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Video transcript: Our community and the violence in Israel and Gaza

MIT President Sally Kornbluth

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Good afternoon, everyone –

Since Saturday, perhaps like many of you, I’ve been absorbed by the shocking news and immense, escalating tragedy in Israel and Gaza. Beyond the headlines, the news has also come to me through anguished letters from MIT students, staff and faculty, some of whom I had the chance to speak with in person. 

I know that I cannot speak for every individual at MIT. But I feel I must tell you what I see – and share serious concerns I have for us as a community.

The brutality perpetrated on innocent civilians in Israel by terrorists from Hamas is horrifying. In my opinion, such a deliberate attack on civilians can never be justified. And now we are bracing for a prolonged conflict that will also gravely harm or kill many innocent Palestinians in Gaza. The suffering and destruction of human life are intolerable.

Yet because nothing I say will affect the outcome of this conflict, I want to focus where we can make a direct, positive difference – in caring for each other, supporting members of our own community and making sure that, in the terrible heat of this moment, we do not lose our bearings and our values.

I hope we can all join in offering our deepest sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones and all those who now fear for the lives of their friends and family in the region. Simple gestures of compassion and kindness can be incredibly important for people in the midst of such overwhelming suffering and uncertainty. 

More darkly, however, in letters and conversations, a number of students have told me that because of their Jewish faith, or their ties to Israel, they feel unsafe on our campus, and I’m also aware of Palestinian students who fear being targeted. 

That should trouble every one of us deeply. 

MIT must continue to be a place where “we cherish free expression, debate and dialogue in pursuit of truth.” But antisemitism and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred are corrosive, and they’re poisonous to our community. We all fear that the violence in Israel and Gaza will intensify; together, we must ensure that the rhetoric on our own campus does not escalate to the point of personal attacks, harassment or violence. 

We are here to pursue a great mission together. We all have an interest in being part of a community in which we can feel safe. And we all have a role in sustaining it.

Thank you.