Monday, June 04, 2007

Academic Boycott of Israel

Shalom Lappin, writing in Normblog about the recent vote by the University and College Union in Britain, makes several useful points that I haven't seen elsewhere.

First of all, contrary to the statements put out by Sally Hunt, who is the Secretary General of the UCU, the recent vote has committed the UCU to sponsor the boycott call put out by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. It is quite instructive to read the full statement to learn what the UCU has committed itself to (my notes are in italics):

Whereas Israel’s colonial oppression of the Palestinian people, which is based on Zionist ideology, comprises the following:

· Denial of its responsibility for the Nakba - in particular the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem - and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees and displaced stipulated in and protected by international law; [Note: this statement avoids any mention of Arab responsibility for the war against Israel in 1948]

· Military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967, in violation of international law and UN resolutions; [Note: again, this statement avoids any mention of how this occupation came to be, as a direct result of the 1967 war]

· The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa; [Note: the Palestinian citizens of Israel, unlike the Black and Colored citizens of South Africa, have the right to vote and have elected members to the Israeli Knesset; Arabs have served in several Israeli governments, including the present one, which includes the first Arab Muslim of the government. It is certainly true, in my opinion, that Palestinian citizens of Israel are often discriminated against, and Israel Arab cities and towns have been scandalously underfunded over the history of Israel - but this is by no means apartheid ]

Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence, [To me, this is the most astonishing statement of the entire text - Israeli academics have been among the most prominent leaders of Peace Now, Gush Shalom, and other groups seeking to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and many Israeli professors are members of such groups and have demonstrated and otherwise been involved in activism to end the occupation. Not to know this is simply to be out of touch with reality]

Given that all forms of international intervention have until now failed to force Israel to comply with international law or to end its repression of the Palestinians, which has manifested itself in many forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton destruction and the racist colonial wall,

In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott,

Recognizing that the growing international boycott movement against Israel has expressed the need for a Palestinian frame of reference outlining guiding principles,

In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

As Lappin says, this boycott call is essentially an extension of the Arab League boycott of Israel. "It is an integral part of a rejectionist programme to dismantle Israel as a country." The Arab boycott began not in 1948, with the establishment of Israel, but in 1945, "as a boycott of the Jewish businesses, goods, and services of the Yishuv (the Jewish community) in Palestine. That it was instituted several years prior to the creation of Israel and the 1948 war, which generated the Palestinian refugee problem, clearly demonstrates that this boycott was directed at a politically autonomous Jewish collectivity in Palestine, rather than against any particular government policy or action." He goes on to say that

The primary purpose of the boycott campaign is not to change Israeli government policy but to undermine the legitimacy of Israel as a country. It aims to isolate, not its political leaders and policy makers, but its people as a whole. It is, then, a form of branding which seeks to mark a group of people as social outcasts. The main damage that it does is to provide cover for acts of blatant discrimination against Israeli academics, committed by individual researchers acting as journal editors, conference organizers, tenure or appointment consultants, and in similar roles. We have seen several high profile cases of such individual boycott actions within the UK over the past seven years. This trend is likely to gather momentum if the boycott campaign continues unchecked.

Lappin also discusses why it is inappropriate to equate Israel with apartheid South Africa (I have spelled out one argument above). It is worth reading the entire article to learn why the movement to institute an academic boycott of Israel is so dangerous. It is not merely a way of criticizing the actions of the Israeli government, or of calling for the end of the occupation (a goal that I fully support!) - it is a way to delegitimize Israel and declare it a criminal state.

1 comment:

  1. why the hell would you want to boycott the very institutions in israel that have been most curagous and brave to actually voice their dissent against what their national is doing.

    the israeli academics have always been known to divulge away from their nations politics... and you want to boycott them??

    no wonder palestine is so fucked up