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PACBI | BRICUP Newsletter | 8 November 2009

Implementing the Academic Boycott: Individuals vs. Institutions

PACBI column for the November 2009 Newsletter of BRICUP

We have shared with readers of the BRICUP Newsletter the recently publicized PACBI guidelines for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel [1].  We are very heartened by the steady mail we have been receiving in recent months from academics, artists, and activists around the world who contact us to ensure that their implementation of the boycott in their particular circumstances and contexts is in harmony with our guidelines.

While implementing the cultural boycott of Israel may sometimes encounter grey areas due to the fact that artistic activity is not limited within institutional boundaries (and PACBI calls for an institutional boycott), we believe that the situation is a great deal clearer when it comes to practicing the academic boycott.  We offer the following advice in response to questions from some academics about attending conferences held at or sponsored by Israeli academic institutions.  There has been an inaccurate impression that since the Palestinian boycott call is institutional, only institutions are expected to observe it.  By this logic, individual academics, if they are not representing their universities or institutions, may participate in academic conferences in Israel without breaking the boycott.  For the sake of clarity, we note that when we advocate an institutional boycott, we mean that the target of the boycott should be all Israeli institutions; those whom we urge to implement the boycott, however, are institutions as well as individual academics.

PACBI believes that we have not yet reached the critical point where international academic institutions and bodies will boycott Israel and refrain from cooperating with Israeli institutions.  Regardless of that, we believe that the success of the academic boycott hinges on the consistent and principled practice of individual academics faced with opportunities or invitations to attend conferences organized by Israeli academic institutions.  There is no doubt in our mind that such opportunities and invitations must be rejected.

We would like to reiterate that PACBI has advocated a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, based on the premise that these institutions are complicit in the system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law.  This position is in line with the authoritative call by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education for "non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities.  Israeli academic institutions in particular are part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of the Zionist colonial project in Palestine, and as such are deeply implicated in maintaining the structures of domination over the Palestinian people.  Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, carries on business-as-usual in support of the status quo.

By attending conferences in Israel, international academicswhether intentionally or inadvertently--effectively lend legitimacy to the Israeli colonial project; they affirm that Israeli universities are a normal member of the international academy, and that no special stigma attaches itself to the Israeli academy.  The message these academics send is that Israeli academic institutions can continue to enjoy recognition, legitimacy, and approval from academics the world over, not to mention unfettered access to research funds and other material benefits.  As a matter of fact, and judging by the unprecedented outpouring of support for BDS the world over, we believe that the uncritical acceptance of the Israeli academy as a neutral and untainted institution is being challenged.  More and more principled academics are realizing that they should withdraw their stamp of approval, as it were, and join the academic boycott.

We stress that as a general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining Israeli apartheid and colonial rule, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israels violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations.  Accordingly, these institutions, all their activities, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted.

We trust in the sense of justice of our international colleagues to do what is right: boycott the Israeli academy and all its activities and projects!


[1] PACBI Guidelines for Applying the International Academic Boycott of Israel:
http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1107 ; Guidelines for Implementing the International Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047

http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/archive/bricupnewsletter22.pdf

Posted on 08-11-2009


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