"Why The Academic Boycott Is Necessary"
Let me begin by stating that any successful academic boycott imposed upon Israeli institutions of higher education will assuredly have an impact on the academic freedom of Israeli scholars and teachers, at least in terms of its expression beyond their national borders.
Is this acceptable? After all, other teachers and scholars who obviously have a stake in academic freedom, will have to cooperate with the boycott if it is to have an impact. As one of those academics, my answer to this question is that it is not only acceptable but absolutely necessary-- and for the following reasons:
1. Academic freedom is an ideal, and ideals if they are to be responsibly adhered to, must be judged against their consequences in real life situations. One of the major real life situations we are dealing with here is the fact that Israeli academic institutions and personnel have been intimately involved for nearly 40 years in their country’s systematic destruction of Palestinian educational endeavors (and thus Palestinian academic freedom) within the Occupied Territories. And even longer, if less dramatically, as regards the Arab-Israeli community within Israel proper. The vast majority of Israel academics have either been silent, or active participants in this process.
The passive aspect of this complicity with the occupation has been commented upon by Tanya Reinhart, formerly a professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University. She tells us that “Never in its history did the senate of a any Israeli university pass a resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone voice protest over the devastation sowed there [in the OT]....It is not that a motion in that direction failed to gather a majority, there was no such motion anywhere in Israeli academia.” And then there is Professor Ilan Pappe of Haifa University, who estimates that the number of Israeli academics who have “raised their voices against occupation” is “roughly 100 out of 9000.” And many of these, like Pappe himself, are subject to harassment by university administrators and social ostracization by their peers.
In terms of active collaboration with the occupation the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has noted that “Israeli research institutes, think tanks and academic departments have historically granted legitimacy to the work of academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights, and other discriminatory policies....Collaboration and cooperation with the intelligence services, the army, and other agencies of the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy.”
Thus, with the passive or active assistance of the vast majority of Israeli professorate, Palestinian education at all levels in the Occupied Territory is often brought to a near standstill by closures and roadblocks while its teachers, students, and physical structures suffer repeated assaults by Israeli military and settler paramilitary forces. All of this is documented at, among other places, Birzeit University’s Right2Education website.
Given this context, there is no evidence that the “free flow of ideas” enjoyed by Israeli academia over the last 40 years has ameliorated the systematic attack on their Palestinian peers in any way. Indeed, as we will see, it may in fact have helped abet that attack. Many Israeli scholars and teachers have spent a lot of this time trying very hard to deny what is going on in Palestine by questioning the existence of the Palestinians as a national group while simultaneously helping to create the justifications for a process of dispossession that has solidified Palestinian national consciousness and driven some Palestinians to radical violence. Only in the recent past has the Palestinian side of this tragedy been made available in any widespread fashion to the outside world.
Yet to a great extent the damage has been done. The decades long Zionist monopoly on the flow of information on the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy allowed the Israelis to build solid support among Americans and others based on the racist stereotyping of Arabs generally and the Palestinians in particular. Thus, not only has academic freedom and other forms of free exchange not humanized the Israelis, it has led to the corruption of a good number of people in the West, particularly American politicians.
Now, after 40 years, a growing number of academics are reacting to this inhumane state of affairs. We are insisting that the situation we are in now, as regards academic freedom, is a perverse one. Essentially, in order to maintain the academic freedom of Israeli scholars and teachers we are asked to acquiesce in their direct or indirect abetting of the destruction of, among other aspects of Palestinian life, Palestinian academic freedom. We will not do this. I suggest to you that the only way to avoid this predicament (which essentially turns the ideal of academic freedom against itself) is to qualify this principle, and make it a corollary of academic freedom that it can not apply to those who systematically and consistently deny it to others. In order to do this in as fair and consistent a way as possible, the present academic boycott movement is aimed at halting all cooperation with Israeli academic and research institutions rather than any particular list of individuals.
2. A precedent for the acceptance of such an academic boycott was established when just such an effort was made as part of the overall, worldwide boycott of Apartheid South Africa. Israel’s own apartheid policies have been noted by such reputable observers as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, and documented by such organizations as Amnesty International, Israel’s own human rights organization, B’Tselem, and even, on occasion, the U.S. State Department. Analysis of Israeli state actions, policies, and cultural imperatives as they operate on both sides of the Green Line, but especially in the Occupied Territories, reflects a purposeful and systematic violation of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of Apartheid (approved by the UN General Assembly in 1973 and coming into force in 1976). It is therefore reasonable that a tactic that may well have hastened the demise of one apartheid state be applied against another apartheid state.
3. The fact that Zionist influence spreads far beyond Israel’s area of dominion and now influences many of the policy making institutions of western governments, and particularly that of the United States, makes it imperative that Israel’s oppressive behavior be singled out as a high priority case from among the many other oppressive regimes that may be candidates for boycott. In other words, unlike the Chinese, the Russians and other such governments, the Israelis and their supporters directly influence the policy makers of our own countries and this often makes our governments accomplices in Israel’s abusive policies. This being so, prioritizing Israel for boycott (academic and otherwise) is not hypocrisy, but rather necessity.
In conclusion, Israel’s academic community cannot be allowed to proceed as if it has nothing to do with the destruction of Palestinian society, including its academy and academic freedom. Given their direct and indirect complicity in this criminal process, the placing of temporary limits on the freedom of 9000 Israeli academics is a necessary price that must be paid in the struggle to restore the fundamental rights of millions of Palestinians.
* This is the text of a talk delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) in Boston on November 19, 2006. It was published on The Electronic Intifada, 3 Jan 2007. Prof. Davidson is an Emeritus Professor of History from West Chester University (USA). His website: "To The Point Analyses. Deconstructing The News Since 2010," click here. The text is reproduced with the permission of the author.
Voor het archief klik hier!
- * Shatha HAMMAD: "Israeli forces fatally shoot two young Palestinians in occupied West Bank" (Middle East Eye, April 13, 2022).
- "Israel kills Palestinian boy in Jenin raid" (MEMo, March 31, 2022).
- Staat van Beleg: " Israëlische Schendingen februari 2022 " (7 maart 2022).
- Jesse Rosenfeld, Oren Ziv & Ahmad Al-Bazz : "Triple West Bank assassination recalls darkest days of the Intifada" (+972, Feb 15, 2022).
- Jack Khoury & Yaniv Kubovich: "Man Killed by Israeli Fire Near Ramallah, Palestinian Health Ministry Says" (Haaretz, Feb 15, 2022).
- "Israel’ Issues 1595 Administrative Detention Orders Against Palestinians In 2021" PalestineOnline, Jan 2, 2022).
- "Israel a tué 357 Palestiniens, dont 79 enfants et 69 femmes en 2021 " EuroPalestine, 2 janvier 2022).
- Gideon LEVY: "A Brief History of Killing Children " Haaretz, Nov 20, 2021).
- Allison WEIR: "Israeli forces have killed 39 Palestinian men, women, & children since May" (Israel-Palestine News, Oct 19, 2021).
- "Israel settlers open fire on Palestine homes in West Bank" (Middle East Monitor, September 11, 2021).
- Gideon LEVY: "Yes, the Palestinian Prison Escapees Are Freedom Fighters” (Haaretz, Sept 9, 2021; archive.today).
- "Developing news: Six Palestinian political prisoners liberate themselves from colonial Israeli prison” (Samidoun, Sept 5, 2021).
- "Israeli troops kill Palestinian teen in West Bank clash” (Middle East Eye, July 24, 2021).
- Tamara NASSAR: "Israeli gunfire takes lives of two more Palestinian teens” (+972, July 15, 2021).
- Yuval ABRAHAM: "Joint militias: How settlers and soldiers teamed up to kill four Palestinians” (+972, July 15, 2021).
- "Palestinian boy loses eye after Israel soldiers shoot him” (Middle East Monitor, April 12, 2021).
- Gideon LEVY & Alex LEVAC: "Palestinians Protested the Theft of Their Land. An Israeli Army Officer Shot One of Them in the Head” (Haaretz, March 26, 2021).
- "Israel to displace 1,550 Palestinians to build park in Jerusalem” (MEMo, March 18, 2021).
- "Reconstitution de l’exécution d’un Palestinien qui ne constituait aucune menace” (EuroPalestine, 27 février, 2021).
- Mairav ZONSZEIN: "Vaccination Under Occupation” (Jewish Currents, 12 Jan, 2021).
- Orly NOY: "Why B’Tselem is calling Israel an apartheid regime, from the river to the sea” (Mondoweiss, 12 Jan, 2021).
- "Deaf Palestinian man shot by Israeli soldiers dies of his wounds” (Israel Palestine News, Dec 11, 2020).
- "Israeli settlers flood Palestinian farmland with sewage” (Middle East Monitor, Oct 19, 2020).
- Ahmad MELHEM: "Family of Palestinian boy disfigured in 2015 firebomb attack still seeking justice” (Al-Monitor, Sept 20, 2020).
- Maureen Clare MURPHY: "Palestinian child shot by Israel dies in detention.” (The Electronic Intifada, August 21, 2020).
- Yumna PATEL: "Young Palestinian woman killed by Israeli forces in Jenin.” 23-year-old Dalia Samoudi is the 24th Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territories this year (Mondoweiss, August 7, 2020).
- "Israeli Soldiers Demolish Under-Construction Covid-19 Testing Center in Hebron” (IMEMC, July 21 2020).
- "Mother of Slain Palestinian: “My Son Was A Child In A Man’s Body”" (IMEMC, June 31 2020).
- Sondos SALEH: "Mustafa Went to Tel Aviv for Hospital Tests. He Was Shot Dead" (Haaretz, May 19, 2020).
- Jonathan OFIR: "Slapping Israeli Apartheid — the sentencing of Yifat Doron" (Mondoweiss, May 15, 2020).
- "Israëlische politieman schiet Palestijnse jongen kogel in het gezicht" (The Rights Forum, 18 feb, 2020).
- Jonathan OFIR: "Getting away with murder: Why Israeli police left Bedouin teacher to bleed to death in 2017." Some murder cases are so full of lies, that every attempt to hide them from public view only brings more attention to the crime. Such is the case of the extrajudicial execution three years ago of Israeli Bedouin citizen Yaqub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an. (Mondoweiss, March 1, 2020).
- Amira HASS: "Israeli Settlers Kill a Sheep in Latest Escalation in Jordan Valley, Palestinians Say" (Haaretz, Feb 18, 2017).
- "Israel aims to ‘Judaize’ historical Bethlehem village" (Middle East Monitor, Jan 13, 2017).
- Nasouh NAZZAL: "Israel’s pesticide war on Gazan farmers" (Gulf News Palestine, Dec 26, 2016).
- Emily MULDER: "Israeli guard: 'Go from this land or I will kill you'" (Al Jazeera, Dec 26, 2016).
- "A six-year-old Palestinian girl killed after being run over by Israeli settler" (Middle East Children Alliance, 2016).
- Gideon LEVY & Alex LEVAC: "In Some of the Israeli Army's Raids, Leaving Empty-handed Is Not an Option" (Haaretz, Aug 27, 2016).
- "Israeli settlers attack Palestinian girl in Ramallah, stab and kill her sheep" (Ma'an, Aug 5, 2016).
- "Un enfant palestinien [de 12 ans] tué par des soldats israéliens" (Libération, 19 juillet 2016).
- Kit O'CONNELL: "Israel Cutting Palestinians Off From Their Own Water Supply" (MintPress News, June 30, 2016).
- "Israeli Soldiers Kill A Palestinian Child Near Ramallah" (IMEMC, June 21, 2016).
- Edo KONRAD: "Tel Aviv mayor says the occupation is a cause of Palestinian terror" (+972, June 9, 2016).
- "After being shot three days ago by IOF, Palestinian youth dies from injuries" (Palestinian Information Center, June 6, 2016).
- Palestine PMO: Israel’s destruction of Palestinian water infrastructure is atrocious (Palestine News Network, May 26, 2016).
- Again, settlers burn Palestinian farms in West Bank (Days of Palestine, May 16, 2016).
- Michal ZAK: "Third intifada, terror wave, the 'situation': Just don't mention the 'O' word to Israelis" (Middle East Eye, March 13, 2016).
- Jon QUEALLY: "Brother and Sister, Children Aged 10 and 6, Killed by Israeli Bombing in Gaza" (Common Dreams, March 13, 2016).
- Jonathan COOK: "Aid subversion report makes for shocking reading" (The National, March 7, 2016).
- "Palestijns meisje van 13 geëxecuteerd" (alexandrina.nl, 23 jan, 2016).
- "UN decries Abu Nuwar demolitions, calls for immediate end to planned transfers" (Medical Aid for Palestinians, MAP, Jan 20, 2016).
- Julie PUTSEYS: "Palestijnse empowerment op Israëlische scholen." Geen gelijke kansen zonder evenwaardig onderwijs. Zo denkt de Arabisch-Israëlische professor Dalia Fadila er alleszins over. (MO*, 10 Jan 2016).
- Uri SAVIR: "Why solving Israel-Palestine conflict is still key for regional stability" (Al-Monitor, Jan 3, 2016).
- C.J.WERLEMAN: "The road to hell is paved with 'national security'". Israel is turning the West’s fixation on the Islamic State group into an opportunity to expand its apartheid laws and militarisation of the West Bank (Middle East Eye, Jan 1, 2016).
- Mazal MUALEM: "'Hate wedding' video offers glimpse at Jewish terror" (Al-Monitor, Dec 28, 2015).
- Maureen Clare MURPHY: "Catastrophe for Syrians and Palestinians alike in war-ravaged country" (The Electronic Intifada, Dec 23, 2015).
- Shlomi ELDAR: "Why the US is part of Middle East problem, not the solution". Interview with Ayman Odeh (Al-Monitor, Dec 14, 2015).
- Philip WEISS: "Obama’s ISIS czar says we can’t defeat extremism without resolving Palestinian issue" (Mondoweiss, Dec 14, 2015).
- Uri SAVIR: "How the Islamic State hurts Palestinian cause" (Al-Monitor, Dec 6, 2015).
- Al Jazeera: "Gaza's crumbling healthcare system" (Yahoo.com, Dec 8, 2015).
- Nurit CANETTI: "The radicalization of Israel" (Al-Monitor, Dec 2, 2015).
- Kate: "Prominent Israeli settler runs over 16-year-old girl, then shoots her dead" (Mondoweiss, Nov 23, 2015).
- Gideon LEVY: "So These Are Israel's New Heroes?" Israel's recent military operations in Palestinian hospitals are a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention, and make you wonder how low the country can sink (Haaretz, Nov 21, 2015).
- Philip WEISS: "The best way for Americans to defeat the Islamic state is to end support for Jewish nationalism" (Mondoweiss, Nov 15, 2015).
- Ahmed MOOR: "The Problem of Palestine is Zionism" (Fair Observer, Nov 11, 2015).
- Miko PELED: "Zionism is racism: Notes from Tel-Rumeida, Hebron, El-Khalil" (American Herald Tribune, Nov 13, 2015).
- Megan HANNA: "‘It Has Become A Prison’: The ghettoization of Hebron" (Mondoweiss, Nov 11, 2015).
- Avigail ABARBANEL: "Netanyahu’s craziness is calculated, to drive out Palestinians" (Mondoweiss, Nov 5, 2015).
- Michel WARSCHAWSKI: "La jeunesse palestinienne à couteaux tirés avec Israël" (Orient XXI, 15 Oct 2015).
- Kamel HAWWASH: "Palestinians have a problem with occupiers not (with) Jews" (MEMO, Oct 30, 2015).
- "Palestijnse baby vermoord met traangas" (Alexandrina, Oct 31, 2015).
- Ali ABUNIMAH: "Israel’s executions of Palestinian teens must end, Amnesty says" (The Electronic Intifada, Oct 28, 2015).
- Killian REDDEN: "Hebron at eye of the storm as death toll rises" (Ma'an News Agency, Oct 26, 2015).
- "Netanyahu Shamelessly Exploits the Shoah to Stoke Fear of Palestinians" (Jewish Voice for Peace, Oct 21, 2015).
- Amos GVIRTZ: "From Unilateral- to Bilateral War - or: How the Palestinians Fight to Prevent Being Expelled From the Country" (Occupation Magazine, Oct 20, 2015).
- Noam SHEIZAF: "Jerusalem, in context" (+972, October 19, 2015). "The current events in Jerusalem have a political history and context. Attempts to attribute the violence to some kind of Palestinian pathology while ignoring other factors is a recipe for making things worse."
- Meron RAPOPORT: "The paradox of Jerusalem" (Middle East Eye, October 17, 2015).