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Disagreement over Israel-Hamas war stirred up at UMass Amherst

 The UMass campus overlooking academic buildings and the W.E.B. Du Bois library [far left].
Nirvani Williams
The UMass campus overlooking academic buildings and the W.E.B. Du Bois library [far left].

A group of nearly 270 people who study or work at the University of Massachusetts Amherst sent a letter to the chancellor Thursday condemning a statement by the graduate student union expressing solidarity with Palestine.

The Graduate Employee Organization, local 2322 of the United Auto Workers, posted on its website, that the current conflict in Israel is rooted in the "violent colonial occupation of Palestine by Israeli settlers." The union urged the university to take a stance.

The union's post did not address the killing or kidnapping of Israelis by Hamas.

Heather Kumove was part of the group that wrote the chancellor. She is a graduate student in the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at UMass and is a citizen of both the U.S. and Israel.

Kumove is also a member of the Graduate Student Union, but only found out about the union's statement after it was posted. She said she was shocked the GEO didn't take a position on the violation of human rights.

"It's immoral. Like, how can anybody take a stance that's in favor of the murder of innocent lives, of babies, of elderly people?" she said.

The union did not respond to a request for an interview.

In an email to Kumove, Chancellor Javier Reyes wrote the views expressed by the union "do not reflect the views or values of the university."

Reyes said in a statement posted on the UMass website that he is hopeful "those individuals who hold opposing views on the causes of the conflict can work toward greater understanding rather than division.”

A UMass spokesperson said the school is committed to freedom of speech.

Note: The license for NEPM’s main radio signal is held by UMass Amherst. The newsroom operates independently.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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