A Call For The Academic Boycott Of Israel.

Update: April 2, 2017.

1. Unremitting Oppression. This year it will be 70 years since the UN adopted the iniquitous partition plan of Palestine (followed by the Nakba or Catastrophe). It will also be 50 years since the Israeli State started its occupation and colonization of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinians continue to be deprived of their basic rights to a free, peaceful and dignified life. Israeli police and security forces and the occupation army, in their daily “routine” of persecution and repression, continue violating international law and human rights. Children, in particular, are targeted, live ammunition being increasingly used against them. 35 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli soldiers, police and armed civilians in 2016, making it the most deadly year for children in the past decade. Still in 2016, some 7,000 Palestinians, among them nearly 400 children, were incarcerated in Israeli prisons and subjected to degradation and physical abuse. And still in 2016, land grabbing and destructions of homes continued apace: since 2009, the number of demolitions - in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but also in Israel itself - reached a record high. There does not come an end to the Israeli policies of violent ethnic cleansing, colonization and expansion of settlements: it all goes on and on, or rather, in the absence of international sanctions, it all gets worse and worse, every day.

Every night, adults and children are terrorized by armed soldiers or police bursting into their homes, ransacking the rooms and violently kidnapping men and/or children to an unknown destination. Every day, while queueing many hours 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 from soldiers and border police. In the Gaza Strip, almost three years after the last murderous invasion, its nearly 2 million inhabitants hardly survive under an unabated barbarous, medieval blockade which 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. This is not a natural disaster but it is politically man-made by Israel. A "genocidal intent", as a consequence, seems more than likely. The Palestinian refugees, finally, and their descendants continue pining away in their camps in the Occupied Territories and the surrounding Arab world. For many of them their plight is worsened by the war in Syria, their return to their homeland being ruthlessly refused by Israel.

2. Apartheid and Dispossession. There is more to Israel’s persisting policies of oppression of the Palestinians than just military occupation. The academic authors of a recent report on Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, published under the heading of a UN commission [1] conclude "that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law". The report, indeed, offers a detailed analysis of Israeli legislation, policies and practices that enable Israel to operate an apartheid regime which "dominates the Palestinian people as a whole", i.e. not restricted to the Occupied Territories. The prohibition of apartheid being a "ius cogens" in international law, "the United Nations and its agencies, and all Member States, have a legal obligation to act within their capabilities to prevent and punish instances of apartheid that are responsibly brought to their attention". Finally, "civil society institutions and individuals also have a moral duty to use the instruments at their disposal" (p. 53).

In addition to racial segregation and institutionalized racial discrimination, Palestinians are confronted, since 1948, with a coordinated policy of State 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. For the purpose of characterizing Israel's policies, the Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling, coined the word “politicide”. Ethnic cleansing going on, the remaining Palestinians should resign themselves “to live like dogs” (Moshe Dayan, 1967), without dignity, in separate, powerless "Bantustans". The similarity with South Africa, indeed, is striking: there as well "the architects of apartheid adopted a strategy of so-called “grand apartheid” to secure white supremacy in the long term through the country’s geographic partition into white areas (most of the country) and disarticulated black areas" (p. 46).

3. Israeli Academia. Universities are a crucial institutional pillar of Israel's militaristic and belligerent society, contributing to empower and facilitate its policies of oppression and apartheid. The IDF (IOF, actually), safeguarding its organic link with the universities, is often physically present on campuses. Many academics, at the same time, hold a military rank and many universities offer special courses for the benefit of defense and security operatives (e.g. of the Shin Bet). Major universities (Tel Aviv, Bar-Ilan, Haïfa...) accommodate a semi-military research center dedicated to Israel's "national security".

Technologically, some universities are directly implicated in 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 offers a special course for the benefit of future weapons salesmen. These salesmen enjoy an important advantage, anyway, in comparison with their international competitors: they promote their products for being “combat-tested” in the Occupied Territories, the latter serving as “laboratory” and the almost 5 million Palestinians as “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 and the expertise acquired in the oppression of the Palestinians, Israel is developing itself more and more into a global hub in matters of security systems. The "sins of Israel", you might say, being the occupation and its crimes, are "good for business".

4. Academic Complicity. 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 purely economic BDS. It contributes, indeed, to unmask the ideological infrastructure of the settler-colonial Apartheid State. En plus, scientific and high-tech achievements (as well as artistic products) are an essential component of the “Brand Israel” campaign. Launched in 2005, it is meant to make Israel attractive to a western public as being a "normal", western, democratic and “hip” country, while dissimulating the reality of oppression of the native population.

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 all applauded the punitive invasions and remunerated their student-soldiers who participated in them. Not even one of them expressed its solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues suffering from discrimination and repression. A number, though, of individual academics did criticize the policies of their country, some of them supporting the boycott campaign as well (cf. "Boycott from Within"). Alas, they are few in numbers (some hundreds on a total of some 9,000). Today, they are silenced, mostly, by orchestrated campaigns of hatred against them (e.g. by NGO Monitor, founded at Bar-Ilan University, and Im Tirzu) and the government's repressive policies. Our solidarity should help to hearten them.

5. "Why Israel?" The Israeli State is a military superpower engaged in a war against a defenseless civil population. No acceptable reason can be thought of, either from a military, a political or a moral point of view, why, of all states, Israel alone should not have to comply with its international legal and ethical obligations. Its “exceptionalism” and impunity should at last come to an end. According to international law, third countries have the legal obligation to see to it that its rules are respected by Israel as well. Security Council resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016, with its condemnation of Israel's colonialist policy, is an important signal but it does neither provide for its execution nor for sanctions in the event of Israel's refusal.

Today, ultra-nationalist and religious extremists are in power 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, however, Palestinians’ hopes for justice will be vested in the international BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign they launched in 2005. It should play as important a role as was played by the global boycott of South Africa in ending Apartheid there. No wonder, the 2017 Apartheid Report recommends a.o.: "National governments should support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives"; and "Efforts should be made to broaden support for boycott, divestment and sanctions initiatives among civil society actors" (p. 56). This transnational activism of civil society should contribute to "exert pressure on Israel to dismantle apartheid structures and negotiate in good faith for a lasting peace that acknowledges the rights of Palestinians under international law and make it possible for the two peoples to live together on the basis of real equality" (o.c., p. 53).

6. The Right to Education. One of the foremost victims of Israel's colonial policies is the right of Palestinian youths to a future-oriented education. During boycott debates the flag of “academic freedom” is often raised but almost never on behalf of the Palestinian academics, researchers and students. It is their academic freedom, though, which is violated on a daily basis. Their right to mobility and academic collaboration (nationally as well as internationally) is more and more restricted if not sabotaged by their oppressor. When protesting or resisting, lecturers and students are beaten up (sometimes even shot at), arrested and incarcerated. In 2016, according to a report, "the occupation’s violations resulted in the death of 26 students and one teacher, as well as the wounding of 1,810 students and 101 teachers and administrators, noting that 198 students, teachers and employees were arrested from the West Bank" [2]. Not rarely, also, university campuses are stormed by heavily armed Israeli troops shooting tear gas canisters as well as rubber or even live bullets and ransacking the university's infrastructure, archives or libraries. The Al-Quds, Kadoorie and Birzeit universities e.g. were subjected more than once in 2016 to this kind of willful and malicious hooliganism by the occupation army.

7. The BDS Campaign. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) international campaign is today the most effective, concerted and morally coherent form of solidarity with the Palestinian people. A similar peaceful and democratic alternative does not exist: the much-vaunted "dialogue" and "commitment" have yielded nothing and have had no positive impact on the ground. To persist, though, in pursuing a strategy that has long since proved bankrupt, sums up Einstein's idea of ​​madness: to persist in doing the same thing and expect different results. The international boycott campaign is a rights campaign: its aims making Israel respect the internationally recognized human rights of the Palestinians. It seeks neither the destruction nor the bankruptcy of the Israeli state. It is not directed against individuals but against Israel's racist and colonial policies that have been sustained for 70 years, as well as against the institutions supporting and perpetuate them. The boycott is not an end in itself but only a means and a tactic: it will have an end as soon as the Palestinian people obtains its legitimate rights.

Today, BDS and solidarity with Palestine are welcomed on all continents and in most of the EU countries. Ironically, its growing success is confirmed by the massive counter-offensive by the Israeli government (it even has its own minister) and its unconditional supporters in the rest of the world (especially in the United States, where the anti- Boycott campaign is heavily funded by billionaires). Anti-BDS organizes its own conferences in Israel and the United States (recently: the "2nd Annual Conference against the BDS" by the "Israel Mission to the UN"). At the same time, active lobbying of national governments aims to make pass a law banning any BDS campaign (such a ban is the case in France and in some 20 states in the US). A particularly popular sofism among the defenders of the Israeli policies consists in assimilating criticism of Israel to anti-Semitism (3). At the European level, thankfully, Ms Federica Mogherini (Vice-President of the European Commission) confirmed that BDS activism is a matter of the guaranteed freedom of expression (it was also reaffirmed by the Dutch and Irish governments, among others).

8. The Academic Boycott. Like BDS, the academic and cultural boycott campaign also was launched by Palestinian civil society. Guided by PACBI, it gets a hearing on more and more campuses all over the world. The academic campaign, in particular, is directed at Israeli academic institutions for their profound collusion with the Israeli apartheid regime and the crimes against international law perpetrated by its forces of order and security. Here as well boycott is not an end but a tool. It is a temporary tactic aimed at putting an end to Israel's policies of discrimination and persecution, especially in the fields of education and research. At the same time we pledge our solidarity with and support for our embattled Palestinian colleagues and students. Thanks to their much-praised “sumud” or resilience, Palestinians wherever they live persist to stand up as a society, in spite of all the evil that is being done to them. They are counting though on our support. Let us stand with them.

As yet, BACBI‘s call is endorsed by 489 intellectuals and colleagues from all Belgian universities. Our Statement of Principles emphasizes that the boycott is directed at Israel’s academic institutions, not at individual persons. Collaboration, that is, with Israeli scholars is not targeted, unless a project or event is explicitly and officially sponsored by an institution or the Israeli State, and/or contributes in one way or another to Israel's oppression policies). The fact that every academic or researcher of necessity belongs to and is remuneraterd by an institution, is of no consequence, here. Not included under the boycott either is one's participation in scientific networks that have Israeli researchers among them as well. Once again, boycott is not a perpetual call. It is about specific conditions of oppression we are trying to end.

Read please the Statement of Principles: bacbi-statement.htm. Please endorse it by signing the form on: bacbi-sign.htm.


1. "Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1: Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid", UN-ESCWA (UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), March 15, Beirut 2017 (pdf, 74p.). The report was co-authored by Prof. Richard Falk and Prof. Virginia Tilley. Under heavy Israeli and US pressure, though, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, after two days, ordered to remove the report from the ESCWA website. Out of protest UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary, Ms. Rima Khalaf, quitted. For her resignation letter: click here! We saved the full report on this website: click here! The Executive Summary could also be read separately, but was removed as well. On this website: click here! The Summary can also read online on the website of Jadaliyya, click here!

2. Vide: "Report: Israel kills 26 Palestinian students, arrests 198 in 2016" (MEMo, Feb 28, 2017): click here!

3. Since May 26, 2016, anti-BDS activists now have at their disposal the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism (drafted and distributed by the "International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance"). It was already adopted in the UK by Theresa May. For its shortcomings: "Counsel’s opinion on the IHRA definition" (Free Speech on Israel, March 8, 2017): click here!; and Naomi Wimborne Idrissi: "Legal opinion blasts holes in pro-Israel definition of antisemitism" (Free Speech on Israel, March 29, repr. from the NYT): click here!

PS If you have questions about the academic boycott, please visit our FAQs pagina: click here! You could read as well: Lawrence DAVIDSON, "Why The Academic Boycott Is Necessary", click herel!

BACBI's Coordinating Committee: Prof. Marie-Christine Closon (UCL), Prof. Patrick Deboosere (VUB), Dr. Pascal Debruyne (UGent), Prof. Lieven De Cauter (KU Leuven), Em.Prof. Herman De Ley (UGent), Lieve Franssen (dirigent Brussels Brecht-Eislerkoor), Carl Gydé (directeur CAMPO), Prof. Madeline Lutjeharms (VUB), Prof. Perrine Humblet (ULB), Prof. Marc Jacquemain (Université de Liège), Raven Ruëll (régisseur), Prof. Christiane Schomblond (ULB), Dr. Nozomi Takahashi (UGent), Prof. Karin Verelst (VUB).


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