Posts tagged with "open letter"

Open Letter From Academics in Defense of Robust Debate on History and Gravity of Israel-Hamas War

An Open Letter from Columbia University and Barnard College Faculty in Defense of Robust Debate About the History and Meaning of the War in Israel/Gaza:

   The most recent devastating violence in Israel and Gaza that began on October 7, 2023 has had very disturbing reverberations on our campus – for all of us, students, faculty, staff, and the larger Columbia community.  We write now to express grave concerns about how some of our students are being viciously targeted with doxing, public shaming, surveillance by members of our community, including other students, and reprisals from employers.  These egregious forms of harassment and efforts to chill otherwise protected speech on campus are unacceptable, and we implore every person in the Columbia University community – faculty, administrators, students, alums, public safety – to do more to protect all of our students while preserving Columbia University as a beacon for “fostering critical thinking and opening minds to different points of view,” as President Shafik wrote to the community in her October 18th message about upholding our collective values.

                As scholars who are committed to robust inquiry about the most challenging matters of our time, we feel compelled to respond to those who label our students anti-Semitic if they express empathy for the lives and dignity of Palestinians, and/or if they signed on to a student-written statement that situated the military action begun on October 7th within the larger context of the occupation of Palestine by Israel.  We have read that statement carefully, and it is worth pointing out that the arguments it makes echo those made by both governmental and non-governmental agencies and institutions at the highest level for a number of years.  

                The student statement begins with language that should satisfy any measure of decency: “The loss of a human life is a deeply painful and heartbreaking experience for loved ones, regardless of one’s affiliation. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the individuals and communities at Columbia University affected by the tragic losses experienced by both Palestinians and Israelis.”  The statement then turns to the claim that peace and safety for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine will remain elusive unless and until the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory ends and accountability for that illegal occupation is achieved.  This is not a radical or essentially controversial position – indeed, it is the position taken by many committees of the United Nations, the UN General Assembly, and respected human rights organizations.  The statement also describes the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as a form of “apartheid”, and while this term is viewed as controversial in some quarters, major human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have concluded that the occupation of Palestine and the treatment of Palestinians within Israel amount to a form of apartheid, a crime against humanity with definitions provided in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (“Apartheid Convention”) and the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Indeed, Desmond Tutu, noted South African civil rights leader who was the first Black archbishop of Cape Town, concluded in 2014 that: “[Palestinians’] humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.”  And President Jimmy Carter has expressed the view that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

                In our view, the student statement aims to recontextualize the events of October 7, 2023, pointing out that military operations and state violence did not begin that day, but rather it represented a military response by a people who had endured crushing and unrelenting state violence from an occupying power over many years.  One could regard the events of October 7th as just one salvo in an ongoing war between an occupying state and the people it occupies, or as an occupied people exercising a right to resist violent and illegal occupation, something anticipated by international humanitarian law in the Second Geneva Protocol.  In either case armed resistance by an occupied people must conform to the laws of war, which include a prohibition against the intentional targeting of civilians.  The statement reflects and endorses this legal framework, including a condemnation of the killing of civilians.

                The statement concludes with a demand that Columbia University reverse a decision to create curricular and research programs in Israel, a demand also made by over 100 Columbia faculty last year, and that the university cease issuing statements that favor the suffering and death of Israelis or Jews over the suffering and death of Palestinians, and/or that fail to recognize how challenging this time has been for all students, not just some.

                It is worth noting that not all of us agree with every one of the claims made in the students’ statement, but we do agree that making such claims cannot and should not be considered anti-Semitic.  Their merits are being debated by governmental and non-governmental agencies at the highest level, and constitute a terrain of completely legitimate political and legal debate.

                We are appalled that trucks broadcasting students’ names and images are circling the campus, identifying them individually as “Columbia’s Leading Anti-Semites”, and that some students have had offers of employment withdrawn by employers that sought to punish them for signing the student statement, or for being merely affiliated with student groups associated with the statement. In the absence of university action, students and faculty have undertaken the burden of blocking the images and identifying information broadcast on the doxxing trucks. It is worth noting that most of the students targeted by this doxing campaign are Arab, Muslim, Palestinian, or South Asian.

                One of the core responsibilities of a world-class university is to interrogate the underlying facts of both settled propositions and those that are ardently disputed.  As faculty we are committed to the project of holding discomfort and working across difference with our students.  These core academic values and purposes are profoundly undermined when our students are vilified for voicing perspectives that, while legitimately debated in other institutional settings, expose them to severe forms of harassment and intimidation at Columbia.

                We ask Columbia University’s leadership, our faculty colleagues, Columbia alumni, potential employers of Columbia students, and all who share a commitment to the notion of a just society to join us in condemning, in the strongest of terms, the vicious targeting of our students with doxing, public shaming, surveillance by members of our community, including other students, and reprisals from employers.


Katherine Franke
James L. Dohr Professor of Law

Rashid Khalidi
Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies

Gray Tuttle
Luce Professor of Modern Tibet, EALAC, Columbia

Jack Halberstam
The David Feinson Professor of the Humanities, Columbia

James Schamus
Professor of Professional Practice, School of the Arts, Columbia

Alexander Alberro
Professor, Department of Art History, Barnard College

Premilla Nadasen
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of History, Barnard College

Ralph Ghoche
Assistant Professor, Architecture, Barnard College

Karen Seeley, Lecturer
Anthropology, Columbia

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
University Professor, Columbia

Mae Ngai
Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies, Professor of History, Columbia

Michael Harris
Professor of Mathematics, Columbia

Marianne Hirsch
William Peterfield Tretn Professor Emerita, English and Comparative Literature, Institute for the Study of Sexuality and Gender, Columbia

Mahmood Mamdani
Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia

Neferti Tadiar
Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Bruno Bosteels
Professor, Latin American and Iberian Cultures, Columbia

Nico Baumbach
Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, School of the Arts, Columbia

Susan Bernofsky
Professor of Writing, Columbia School of the Arts, Columbia

Victoria de Grazia
Moore Collegiate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Columbia

Shelly Silver
Professor, Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Columbia

Frank Guridy
Dr. Kenneth and Kareitha Forde Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia

Zainab Bahrani
Edith Porada Professor Art History and Archaeology, Columbia

Susan S. Witte
Professor, School of Social Work, Columbia

Karen Van Dyck
Kimon A. Doukas Professor of Modern Greek Literature, Columbia

Najam Haider
Professor of Religion, Barnard College

Avinoam Shalem
Riggio Professor, Arts of Islam, Art History and Archaeology, Columbia

Christia Mercer
Gustave M. Berne Professor of Philosophy, Columbia

Catherine Fennell
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Columbia

Kadambari Baxi
Professor of Professional Practice, Barnard + Columbia Architecture

Reinhold Martin
Professor of Architecture, GSAPP, Columbia

Sheldon Pollock
Raghunathan Professor Emeritus, Arts and Sciences, Columbia

Robert Gooding-Williams
M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies and Professor of Philosophy and of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia

Partha Chatterjee
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and MESAAS, Columbia

Mana Kia
Associate Professor, MESAAS, Columbia

Katharina Pistor
Edwin B. Parker Professor of Comparative Law, Columbia Law School

Martha Howell
Miriam Champion Professor of History, Emerita, Columbia University Arts and Sciences

Elizabeth Hutchinson
Associate Professor of Art History, Barnard College

Madeleine Dobie
Professor of French & Comparative Literature, Columbia

Natasha Lightfoot
Associate Professor, History, Columbia

Brian Boyd
Senior Lecturer in Anthropology & Co-Director of the Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia

David Scott
Department of Anthropology, Columbia

Bette Gordon
Professor, School of the Arts/Film

Lila Abu-Lughod
Anthropology, Columbia

Yannik Thiem
Department of Religion, Columbia

Debbie Becher
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Barnard College

Nadia Abu El-Haj
Anthropology, Barnard College

Barbara J. Fields
William R. Shepherd Professor of History, Columbia

Shayoni Mitr
Senior Lecturer, Department of Theatre, Barnard College

Josh Whitford
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Columbia

Celia Naylor
Professor, Africana Studies and History Departments, Barnard College

Teresa Sharpe
Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Columbia

Gauri Viswanathan
Class of 1933 Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Pablo Piccato
Professor of History, Columbia

Hannah Chazin
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Columbia

Nara Milanich
Professor, History, Barnard College

Manijeh Moradian
Assistant Professor, WGSS, Barnard College

Adam Reich
Associate Professor, Columbia Sociology

Gregory Mann
Professor, History, Columbia

Mary McLeod
Professor of Architecture, Columbia

Joseph Slaughter
Associate Professor, English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Jennifer Wenzel
Professor, English & Comparative Literature and MESAAS, Columbia

Lydia H. Liu
Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities, Columbia

Hiba Bou Akar
Associate Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia

Jean Howard
George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities, Emerita, Columbia

Sarah Haley
Associate Professor of Gender Studies and History, Columbia

Richard Peña
Professor of Film and Media Studies, Columbia

D. Max Moerman
Professor, Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, Barnard College

Stathis Gourgouris
Professor of Classics, English, Comparative Literature & Society, Columbia

Bruce Robbins
English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Anupama Rao
History, Barnard College

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
Assistant Professor, Architecture, Barnard College

Jonathan Crary
Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Art History, Columbia

Rebecca Jordan-Young
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Gregory M. Pflugfelder
Associate Professor of Japanese History, Columbia

Tey Meadow
Associate Professor of Sociology, Columbia

Seth J. Prins
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Sociomedical Sciences

Elizabeth Bernstein
Professor and Chair, WGSS and Professor of Sociology, Barnard College

Wael Hallaq
Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia

Jo Ann Cavallo
Professor and Chair, Italian, Columbia

Zoë Crossland
Professor of Anthropology, Columbia

Paige West
Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Gregory Mann
Professor, History, Columbia

Paul Chamberlin
Associate Professor, History, Columbia

Joseph Albernaz
Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Lien-Hang Nguyen
Dorothy Borg Associate Professor, History, Columbia

Marisa Solomon
Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Barnard College

Bernard E. Harcourt
Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor,  Columbia Law School

Vanessa Agard-Jones
Anthropology, Columbia University

Nina Berman
Professor, Columbia Journalism School

Brent Hayes Edwards
Peng Family Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Jafari Sinclaire Allen
Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia

Hamid Dabashi
Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Adam Tooze
Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of History, Columbia

Alberto Medina
Professor, LAIC, Columbia

Emanuel Admassu
Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia

Glenn Mitoma
Lecturer in the Discipline, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia

Louisa Gilbert
Professor School of Social Work, Columbia

Wayne Proudfoot
Professor Emeritus, Religion, Columbia

David Rosner
Co-Director, Center for the History & Ethics of Public Health, Columbia

Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology & Gender Studies, Columbia

Ashraf Ahmed
Associate Professor, Columbia Law School

Jackie Dugard
Senior Lecturer, ISHR, Columbia        

Amelia Herbert
Assistant Professor, Education and Urban Studies, Barnard College        

Patricia Dailey
Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia

Alex Watson
Lecturer, Barnard College

Mabel O. Wilson
Architecture, GSAPP and Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, Columbia        

Tom Slater
Professor of Urban Planning, Columbia                

Kim Phillips-Fein
Professor of History, Columbia

Joseph A. Howley
Associate Professor of Classics and Paul Brooke Program Chair for Literature Humanities, Columbia                

Walter Frisch
Gumm/von Tilzer Professor of Music, Columbia                

James Yeh
Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of the Arts, Columbia

Marc Van De Mieroop
Miriam Champion Professor of History, Columbia University Arts and Sciences    

Timothy Mitchell
Professor, MESAAS, Columbia  

Bahia Munem
Lecturer Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race (CSER)            

Camille Robcis
Professor of French & History, Columbia

Tom Kalin
Professor of Professional Practice, Film Program, Columbia    

Hugo Sarmiento
Assistant Professor, Urban Planning GSAPP, Columbia

Claudio Lomnitz
Professor of Anthropology, Columbia

Nina Berman
Professor, Columbia Journalism School            

Thea Renda Abu El-Haj
Professor of Education, Barnard College    

Harold Stolper
Lecturer, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia    

J. Blake Turner, Ph.D.
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia        

Helen Benedict
Professor, Columbia Journalism School           

Samuel Kelton Roberts
History, Sociomedical Sciences, & AAADS, Columbia        

Ayten Gundogdu
Associate Professor of Political Science, Barnard College        

Asim Ansari
Professor, Columbia Business School    

Katryn Evinson, Ph.D.
Core Lecturer, Columbia

Nina Alvarez
Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School    

Frederik Denef
Professor of Physics, Columbia        

Kamel Jedidi
Professor of Business, Columbia Business School

Daniel Malinsky, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia

Sharon Schwartz
Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia

Joseph Massad
Professor, MESAAS, Columbia

A. Kayum Ahmed
Assistant Professor, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Marwa Elshakry
History, Columbia

Marcus Folch
Associate Professor of Classics, Columbia

Victoria Frye
Professor, School of Social Work, Columbia

Kristele Younes
Lecturer in Humanitarian Policy and Practice, Columbia

Joanne Bauer
Adjunct Professor, SIPA, Columbia

Daniel Naujoks
Lecturer in International and Public Affairs, Director, International Organization and UN Studies, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Columbia

Aftab Ahmad
Senior Lecturer, Hindi-Urdu, MESAAS, Columbia

Nora Gross
Assistant Professor of Education, Barnard College            

Prantik Saha, MD MPH
Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Christine Marrewa
Lecturer in South Asian Studies, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia

Sabrina Hermosilla
Assistant Professor, Heilbrunn Department on Population and Family Health, Columbia

Jeffrey Fagan
Isidor & Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia          

Ross Hamilton
Professor of English, Barnard College            

Ateya Khorakiwala
Assistant Professor GSAPP Columbia            

Homa Zarghamee
Associate Professor and Chair of Economics, Barnard College            

Duygu Ula Lecturer
Barnard College            

Tim Wyman-McCarthy
Associate in the Discipline, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia            

Meredith Benjamin
Lecturer, Barnard College            

Cecelia Lie-Spahn
Associate Director of First-Year Writing and Lecturer in English, Barnard College            

Laura Perez
Adjunct Professor, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia            

Joey De Jesus
Associate of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia; Adjunct Lecturer, Barnard College          

Daniel Alarcón
Assistant Professor, Columbia Journalism School            

Zeynep Celik
Sakip Sabanci Visiting Professor, History            

Kim F. Hall
Lucyle Hook Professor of English and Professor of Africana Studies, Barnard College            

Elizabeth Leake
Professor, Italian, Columbia            

Courtney Cogburn
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Columbia            

Tim Wyman-McCarthy
Associate in the Discipline, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia            

Ruth Mukwana
Adjunct Professor, Columbia            

Chazelle Rhoden
Anthropology, Columbia            

Audra Simpson
Professor, Department of Anthropology, Columbia        

Kendall Thomas
Nash Professor of Law, Columbia        

Thanassis Cambanis
Adjunct Professor, Columbia SIPA            

Abigail Greenleaf
Assistant Professor, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia

Jon Kessler
Professor of Visual Arts, Columbia

Michael Wessells
Professor Emeritus, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia

Jhumpa Lahiri
Millicent C. McIntosh Professor of English, Director, Creative Writing Program, Affiliated Faculty, Department of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies and Program in Italian, Senior Fellow, The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University

Isabel Huacuja Alonso
Assistant Professor, Department  of Middle Eastern, South Asian & African Studies, Columbia

Laila AbdelSalam
Instructor of Medical Psychology, Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Natalie Adler, Lecturer
University Writing Program, Columbia    

Betsy Apple
Adjunct Professor, International Human Rights Law, SIPA, Columbia

Illan Gonen
Lecturer, MESAAS, Columbia    

June Cross
Fred W. Friendly Professor of Media and Society, Columbia Journalism School    

Brittany Koffer
Core Lecturer, Philosophy Department, Columbia    

Nina Sharma
Adjunct Associate Professor, Barnard College English;  Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia UG writing    

Isabel Ortiz
Consultant, Writing Center, Columbia        



November 9, 2023

Israel’s devastating bombing campaign and media blockade in Gaza threatens newsgathering in an unprecedented fashion. We are running out of time.

More than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s four-week siege. Included in the mounting death toll are at least 36 journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, in what the group calls the deadliest conflict for journalists since it began tracking deaths in 1992. Scores more have been injured, detained, gone missing or seen their family members killed.  As reporters, editors, photographers, producers, and other workers in newsrooms around the world, we are appalled at the slaughter of our colleagues and their families by the Israeli military and government.

We are writing to urge an end to violence against journalists in Gaza and to call on Western newsroom leaders to be clear-eyed in coverage of Israel’s repeated atrocities against Palestinians. Reporters in the besieged Gaza Strip are contending with extensive power outages, food and water shortages and a breakdown of the medical system. They have been killed while visibly working as press, as well as at night in their homes. An investigation from Reporters Without Borders also shows deliberate targeting of journalists during two Oct. 13 Israeli strikes in South Lebanon, which killed Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah and injured six other journalists.

Reporters’ families have been killed, too. Wael Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief and a household name in the Arab world, learned on-air Oct. 25 that his wife, children, and other relatives had been killed in an Israeli airstrike. A Nov. 5 strike on the home of journalist Mohammad Abu Hassir of Wafa News Agency killed him and 42 family members. Israel has blocked foreign press entry, heavily restricted telecommunications and bombed press offices. Some 50 media headquarters in Gaza have been hit in the past month. Israeli forces explicitly warned newsrooms they “cannot guarantee” the safety of their employees from airstrikes. Taken with a decades-long pattern of lethally targeting journalists, Israel’s actions show wide scale suppression of speech.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has urged Western journalists to publicly condemn the targeting of journalists. “[We] call on our fellow journalists around the world to take action to stop the horrifying bombardment of our people in Gaza,” the group said on Oct. 31 in a published statement.

We are heeding that call. 

We stand with our colleagues in Gaza and herald their brave efforts at reporting in the midst of carnage and destruction. Without them, many of the horrors on the ground would remain invisible.  We join press associations including Reporters Without Borders, the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association and the International Federation of Journalists in demanding an explicit commitment from Israel to end the violence against journalists and other civilians. Western newsrooms benefit tremendously from the work of Gazan journalists and must take immediate steps to call for their protection.

We also hold Western newsrooms accountable for dehumanizing rhetoric that has served to justify ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Double-standards, inaccuracies and fallacies abound in American publications and have been well-documented. More than 500 journalists signed an open letter in 2021 outlining concerns that U.S. media outlets ignore Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Yet the call for fair coverage has gone unanswered. Newsrooms have instead undermined Palestinian, Arab and Muslim perspectives, dismissing them as unreliable and have invoked inflammatory language that reinforces Islamophobic and racist tropes. They have printed misinformation spread by Israeli officials and failed to scrutinize indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza — committed with the support of the U.S. government.

Since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, in which more than 1,200 Israelis, including four journalists, were killed and some 240 others captured, these issues have compounded. News coverage has positioned the attack as the starting point of the conflict without offering necessary historical context — that Gaza is a de facto prison of refugees from historic Palestine, that Israel’s occupation is illegal under international law, and that Palestinians are bombarded and massacred regularly by the Israeli government.

U.N. experts have warned they are “convinced that the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide,” yet Western outlets remain hesitant to quote genocide experts and accurately describe the existential threat unfolding in Gaza.

This is our job: to hold power to account. Otherwise we risk becoming accessories to genocide.

We are renewing the call for journalists to tell the full truth without fear or favor. To use precise terms that are well-defined by international human rights organizations, including “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” To recognize that contorting our words to hide evidence of war crimes or Israel’s oppression of Palestinians is journalistic malpractice and an abdication of moral clarity.

The urgency of this moment cannot be overstated. It is imperative that we change course.


Writers of the letter are a group of U.S.-based reporters at both local and national newsrooms. Some members of the group were also involved in a 2021 open letter outlining concerns with U.S. media coverage of Palestine.

Editor’s Note: Writers Against The War on Gaza issued a statement of solidarity on October 26, 2023: Writers Against the War on Gaza (WAWOG) is an ad hoc coalition committed to solidarity and the horizon of liberation for the Palestinian people. Drawing together writers, editors, and other culture workers, WAWOG hopes to provide ongoing infrastructure for cultural organizing in response to the war. This project is modeled on American Writers Against the Vietnam War, an organization founded in 1965.

Message from Israeli journalist:


Open letter to President Biden: we call for a ceasefire now

, Ben Lerner,  and others

We are a group of Jewish American writers, artists and academics. We oppose what the Israeli government is doing with US assistance

President Joe Biden:

We are a group of Jewish American writers, artists and academics. Being Jewish means different things to all of us, but we all have at least one Jewish parent, which means we could move to Israel and qualify for Israeli citizenship.

We condemn attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians. We believe it is possible and in fact necessary to condemn Hamas’ actions and acknowledge the historical and ongoing oppression of the Palestinians. We believe it is possible and necessary to condemn Hamas’ attack and take a stand against the collective punishment of Gazans that is unfolding and accelerating as we write.

Cutting off resources to more than 2 million people, demanding families flee their homes in the north, indiscriminately bombing a trapped population – these are war crimes and indefensible actions. And yet the United States government is offering “moral” and material support for the dehumanization and murder of innocent Gazans. We write to publicly declare our opposition to what the Israeli government is doing with American assistance. We call on the US government to seek an immediate ceasefire and to use our resources towards providing aid ensuring the safe return of hostages and building a diplomatic path towards peace.

As Jews, as Americans, we will be made to feel a sense of safety in our communities, and in the world, not by unequivocal US support for Israel, but by our government’s insistence on the universal human rights that so many of us take for granted.

Timo Andres

Annie Baker

Timo Andres

Annie Baker

Susan Bernofsky

Judith Butler

Michael Chabon

Deborah Eisenberg

Madeleine George

Masha Gessen

Francisco Goldman

Andre Gregory

Nan Goldin

Alena Graedon

Amy Herzog

Marianne Hirsch

Gabriel Kahane

Cindy Klein

David Klion

Lisa Kron

Rachel Kushner

Tony Kushner

Ben Lerner

Jonathan Lethem

Sam Lipsyte

Zachary Lockman

Kenneth Lonergan

Andrew Marantz

Ben Marcus

David Naimon

Benjamin Nugent

Howard Rodman

Dana Sachs

Ira Sachs

Lynne Sachs

James Schamus

Adam Shatz

Wallace Shawn

Leo Spitzer

V (formerly known as Eve Ensler)

Paula Vogel

Ayelet Waldman

Laura Wexler

Hannah Zeavin


Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter

We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.

March 22, 2023

AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research[1] and acknowledged by top AI labs.[2] As stated in the widely-endorsed Asilomar AI Principles, Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.

Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks,[3] and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system’s potential effects. OpenAI’s recent statement regarding artificial general intelligence, states that “At some point, it may be important to get independent review before starting to train future systems, and for the most advanced efforts to agree to limit the rate of growth of compute used for creating new models.” We agree. That point is now.

Therefore, we call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4. This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.

AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.[4] This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities.

AI research and development should be refocused on making today’s powerful, state-of-the-art systems more accurate, safe, interpretable, transparent, robust, aligned, trustworthy, and loyal.

In parallel, AI developers must work with policymakers to dramatically accelerate development of robust AI governance systems. These should at a minimum include: new and capable regulatory authorities dedicated to AI; oversight and tracking of highly capable AI systems and large pools of computational capability; provenance and watermarking systems to help distinguish real from synthetic and to track model leaks; a robust auditing and certification ecosystem; liability for AI-caused harm; robust public funding for technical AI safety research; and well-resourced institutions for coping with the dramatic economic and political disruptions (especially to democracy) that AI will cause.

Humanity can enjoy a flourishing future with AI. Having succeeded in creating powerful AI systems, we can now enjoy an “AI summer” in which we reap the rewards, engineer these systems for the clear benefit of all, and give society a chance to adapt. Society has hit pause on other technologies with potentially catastrophic effects on society.[5]  We can do so here. Let’s enjoy a long AI summer, not rush unprepared into a fall.

We have prepared some FAQs in response to questions and discussion in the media and elsewhere. You can find them here.