNUJS
    173. Annalee Sekulic
    174. Mathilde Gingembre, Independent academic