Dialogue vs. BDS? Responding to arguments against an academic boycott of Israel

A school damaged by an Israeli attack during Operation Protective Edge, in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. Photo: Activestills.org
A school damaged by an Israeli attack during Operation Protective Edge, in Shujaiyeh neighborhood, east of Gaza City, September 4, 2014. Photo: Activestills.org

by Ben White

On Tuesday, October 27, a full-page advertisement appeared in The Guardian, announcing the support of more than 300 UK-based scholars for an academic boycott of Israel. A week on, the list of supporters had grown to some 600.

Criticism from the usual suspects was immediate, with condemnation by the Israeli embassy in London, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC). Opponents of the boycott also expressed themselves in various op-ed columns and on The Guardian’s letters page.

Here I will suggest responses to the most common arguments advanced by critics of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and specifically its academic component.

What we need is dialogue – boycotts are counterproductive

This is one of the most common arguments heard against the academic boycott. It was found on The Guardian’s letters page, and voiced by the Israeli embassy, who claimed that “divisive boycott initiatives…serve only to sow hatred, alienating the sides rather than promoting coexistence.”

According to Rabbi Janner-Klausner in The Telegraph, “stamping out academic dialogue may feel cathartic, but it prevents the dialogue desperately needed to solve the present situation in Israel, and to satisfy the need for Palestinian self-determination.”

This kind of argument is based on a misunderstanding of both the nature of the academic boycott (it is not about ending conversations), as well as what is required to end the ‘conflict’ (the answer is not more conversations). Continua a leggere


Palestinian Universities under Occupation: European academics delegation report

The following report was issued in July 2015 by an eight-member delegation organized by the European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI), which visited seven Palestinian universities in April 2015. The full report text is below, or you can download a PDF of the report.

Palestinian Universities under Occupation

This Report was prepared by a delegation representing the European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI) who visited seven Palestinian universities and academies in April 2015. The delegation consisted of 8 academics from 5 countries. The delegation is grateful to the many faculty members and administrators of those institutions who made the visit possible.

Summary of Findings

The delegation was unable to visit all of Palestine’s institutions of higher education, and in particular it was prevented from visiting Gaza’s universities by the Israeli blockade. However, it found a consistent pattern across all the universities that it visited, and by their systemic nature it is reasonable to assume that this pattern applies to all of them.

This pattern was of a coherent and multi-faceted policy of Israeli interference with the normal functioning of academic life. This interference inhibits free movement of staff and students ; reduces academic effectiveness and productivity by the usurpation of staff time through mobility restrictions and imposed bureaucratic obstacles ; prevents effective collaboration and sharing of intellectual resources between Palestinian universities ; obstructs international visits to Palestinian universities ; substantially prevents the employment of teaching staff from abroad ; interrupts the supply of equipment, materials and books ; and subjects staff and students to repeated humiliations and indignity. Continua a leggere

PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel (Revised July 2014)

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

Being the part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) tasked with overseeing the academic and cultural boycott aspects of BDS, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has advocated, since 2004, for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.  This is based on the fact that these institutions are deeply complicit in the Israeli system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law, or has hampered their exercise of these rights, including academic freedom and the right to education.

Academic institutions are a key part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people [1].  Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, the Israeli academy is profoundly implicated in supporting and perpetuating Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian rights [2].

The institutional academic boycott that PACBI is calling for has been endorsed by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE), is in line with the CHE’s authoritative call for “non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities” [3], and is supported by thePalestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE). Continua a leggere

Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS

BDS Movement
BDS Movement

Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights

One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal; Israel continues its construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision. Thirty eight years into Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continues to expand Jewish colonies. It has unilaterally annexed occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and is now de facto annexing large parts of the West Bank by means of the Wall. Israel is also preparing – in the shadow of its lanned redeployment from the Gaza Strip – to build and expand colonies in the West Bank. Fifty seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners, a majority of Palestinians are refugees, most of whom are stateless. Moreover, Israel’s entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Arab-Palestinian citizens remains intact. Continua a leggere

Palestinian Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel

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;
  • Military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967, in violation of international law and UN resolutions;
  • The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa;

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,

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, Continua a leggere