A commitment signed by 343 academics across UK’s higher education system says they will not accept invitations for academic visits to Israel. They will not act as referees in activities related to Israeli academic institutions, or cooperate in any other way with Israeli universities.
The initiative will be announced in a full page advert in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday October 27, and includes academics from across 72 different institutions who ‘took the pledge’, with more expected to follow as campaign grows.
This Academic Commitment is a response to the appeal for such action by Palestinian academics and civil society due to the deep complicity of Israeli academic institutions in Israeli violations of international law. For example, Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, has developed weaponised unmanned bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, and has created special technology to detect tunnels that Palestinians use to break the illegal siege on Gaza.Signatories have pledged to continue their commitment until Israel complies with international law, and respects Palestinian human rights.
The need for solidarity with the Palestinian people, as expressed in the Academic Commitment, is made more urgent today by the current escalation of violent conflict in Israel/Palestine. The fatalities are
overwhelmingly of Palestinians engaging in street protests provoked by Israel’s 48-year and ever tightening occupation. Palestinians are driven to desperation in the face of Israeli intransigence, and its
continuing ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem.
According to Professor Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law at London School of Economics “As a State that aspires to live by the values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,
Israel needs urgently to change its behaviour so far as its Palestinian citizens and those Palestinians under its control are concerned. This boycott is a small way of saying a big thing: that fairness and justice should be for real and not just for show, that all international laws must be respected, not only those that happen to be convenient”.
Speaking for the organisers of the Academic Commitment Professor Jonathan Rosenhead (London School of Economics) said “Israeli universities are at the heart of Israel’s violations of international
law and oppression of the Palestinian people. These signatures were all collected despite the pressures that can be put on people not to criticise the state of Israel. Now that the invitation to join the Commitment is in the public domain, we anticipate many more to join us.”
“Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians has led tens of thousands of Palestinians to take to the streets in mass protest and is causing a sea change in attitudes towards Israel across the UK university
sector. We will be conducting a campaign across the country’s universities over the coming months, and inviting fellow academics to contact us if they wish to sign the commitment”.
Professor Jane Hardy, Professor of Global Political Economy at the University of Hertfordshire gave her reasons for signing in this way:
“This is an opportunity for academics to add their voices to the growing international movement to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses and specifically the deprivation of opportunity
for our Palestinian colleagues to participate in the global academic community. The commitment does not call for the termination of links with individual colleagues nor the end of dialogue, rather it is a
boycott of institutions directly or indirectly complicit in the systematic and illegal occupation of Palestine.”
Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS, a chemist at the University of Southampton explained why he signed the Commitment: “For decades Israel has enjoyed special protection and privileges despite its blatantly illegal occupation and settlement policy. This privileged status has lured Israel into a dead end, with consequences that are becoming increasingly apparent to everyone. In the face of the silence and complicity of our elected representatives, individuals must exert pressure as best as they can. This commitment allows me, as an academic, to collaborate with Israeli individuals in the best scientific traditions, while still resisting the attempt by Israeli institutions to normalise their complicity in grossly illegal and unjust activities.”
Echoing these sentiments, Dr. Rachel Cohen of City University said, “It is the responsibility of those of us who have the freedom to act to exercise that freedom in support of our colleagues in Palestinian
universities who do not have such freedom. The Israeli state presentsitself as an enlightened funder of academic pursuits, and yet it systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic
freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time.”
Professor Costas Lapavitsas of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and recent deputy in the Greek parliament, declared, “The Palestinian people continue to show remarkable determination in
fighting for their national rights. The action by UK scholars is a small gesture of support and a way of reminding Israel that the arrogance of strength is a bad and dangerous principle for any state to adopt.”
Last week, 150 miscellaneous writers, broadcasters, conservative MPs and others, some distinguished, the others less so, produced a joint statement opposing the cultural boycott pledge in support of
Palestinian rights that was launched last February by 1000 cultural workers. The very publication of this attempted counter-blast by Israel’s friends, the delay in assembling its list of celebrities, and its padding out by those with little or no involvement in culture, indicate both the power and the public resonance of civil society initiatives aimed at isolating Israel.
A Commitment by UK scholars to the rights of Palestinians
As scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement.
Responding to the appeal from Palestinian civil society, we therefore declare that we will not:
accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions;
act as referees in any of their processes;
participate in conferences funded, organised or sponsored by them, or
otherwise cooperate with them.
We will, however, continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in
their individual capacities.
We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights.
All signatures are in personal capacities.
Academics signing the Academic Commitment are drawn from across the spectrum of disciplines: for example Anthropology, Art, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Classics, Cultural Studies, Design History,
History, Information Systems, Law, Linguistics, Management Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Music, Pharmacology, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Population Studies, Psychology, Translation
Studies, Zoology. This list is illustrative only.
Leading figures who have signed the Academic Commitment include:
Professor Sir Patrick Bateson FRS of University of Cambridge
Dr. Rachel Cohen of City University London
Professor Larry Dreyfus of Oxford University
Professor Jane Hardy of University of Hertfordshire
Professor Conor Gearty of London School of Economics
Professor Dorothy Griffiths of Imperial College London
Professor Penny Green of Queen Mary University of London
Professor Susan Himmelweit of Open University
Professor Ted Honderich of University College London
Professor Sir Tom Kibble FRS of Imperial College London
Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS of University of Southampton
Professor Sara Mills of Sheffield Hallam University
Professor Catherine Moriarty of University of Brighton
Dr. Gabriela Sandalha of University of Birmingham
Professor Stella Sandford of University of Kingston
Professor Richard Sennett of the London School of Economics
Professor Tim Shallice FRS, FBA of University College London
Professor Julian Stallabrass of the Courtauld Institute of Art
Dr. Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths College
The UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) has voted to align itself with the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement.
In a 19-4 vote with one abstention, the confederation of 600 student unions across the United Kingdom passed the pro-BDS boycott of Israel proposal last Tuesday at a meeting of its National Executive Council. UK student leaders have indicated that this BDS boycott of Israel victory “signals that the argument for BDS has become normalized within the student movement, as ‘common sense solidarity’…this vote represents a long battle being won, with credit due to years of work by activists on the ground.”
In 2011 South Africa’s largest and oldest student movement, the South African Students Congress (SASCO) as well as the South African Union of Students (SAUS), which represents Student Representative Council (SRCs) at all SA Universities, also lent its support for the BDS boycott of Israel campaign. Subsequently various South African SRC student government bodies have endorsed specific academic boycott of Israel resolutions. South African Government Minister for Higher Education and SACP General Secretary Dr Blade Nzimande has also been a vocal supporter of the BDS movement and Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression and occupation.
Lauryn Hill has canceled a 7 May concert in Israel, following a request by Palestinians and a campaign by many of her fans.
The former lead vocalist of The Fugees made the announcement in a message on her Facebook page addressed to “Friends and Fans in Israel.”
“When deciding to play the region, my intention was to perform in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah,” Hill writes. “Setting up a performance in the Palestinian Territory, at the same time as our show in Israel, proved to be a challenge.”
She says she wanted to perform in the region “but also to be a presence supporting justice and peace.”
“It is very important to me that my presence or message not be misconstrued, or a source of alienation to either my Israeli or my Palestinian fans,” Hill states. “For this reason, we have decided to cancel the upcoming performance in Israel, and seek a different strategy to bring my music to ALL of my fans in the region.”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and Palestine solidarity activists will see Hill’s move as a victory.
Her name will be added to the growing list of artists who have pulled out of shows in Israel which includes Sinéad O’Connor, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Talib Kweli, Moddi and Carlos Santana.
But Hill’s strategy of seeking to offset the Israel show with one before a Palestinian audience in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank will likely raise concerns.
In its guidelines for the cultural boycott, PACBI states that artists “attempting to visit Palestinian institutions or groups in a ‘balancing’ gesture contribute to the false perception of symmetry between the colonial oppressor and the colonized.”
While Palestinians welcome visits, PACBI says that “solidarity entails respecting the boycott call, which is an authoritative call of the oppressed, and not combining a visit to Palestinian institutions or groups with activities with boycottable Israeli institutions.”
For now, however, Hill has heeded the Palestinian boycott call – a very significant step.
Israel’s Walla! News called Hill’s cancellation a “painful” blow at the hands of “pro-Palestinian” organizations.
In a letter in April, PACBI told Hill that it was “deeply troubled to learn that you are scheduled to perform in Rishon Lezion’s Live Park amphitheater on 7 May 2015, while Israel continues unabatedly with its settler colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress and ethnically cleanse native Palestinians from their homeland.”
“Performing in Israel today is the equivalent of performing in Sun City, South Africa during the apartheid era,” PACBI added.
“Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils have repeatedly declared that Israel has created a form of racial apartheid that is far worse than anything that existed in South Africa.”
A social media campaign, including a spoof of Hill’s hit cover of the song “Killing Me Softly,” had in recent weeks driven home the message.
Separately, the director of the Israel Festival recently revealed that the flagship government-backed cultural program has had to curtail its 2015 schedule due to the growing impact of the boycott, especially in the wake of Israel’s killing more than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last July and August.
We gather here today as the Student Representative Council (SRC) presidents of five of South African universities, namely: University of South Africa, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Durban University of Technology, Mangasutho University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape. This day will go down in history as we announce the resolutions adopted by our University Student Representative Councils (SRCs) to join the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
Today we follow the mandate provided in 2011 by the South African Union of Students (which represents all SRCs in the country) which urged “all SRCs, student groups and other youth structures to strategize and implement a boycott of Israel”. SAUS declared in August 2011 that “all South African campuses must be Apartheid-Israel free zones.” Today we join the ranks of the SRCs of Wits University and the University of Cape Town who also resolved to join the academic boycott of Israel in 2012 and 2014 respectively. We also join the revolutionary decision by the University of Johannesburg that in 2011 terminated its relations with Israel’s Ben Gurion University. Finally and most importantly, our BDS resolution in support of the boycott of Israel follows South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande’s call and support for the academic boycott of Apartheid Israel.
From here we will be formally writing and approaching the Senate as well as Councils of our various institutions to implement the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. We will be auditing our universities’ investment funds and service providers to ensure that companies that are in violation of the BDS call and complicit in the Israeli Occupation such as G4S Security, Caterpillar, Veolia, Alstom, Cape Gate etc. are excluded from investment funds and service contracts. We are also in bilateral engagement with other South African SRCs to also adopt such resolutions and in general will be supporting awareness-raising campaigns such as the annual Israeli Apartheid Week initiative. We will be supporting the call for an Israeli academic boycott conference in South Africa with the Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande.
Our resolutions in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement comes just less than a year after Israel killed more than 2000 Palestinians in Gaza of which over 500 of those killed were children. Israel also attacked several schools of the United Nations, over 200 Palestinian schools and a school for disabled children. The Israeli regime is proving itself to be anti-children, anti-student and anti-education. We are here to stand for peace, justice and equality.
We make it clear, we are against all forms of racism including anti-semitism and Zionism. However, conflating criticism of Israel’s colonial policies of Occupation and Apartheid can not and should not be equated with anti-Semitism; to do so is a disservice to the real victims of anti-Semitism. This tactic by the pro-Israeli lobby to falsely accuse those critical of Israel of being anti-Semitic is a standard practice which we outrightly condemn. On a positive note we welcome the support provided by progressive Jewish organisations, comrades and counterparts for the BDS movement and the Palestinian struggle.
Its no coincidence that Miriam Makeba Hall at South Africa’s largest university, the University of South Africa, was chosen for today’s press conference. The cultural boycott of Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s (which Miriam Makeba was part of) is currently being employed against Apartheid Israel. We join Miriam Makeba in declaring “A Luta Continua…” until Palestine is free, for, in the word of former President Nelson Mandela, a graduate of UNISA: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
JOINTLY ISSUED ON BEHALF OF FIVE SOUTH AFRICAN UNIVERSITY SRCS.