As educators of conscience, we have been unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions.
Accordingly, in response to the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and by more than 500 Israeli citizens to foreign embassies in Tel Aviv, we call for:
(1) Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine;
(2) Advocating a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
(3) Promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
(4) Working toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
(5) Supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.
The above is part of the press release for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which you all must have heard of by now.
The global BDS movement against the Apartheid State of Israel has been growing stronger by the day, and of course the war crimes committed in Gaza have only added to activists’ determination to make it work. The US campaign is the latest addition to this global campaign and the other big news from the US is the decision by Hampshire College to divest from companies which support the Israeli millitary.Â And don’t be fooled by the administration’s comments trying to distance itself from any political implications, read SJP’s response here.
Even amongst the sincere pro-Palestinian activists/intellectual community, there has been an ongoing discussion on the success and merit of the BDS movement from a moral and strategic stand point. Does BDS cause more harm than good? Is is justifiable? Is it the best way to raise awareness of the conflict? Does it promote peace and understanding?…etc Of course, the recent developments in the US have generated even more questions and opinions.
Jewish Peace News (great source of news and analysis – definately worth subscribing to!) recently hosted an excellent discussion on the topic, providing room for activists to voice their opinions, across the spectrum. Plenty of food for thought and interesting arguments to consider from both points of views.Â Excerpts from particularly interesting opinions below, followed by my own:
Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel’s continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza, and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel’s blockading of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind. Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state economic and military power. And US media, institutions and official policy have gone along with all this.
To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from individuals struggling against the policies of that state. So, in continued solidarity with the Palestinian people’s long resistance, and also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers, intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the means and ends of the Occupation, I have signed my name to this call.
Such an academic boycott will do little to advance the cause of political change it seeks. It will inflame public opinion against its proponents and will foreclose the kind of intellectual exchange needed now. It will also paradoxically bar the very forms of internal Israeli intellectual dissent it should be promoting. Moreover, it sanctimoniously over-emphasizes the historical role of intellectuals in struggles for political freedom.
— Lincoln Shlensky (JPN editor)
Â Lincoln Shlensky contends that the boycott campaign in the UK has been a failure. While it is clearly true that there is not, as yet, a national boycott the campaign for the boycott has focussed the attention of many people in the UK, academics and others, on the relationship between Israeli universities and the state and the armed and security forces. This has produced growing resonance, and this has accelerated markedly since the start of the latest Israeli assault on Gaza. While it is also true that thishas mobilised opposition, this is because they saw the boycott call as a real threat to be mobilised against and not safely ignored like many of our previous campaigns.
The efforts of the [British] boycott campaign have severely embarrassed the EU in its attempts to widen ever further trade and research links with Israel. Now the Green and Socialist groups at the European Parliament have come out againstÂ further extension to Israeli privileges and stalled the latest proposals.
Â The UK example has stirred boycott action in many European countries and in the US and Canada. Even more importantly when I visited the West Bank and Gaza at the end of last year civil society groups unanimously demanded that we step up BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, activities and in particular praised BRICUP for its pressure on Israeli Universities. Their plea was to end Israel’s sense of impunity and they saw the ending of normal relations with Israeli Universities as the leading weapon in this.
–Mike Cushman (member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)
My humble opinion: it’s obvious for anyone reading this blog the stance the author takes on BDS. I believe it is not only morally justified, but also strategically necessary. Besides the fact that Palestinians activisits, academics, intellectuals, and peace organizations have come together and issued a call for this boycott, to which the rest of the sane world can only respond with respect and solidarity, there is one other key issue in my mind. For those whoÂ criticize the cultural/academic/consumer boycott and divestment campaignÂ for targeting Israeli academics, businessmen, and the Israeli society in general, I say that it is precisely that which is needed. It is time the Israeli society realized that whether they like it or not, by not speaking out against the occupation they are taking part in it. By voting for politicians who wage wars against civilian populations, by sending their kids to be part of the occupier’s army (sorry, defense force!), by continuing their lives as if the Palestinian neighbours didn’t even exist or didn’t deserve to exist, they have brought this on to themselves. It is about time the Israeli society takes responsibility for the decades of oppression in which it has been directly involved. It is time for the world community to hold the Israeli society, and its government, responsible.