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Israel Divestment Back On the Agenda

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  • World View
    In solidarity with Palestinians John Chalcraft May 30, 2007 http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/john_chalcraft/2007/05/boycotty.html An international,
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2007
      In solidarity with Palestinians
      John Chalcraft
      May 30, 2007

      An international, non-violent movement supporting divestment,
      sanctions and boycott of Israel is gathering strength. While progress
      has been made in Northern Ireland and South Africa, Israel continues
      to settle and occupy Palestinian land in defiance of international law.

      The question for British academics is whether they should join this
      international movement, and refuse to do business as usual with
      Israeli academic institutions. At stake is not the boycott of
      individual Israelis, nor their subjection to some political test, but
      the withdrawal of institutional collaboration with Israeli
      universities. The boycott implies the refusal to participate in
      conferences or research sponsored by Israeli authorities or
      universities; withdrawal from institutional level cooperation;
      opposition to the award of grants by the EU to Israeli institutions,
      and refusal to serve as referees for publications based at Israeli

      Academics are unlikely to be persuaded by the erroneous claim that
      Palestinians themselves are against the boycott. In fact, the
      Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and
      Employees and many other organisations have endorsed the call for
      boycott in general, and the specific motion before the University and
      College Union in particular.

      Also feeble is the notion that Israeli universities have been
      trenchant critics of Israeli violations and supporters of Palestinian
      rights. In fact, no Israeli academic institution has ever taken a
      public stand against the military occupation of East Jerusalem, West
      Bank and Gaza, now in its 40th year. Indeed, the courageous few
      Israeli scholars who have dared to challenge conventional Zionist
      narratives have been hounded and harrassed. The reality is that the
      Israeli academy has long provided intellectual, linguistic,
      logistical, technical, scientific and human support for an ongoing
      military occupation in direct, long term violation of international
      law. In particular, Israeli universities have never seriously opposed
      the infrastructural degradation of Palestinian education at all
      levels, the destruction by Israel of educational buildings and
      equipment, the killing and injuring of students and others, or the
      checkpoints, border controls, land seizure, and the illegal separation
      wall which place significant obstacles on academic and educational

      Academics sincerely wrestling with their conscience will not be
      impressed by opponents who resort to calling them anti-semitic. The
      movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions includes Jews and
      non-Jews, stands against racist prejudice of all kinds, and refuses
      the determinist and anti-semitic notion that all Jews by nature must
      be linked to Zionism and its atrocities. The movement's charge is simple.

      Israel is a state founded on discrimination. Israel privileges
      Zionist-Jews, and subordinates and dispossesses Palestinians and
      Arabs. The latest phase of this discrimination has been compared by
      many - former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond among
      them - to the South African system of apartheid.

      More challenging is the argument that the boycott is
      counter-productive because dialogue and scientific collaboration are
      more effective than a divisive boycott. The example of South Africa
      tells otherwise. The international boycott movement had a tremendous
      impact in breaking down apartheid by raising consciousness and
      disrupting international business as usual. Crucially, Israel now,
      like South Africa then, considers itself part of, and has multiple
      ties to the west. This means that unlike in Iran, say, the boycott
      cannot plausibly be viewed simply as western imperialism. When western
      civil society says enough is enough, Israelis, not to mention western
      governments, will take notice.

      Is it unfair to single Israel out? It is not clear that there are
      other heavily militarised, nuclear-armed, expansionist apartheid
      states with extensive illegal settlement, land seizure and
      wall-building activity. There are certainly other violators of
      international law, and the case for boycotting each must be made on
      its merits. That does not weaken the case for a nonviolent,
      international movement regarding Israel. To say that it does is simply
      special pleading.

      As for academic freedom, it should be remembered that the situation
      has long involved the denial of Palestinians' academic freedom. The
      point of the boycott, which will certainly involve forms of
      institutional disruption, is to end this vicious discrimination and
      the massive and structural violation of academic freedom involved. The
      boycott, moreover, will encourage and give protection to Israeli
      academics critical of academic complicity and occupation, and stands
      in solidarity with Palestinians whose freedoms have long been repressed.



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