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U.S.-Israel Center on Innovation and Economic Sustainability

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this open letter belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of all faculty or staff of the Rady School of Management or UC San Diego.

A Response to UC San Diego’s Ethnic Studies Department's Statement Following Hamas’ Attack on Israeli Citizens

In 2012, the Rady School founded the US-Israel Center on Innovation and Economic Sustainability (USIC). In the decade since, we have led two types of immersion programs. The first consists of a visit to Israel, during which students learn about the history of the region and meet Jewish and Arab public figures, company founders, and nonprofit employees. The second brings Jewish and Arab students from five Israeli universities to learn about San Diego’s innovative eco-system. In both programs, we discuss the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. As past participants of these programs will testify, we always end that discussion with a sigh. The conflict is substantially more nuanced and complex than the oversimplified and increasingly popular perspective of good versus bad.

However, some events in this historical conflict are unequivocally evil and unjustifiable from any moral perspective. We witnessed one such moment a few weeks ago when pure evil knocked on the doors of many Israeli families.

On Saturday, October 7, 2023, at 6:30 AM, Hamas - a terrorist organization - launched a vicious attack against Israeli civilians and residents. Among other atrocities, Hamas militants tortured babies and children in front of their parents, raped young girls and women in front of their loved ones before beheading them, and burned entire families alive. These are facts, not opinions.

I am writing this open letter in response to a statement released by UC San Diego’s Ethnic Studies Department (ESD), supporting “...the unequivocal right of Palestine and of the Palestinian people to self-determination” and basic human rights.

I acknowledge the right of ESD’s leadership to express its opinions. At the same time, as an academic institution, it is also responsible for providing its students, faculty, staff, supporters, and the greater community with truthful, factual, and unbiased information. Here are some ways that the ESD’s statement failed to do so.

  1. Failing to mention the gruesome context leading to Israel’s siege on Gaza depicts its actions as unprovoked aggressions. The casualties of Hamas’ attack on 10/7/2023 include over 1400 fatalities (280 of which cannot be identified as they are missing key organs such as heads and arms or were burnt), and 220 hostages held in Gaza, including holocaust survivors, babies, infants, and individuals with disabilities.
  1. Israel left Gaza in 2005. Hamas took over Gaza in 2007. Since then:
    • Hamas (not Israel) is responsible for the well-being and safety of Gaza residents. According to Amnesty, it is failing (see also the 2022 Amnesty Report). Hamas has committed human rights violations, including restrictions on freedom of expression, arbitrary arrests, harassment, and torture that sometimes even lead to death in custody.
    • Israel allowed Gaza residents to cross the border into Israel so they could work and provide for their families.
    • Thousands of Gaza residents received medical care in Israeli hospitals, including the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh, one of Hamas’ leaders, who was hospitalized at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in 2014.
    • Israeli citizens, many of whom were murdered on 10/7/2023, volunteered to drive Gaza residents requiring medical care in Israel, and their families, from the border and back.
  1. In its statement, the ESD references a Jewish organization – Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)- presumably to show that even Jewish people stand with Palestine and against Israel. The problem? JVP is an anti-Zionist (i.e., anti-Israel) organization. It is unlikely that choosing to reference JVP was an honest mistake, given that the number of anti-Zionist Jewish Organizations is minuscule.
  1. Similar to [3] above, Representative Rashida Tlaib is not a random politician, but rather someone who is well-known for her extreme antisemitic views.

Final Thoughts

The Department of Ethnic Studies’ failure to mention the massacre and atrocities that took place in Israel on 10/7/2023 is offensive, not just to Israelis and Jews worldwide, but to humanity as a whole. It fails to acknowledge that Israelis, too, have the “unequivocal right” to self-determination and freedom from violence and that Hamas ripped that freedom away from both Gazans and Israelis that Saturday morning.

The Department of Ethnic Studies speaks of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying, “No person, no child anywhere, should have to suffer or live in fear of violence.” At the same time, ESD’s statement doesn’t mention the many hostages, including babies as young as 9-month-old Kfir Bibas and as old as 85-year-old Yaffa Adar, that Hamas brutally snatched from their homes. This differential empathy for human suffering is alarming.

As an academic institution, we are tasked with basing our statements on facts. The statement released by UC San Diego’s Ethnic Studies Department is a partial, misleading, single-sided statement.

I’m sad about the loss of innocent lives, regardless of race, gender, age, religion, or nationality. That includes the lives of innocent Palestinians.

Any genuine hope for a better world requires that we first reject—not accept or endorse, passively or actively—terror organizations.

On a personal note, I have spent most of my waking hours since 10/7/2023 crying. Every day brings more testimonies, evidence, images, and videos that the human mind cannot accept. If it did, we would forever lose hope for a better and brighter future on Earth. A couple of days ago, after my son told me that I’d “changed,” I paused and realized I was drowning in sorrow. In addition to the unbearable horrors, I am saddened and disheartened by the evident lack of interest in knowing the facts and by extreme expressions of hatred toward Jewish people just because they are Jewish. I grew up surrounded by holocaust survivors, holocaust testimonies, books, etc. I never imagined that such an atmosphere would be allowed again. I take some solace in the fact that my parents have long passed and don’t need to witness how quickly the world forgot.

Ayelet Gneezy

The Carol Lazier and Family Endowed Chair in Social Innovation and Impact
Professor of Behavioral Sciences and Marketing
Co-founder and Faculty Director, USIC


The USIC at the Rady School of Management is committed to pursuing its efforts to create economic bridges between the United States and Israeli firms, organizations, and individuals across religions and faiths and to elevating important conversations beyond simplistic, divisive statements.

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The U.S.-Israel Center on Innovation and Economic Sustainability (U.S.-Israel Center) is focused on long-term economic success in Israel, the United States, and beyond.

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Rady students travel to Israel to learn about the Israeli market and culture while interacting with local industry experts and policy makers.

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