A Call For The Academic Boycott Of Israel.

Update: 14th January, 2017.

1. This year it will be 70 years ago, in 1947, that the UN adopted the partition plan of Palestine (followed in 1948 by the Nakba or Catastrophe). Also, it will be 50 years ago, in 1967, that the Israeli State began its occupation and colonization of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinians continue being deprived of their basic rights to a free, peaceful and dignified life. The Israeli police and army forces, in their daily “routine” of repression, continue violating international law and human rights. 274 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire since the outbreak of the “youth intifada” (October 2015), including 78 children and 24 women including 12 minors. Some 7,000 Palestinians, among them nearly 400 children, are being incarcerated in Israeli prisons and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture. Meanwhile, Israel demolishes more Palestinian homes and buildings - in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as in Israel itself - than in any year since 2009.

Every night, adults and children are terrorized by armed Israeli soldiers bursting into their homes, ransacking them and kidnapping men and/or children. Every day, while queueing many hours a day at hundreds of checkpoints, men, women and children, besides being robbed of their time and their life, are subjected to racist humiliations, arbitrariness and violence (eventually: to being killed) from armed soldiers and border police. In the Gaza Strip, almost three years after the last murderous war, its nearly 2 million inhabitants hardly survive under an unabated barbarous, medieval blockade that is almost 10 years old. With the devastations of homes and infrastructure (electricity, water, health care...), the inhuman conditions of life (especially for children) and the recurrent military attacks, the hopelessness of the situation is hallucinatory. Since that situation is politically manufactured by Israel, a "genocidal intent" cannot be excluded right away. The Palestinian refugees and their descendants, finally, continue pining away in their camps in the Arab world, their disastrous plight being further worsened by the war in Syria.

2. There is more to Israel’s policies of oppression than just military occupation and settlements. Palestinians are confronted, since 1948, with a coordinated policy of dispossession of Palestine: dispossession of its territory, its natural and material resources and its economy, destruction of its urban patrimony and its landscapes, erasure of its history, its culture and its identity. In short, what is aimed at by their occupiers, is the complete dismemberment of Palestine's social and political fabric. The Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling, coined the word “politicide” for it. Ethnic cleansing going on, the remaining Palestinians, they are told, should resign themselves “to live like dogs” (Moshe Dayan, 1967), without dignity, in separate, powerless Bantustans.

The Israeli State is a military superpower and is engaged in a war against civilians. No acceptable reason can be thought of, either from a military, a political, a juridical or a moral point of view, why it should not comply with international law and its fundamental ethical principles. Israel’s “exceptionalism” and impunity should be ended forthwith. Resolution 2334 of the Security Council, December 23, 2016, made it clear that the whole world condemns Israel’s colonialist policies. Alas, neither measures for its enforcement nor sanctions if refused were provided for.

3. Universities are an important institutional pillar of Israeli militaristic society, contributing to legitimatize and facilitate its policies of oppression and apartheid. The IDF, safeguarding its organic link with the universities, is often physically present on campuses. Many academics, at the same time, hold a military rank (reserve) and universities offer special courses for the benefit of defense and security operatives (like those of the secret service or Shin Bet). Major universities (Tel Aviv, Bar-Ilan...) accommodate a semi-military research center dedicated to Israel's "national security".

Technologically, universities are part of the military-industrial complex: 'Technion', e.g., collaborates closely with Israel’s four greatest arms factories and contributes actively to the development of high tech weapon systems (e.g. combat drone technologies). It even provides a course for the benefit of future weapons salesmen. These salesmen enjoy an important advantage, anyway, in comparison with their international competitors: they are able to recommend their products for being “field-tested” and fine-tuned in the Occupied Territories, the latter serving as its “laboratory” with almost 5 million Palestinians as its “lab-rats”. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for Israeli “security” technology: thanks to the collaboration between universities, the technology sector, the IDF intelligence services and "homeland security" companies, Israel is developing itself more and more into a global hub in matters of security.

4. The strategic importance for Israel of science and technology explains why the academic boycott is provoking more ideological and political hysteria from Israel's establishment and it lobbies abroad than the economic BDS. It contributes, one could say, to unmask the ideological infrastructure of the settler-colonial State. En plus, scientific and high-tech achievements (as well as artistic products) are an essential part of the “Brand Israel” campaign. Launched in 2005, it is meant to make Israel presentable to a western public as being a "normal", modern, western and “hip” country (veiling, though, Israel’s real sociological composition).

Not one Israeli university or faculty ever distanced itself from the occupation, the murderous invasions of Gaza or the blockade, never mind that it would have protested publicly. On the contrary: they applauded the wars and remunerated their student-soldiers participating in them. Not even one of them expressed its solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues suffering from discriminations. A number, though, of courageous Israeli colleagues did criticize the colonial policies of their country, some of them supporting the boycott campaign ("Boycott from Within"). Alas, they are few in numbers (some hundreds on a total of some 9,000). Today, they are silenced, mostly, if not dismissed, after an orchestrated campaign of hatred against them. Our boycott campaign should hearten them as well.

5. One of the foremost victims of Israeli colonial policies is the Palestinians’ right to future-oriented education and research. In boycott discussions the flag of “academic freedom” is often raised but almost never on behalf of the Palestinian academics and students. Nonetheless, it is their academic freedom that is violated daily. Their right to mobility and academic collaboration (nationally as well as internationally) is more and more restricted by the occupier. When protesting, lecturers and students risk being beaten up (sometimes even shot at), arrested and incarcerated. Not rarely, campuses are stormed by heavily armed Israeli troops shooting tear gas canisters etc., and their infrastructure, archives and libraries are ransacked. Recently, Al-Quds, Kadoorie and Birzeit Universities were subjected to this kind of willful hooliganism.

6. Religious extremists are in power today, in Israel, and its society is becoming “extremely brainwashed and nationalistic, religious, right-wing and even racist, more and more”. So, “the only way to change things in Israeli policy will be only by pressure from the outside” (Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy). As long as international sanctions fail to materialize, Palestinians’ hopes are vested in the international BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign they called for. It should play as important a role as did the global boycott of South Africa in ending apartheid there. Within BDS, the academic and cultural boycott campaign as well was launched by Palestinian civil society. Guided by PACBI, it gets a hearing in more and more universities in the world.

7. The academic boycott campaign is directed at Israeli academic institutions for their deep collusion with the occupation army's crimes against international humanitarian law. Boycott, however, is not an end in itself but a tactic, i.e. a means towards helping the Palestinians to achieve their human rights. At the same time we pledge our academic and moral solidarity with and support for our Palestinian embattled colleagues and students. Thanks to their much-praised “sumud” or resilience, Palestinians, wherever they live, persist standing up as a society, in spite of all the evil that is being done to them. They are counting on our solidarity. Let us stand with them.

BACBI‘s call has been endorsed until now by 478 colleagues from all Belgian universities. Our Statement of Principles emphasizes that the boycott is directed at Israel’s academic institutions but nót at collaborating with individual Israeli scholars (unless special sponsoring by an institution or the Israeli State is explicitly called for). Not included under the boycott either: participation in scientific networks having Israeli researchers among its partners as well.

Statement of Principles: bacbi-statement.htm.

Please endorse the Statement by signing the form on: bacbi-sign.htm.

BACBI's coordinating committee: Prof. Marie-Christine Closon (UCLouvain), Prof. Patrick Deboosere (VUBrussel), Dr. Pascal Debruyne (UGent), Prof. Lieven De Cauter (KULeuven), Em.Prof. Herman De Ley (UGent), Lieve Franssen (director Brussels Brecht-Eislerkoor), Carl Gydé (director CAMPO), Prof. Perrine Humblet (ULBruxelles), Prof. Marc Jacquemain (ULiège), Raven Ruëll (regisseur).


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