Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



LTE: Divest from the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema

Dear Northwestern University,

We write as a group of concerned Northwestern community members—undergraduate students, graduate workers, faculty, librarians and staff. It has come to our attention that through NU’s Israel Innovation Project, our University is an active co-sponsor of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.

Through this choice, NU joins sponsors with direct ties to the state of Israel and becomes complicit in advancing the long-standing military occupation of Palestine, ongoing dispossession of an Indigenous people and horrific genocidal violence.

The sponsorship of this festival does not align with the mission of the Israel Innovation Project which, as stated on its website, is “to advance Northwestern’s technological and scientific partnerships with Israeli institutions of higher learning.” We are, thus, concerned about the danger of institutional overreach, and we worry that this partnership is mobilized to propagandistic ends.

The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema screenings and events are being used to galvanize unquestioning support for Israel’s war on Gaza and the normalization of Israeli life and Zionist migration to the occupied lands of Palestine.

This cultural event includes works that promote narratives of Israel as a space of self-actualization for Zionists, leaving aside the inconvenient truth that such dreams are actualized upon the corpses, lands and dreams of indigenous Palestinians.

As noted by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Israel not only uses state, military, scholarly and other overt means of enforcing the ongoing occupation of Palestine. It also uses culture “as a form of propaganda to whitewash or justify its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid,” according to the BDS Movement website.

As many scholars of imperialism have noted, culture has been consistently used by settler colonial forces to refine, elevate and normalize oppressive regimes. The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema engages in this very use of culture to galvanize support for Israel amid illegal land theft, weaponized and intentional mass starvation, apartheid and genocide.

The Israel Innovation Project’s mission of partnering with Israeli universities solidifies NU’s complicity with an apartheid regime.

As Maya Wind details in her book, “Towers of Ivory and Steel: How Israeli Universities Deny Palestinian Freedom,” “all eight [Israeli] universities operate in direct service of the state and serve critical functions in sustaining its policies … (and) actively sustain Israeli settler colonialism, military occupation and apartheid, as well as their own complicity in the ongoing violation of Palestinian rights as recognized under international law.”

For decades, Israel and its universities have enacted “scholasticide,” a term coined by Karma Nabulsi in 2009 to describe attacks on Palestinian scholars, students and educational institutions, and which now includes the recent bombing and destruction of every Palestinian university in Gaza.

NU’s collaborations with Israeli universities through the Israel Innovation Project are in the areas of biology, computer science, artificial intelligence and engineering. Such technological advancements contribute to the strengthening of the Israeli military industrial complex and its capacity for surveillance and oppression of Palestinians.

Furthermore, the IIP aims to promote and enhance Israel’s water technologies and infrastructure. Meanwhile, since Oct. 7, Palestinians remain unable to access clean, desalinated water. Even before that date, Amnesty International documented that Israel prevented Palestinians from drilling new water wells and installing water pumps.

Israel has even made it illegal for Palestinians to collect rainwater. Indeed, while Israel’s water innovation is advanced by NU, such innovation elides and is built upon a long history of closing and contaminating Palestinian water sources while continuing to actively use water as a weapon of war.

We are gravely concerned about NU’s complicity with a decades-old and ongoing genocide, with the most far-reaching social, cultural, scholarly, environmental and political dimensions.

The mission of the Israel Innovation Project cannot be reconciled with that of Northwestern’s guiding principles, especially championing “access, diversity, and belonging,” while at the same time supporting the dehumanization of Palestinians and bolstering support for and collaboration with an apartheid state.

Given the festival’s primary function as propaganda in the service of the Israeli state, we call on NU to divest from the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema moving forward. We urge the University to cancel all future affiliation with the festival and to publicly denounce its past involvement. We extend our demand beyond this incident, calling on NU to dissolve the Israel Innovation Project and its associated partnerships.

Let us, as a community, innovate for peace, justice, and liberation — no innovation in

NU Educators for Justice in Palestine
NU Students for Justice in Palestine
NU Jewish Voice for Peace

Editor’s Note: This letter may not represent the views of every individual registered member of each of the 3 named organizations.

If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

More to Discover