The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure– in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation”. Desmond Tutu
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in A ugust 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.

In July 2004, the Campaign issued a statement of principles, addressed to our colleagues in the international community urging them to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid. This statement was met with widespread support, and 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.

The Palestinian Campaign is inspired by the historic role played by people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals who have shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott.

During the past two years various calls for divestment, sanctions and economic boycott of Israeli products as well as a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions have been issued by groups and individuals in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. These calls recognize that Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to the Israeli occupation or at the very least have been complicit through their silence. In April 2002 British academics issued a call for a moratorium on European research and academic collaboration with Israeli institutions. In France, an appeal to the European Union not to renew its 1995 Association Agreement with Israel was issued by the University of Paris-VI (Pierre-et-Marie-Curie) in December 2002 and was endorsed by several other French universities. Similar calls were published in Italy and Australia, while in the United States, student and faculty groups at several universities including New York University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton launched divestment from Israel campaigns. Most recently the Church of Sweden has called for a boycott of goods produced by Israeli colonies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Presbyterian Church in the United States has decided to divest from Israel.

Boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace.

Posted on 21-12-2008