May 27, 2006

Academic intifada II

There are two letters and an article in the Guardian today on the NATFHE proposal to boycott Israeli academia. The article is introduced on the front page with the misleading headline Academics support Israeli lecturers. The article itself (on page 6) is heavily tilted towards the zionist lecturers who have signed a petition opposing any boycott of Israeli academia. The headline there is Thousands of academics oppose boycott of Israel and is equally misleading because it fails to note that there are many thousands of academics who support the boycott proposal.

Anyway, the letters. The first (of course) is the zionist one. Signed by 599 academics from all around the world you can read it on the zionist Engage site. The second is the pro-boycott one and I post it here because it won't be doing the rounds nearly as much as the zionist one:
On behalf of organisations representing hundreds of academics throughout occupied Palestine, we applaud the British academics who have proposed a motion to boycott Israel. At this time of escalating colonial repression, coupled with a particularly inhumane and illegal siege, Palestinians will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Natfhe council.

Israeli academic institutions are implicated in the various forms of oppression. Israeli research institutes, thinktanks and academic departments have historically granted legitimacy to academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights and other discriminatory policies against the Palestinians. Cooperation with the intelligence services, the army, and other agencies of the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy. No Israeli academic body has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor criticised their government's longstanding siege of Palestinian academic institutions.

The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is endorsed by the most important associations of academics and professionals and is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine. Like Palestinian civil society's widely endorsed call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), it is based on the moral principle of the international campaign against South African apartheid: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all means of civil resistance available to end oppression.

We hope that Natfhe members will join the growing international BDS movement by showing that no business as usual can be conducted with the Israeli academy until it takes an unequivocal stand against the forms of oppression practiced by the Israeli state. Only that can give us hope for the realisation of justice, equality and genuine peace.
Gabi Baramki
Former acting president of Birzeit University; founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Muhammad Abuzeid
Director general, Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees
The idea of boycotting Israel is important because it stresses Israel's status as a pariah state like no other. It is a state based on colonial settlement, ethnic cleansing and racist laws.

I do hope that any academics considering opposing the proposal will have a good look at the Engage site. Look for their professed opposition to the occupation. That could take a while. They won't have to look for the smears about antisemitism. They are there for all to see. But a peek at the comments is a real eye-opener. There they will see the Engage groupies in all their glory, "contributing to the debate."

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