Belgian Academics & Artists For Palestine - BAA4P
 

 
 

« An Academic Call For Solidarity with Palestine » (BAA4P)

The Israeli state having come under the complete control of the far right wing and its racist policies it is abundantly clear: there is no hope for change for the better from within Israel. More than ever the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and East-Jerusalem as well as the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip will continue unabashedly. The Israeli Peace and Human Rights Movements, their good intentions notwithstanding, are unable to stem the tide of overt racism and political as well as religious extremism. They themselves have become subject to an orchestrated vicious campaign against dissenting voices supporting Palestinian rights.

Palestinian society, more than ever, is collapsing due to an economic, medical, psychological as well as social crisis. The West Bank has been broken up into enclaves ("indian reserves") by the Wall, the checkpoints and roadblocks and the "settlers-only" motorways, while being at the mercy of arbitrary aggression and harassment by the army and the settlers, day ànd night. The Gaza-Strip, on the other hand, was, a year ago, once more subjected to a cruel, punitive war. More than two thousand people died, among them 551 children, and many thousands were wounded; there was an immense devastation of infrastructure (18.000 houses), as well, which so far has not been repaired. Today Gaza is collapsing in the grip of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis and waiting for the next war. The only hope the Palestinians might have to recover, one day, their freedom and human dignity, comes primarily from without: i.e. from the increasing pressure on Israel by the world community. Inspired by the boycott movement against South-African Apartheid, Palestinian civil organizations (more than 170 at the launching of the campaign in 2005) are urging us to participate in a comprehensive and consistent movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The boycott will take as long as the Israeli State is refusing to respect international law and the universal principals of human rights, among them the Palestinians' right to self-determination.

The urgent call for a global boycott is taken up by Palestinian academics and artists as well. The moving force, here, is PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel). Its statement of principles has to date been endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities' Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network in the West Bank. The campaign has also established an advisory committee comprised of well-known public figures and intellectuals.

Some hundreds of Israeli professors and researchers, it is true, did condemn Israel’s colonial policies, putting their job at risk in doing so. Some of them are even calling for a boycott (e.g. initiating "Boycott from Within", a BDS support group). They deserve our fullest support and solidarity. The academic institutions as such, however - i.e. the universities, embodied by their administrations, departmental governing bodies, senates, unions, staff associations, student governments and tenure and promotion committees - either maintain a complicit silence, or, most commonly, collaborate closely with the State, the army, the intelligence and security agencies and/or the arms manufacturers (in high-tech fields). So the Israeli academy as an institution is complicit in violations of international law, grave violations of international humanitarian law, and outright war crimes, the wars against the Gaza Strip having been supported by them. The Israeli academy, that is, is firmly planted within the structures of power and domination in Israel and has historically been an active partner in the oppression of the Palestinian people. More especially, the partnership between the academy and the military - creating "a warm and active relationship between the University, on the one hand, and the command of the IDF on the other" (thus, formerly, on the website of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University) - constitutes an organic part and instrument of Israel’s colonial project, not allowing for any hope for changes from within.

At the same time, Palestinian universities, their teachers, researchers and students, are subject to discriminating and repressive measures. There is a long history of confiscations of Palestinian archives and destruction of university buildings, libraries and research centers. The same goes for Israel’s ignoring the right to education and academic freedom and blocking free contact and academic exchange with the rest of the world. Here as well Israeli academics (407 of a total of 9000...) protested (in 2008) against the infringements on the academic freedom of their Palestinian colleagues. At the same time they expressed their “great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”. The petition, though, ignored the basic political - i.e. colonial - context within which the academic freedom of Palestinian academics and students is being violated. On the other hand, not a single academic institution or association has petitioned the Israeli government to protect Palestinians' right to education or to cease interference with and destruction of Palestinian schools and colleges.

The signatories of the present appeal feel compelled to join academics around the world supporting the Palestinian call to boycott the Israeli academic institutions. For that reason we are creating a Belgian branch of PACBI: “BACBI”, or “Belgian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel”. Our call for a boycott, though, is aimed at the Israeli academic institutions, not at individual academics and scholars, whatever their religion or nationality. At this moment our basic principles are endorsed by more than 450 colleagues belonging to Dutch- as well as French-speaking institutions for higher education and scientific research. We are calling on our colleagues to join us. “For those concerned with the plight of the Palestinians, it is now more than ever time to redouble our efforts. Only outside pressure on Israel will make a difference” (David Glick, March 25). And... “there is no better way than boycott” (Robert Cohen, April 12). This being said, we'd like to emphasize that, together with all other forms of racism, we condemn unconditionally all manifestations of anti-Semitism. At the same time, though, we refuse the traditional mixing up of anti-Semitism and robust criticism of the Israeli state's policies. This criticism implies also a measure of self-criticism as Westerners, the injustices that happen happening also in our name (cf. the FAQs).

Finally: the Middle East, presently, is being subjected to unspeakable human tragedies. Can this be a reason, one could ask, for ignoring Israel’s violations of international law and human rights? We think not. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at the root of anti-western radicalization amongst Arabs and Muslims for over 60 years, in the Middle East as well as in Europe and the rest of the world. Solving it – which is still possible in a non-violent way – would remove one of the long-standing confrontations between the “East” and the “West”.


Please read BACBI's Statement of Principles here. And sign online here.






 

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