PACBI Statement

Campus Uprisings for Palestine: Strategic Radicalism, Ethical Principles, and Incremental Wins

Strategic radicalism calls on the movement to employ multiple tactics that take local contexts into account to mutually build on and amplify each other. A strategic and incremental win for one campus is a win for all.

The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) welcomes the immense solidarity with the Palestinian people on university campuses around the world. We have previously expressed our strong backing for every principled and strategic student action and the importance of this global campus uprising in support of the Palestinian liberation struggle. 

PACBI is in ongoing dialogue with student and faculty organizers at many universities worldwide, on practically all continents. In the past few weeks, we have seen campus solidarity groups try various approaches in their campus organizing. Some have refused to negotiate with university administrations, others have engaged in negotiations but preferred to hold out for stronger deals. Some have preferred gradual escalation, while still others have reached agreements with their university administration. These agreements have ranged from promises of disclosure to commitments for discussing divestment or academic boycott, to securing commitments to actually divest or end ties with complicit companies and Israeli institutions (for a list of agreements see the American Friends Service Committee). 

With all that is taking place, there is an emerging debate and constructive critique around strategies, which are healthy and needed to hold each other accountable to the collective principles and goals of the BDS movement, and to reconcile ethical principles with strategic effectiveness in any given context. Unhelpful public accusations, on the contrary, can undermine or fracture our movement.

Given the diversity of tactics used by students and administrators, and many questions and concerns we are receiving, PACBI wants to outline, as a member organization of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) representing the broadest Palestinian coalition, a simple path of strategic radicalism to move forward collectively. This notion is based on the BDS movement’s tried-and-tested operational principles:

  • Gradualness (incremental process of building power to affect policy change)

  • Sustainability (defending and building on previous achievements by steadily widening support for them)

  • Context Sensitivity (being sensitive to the particularities of every context without losing track of the overall movement objectives)

Strategic radicalism calls on the movement to employ multiple tactics that take local contexts into account to mutually build on and amplify each other. A strategic and incremental win for one campus is a win for all. Importantly, strategic radicalism in this moment requires us to consider the following:

  • Divestment and academic boycott are and must remain the goals of campus movements. However, these goals will not be met in a few weeks in almost all universities, given the dominating power structures and nature of investments in the Israeli state. We must achieve reasonable gains that can be continuously built on and reestablish our new positions. The only path to justice is an incremental, strategic approach with patience and ethical commitment.

  • Each university has its own context with varying resources, faculty, histories of activism, board of trustees composition and relations, administrations, Zionist entrenchment, and student compositions (especially with regards to class, race, and prevalence of international students in danger of deportation). Importantly, in the US context, some states have anti-BDS laws. While these unconstitutional laws are being fought in the courts (see here and here), the reality is that it may be difficult for some institutions in the US to explicitly announce divestment from or boycott of Israel, and therefore, there is a need for solidarity groups to find creative solutions there. What is possible on one campus may not be possible on another. As such, we should recognize that power comes from a diversity of tactics that keep the overall goal in mind. 

  • The longer-term goal of institutional divestment and academic boycott and the immediate need for a permanent ceasefire and ending the siege of Gaza (as the minimum needed to stop the US-enabled Israeli genocide) are both important. Campus groups have to make tough decisions on what is achievable now versus later, and whether currently negotiated agreements allow us to build on them later. Regardless of the path, in all our movement actions and statements, we must always center Palestinians, Palestinian rights, and the absolute urgency of ending the genocide in Gaza. This is a priority even as we push for divestment and academic boycotts. They are not mutually exclusive.

  • All deals with university administrations that center Palestinian rights and commit, in a reasonable timeframe, to financial disclosure and/or a divestment process and/or academic boycotts are important gains that should be defended by all in our movement. They are significant contributions to long term movement building and grassroots power accumulation. Some may see deals with university administrations that do not meet all the demands for divestment, boycott, and ceasefire as demobilizing, and as sending signals globally that the present crisis is being resolved and students should go home. And while there certainly can be bad deals, it is important to recognize that most, if not all, of the deals reached with administrations so far were impossible to imagine even a few months ago. This, in itself, is a radical change and another indicator that we are approaching “Palestine’s South Africa moment.”

  • When reaching agreements, solidarity negotiators on campuses must be vigilant in recognizing that many university administrations, often equipped with experienced legal teams, will try to use a deal as a stalling mechanism to undermine student mobilizations. Thus, any deal that is conditioned on forbidding all future solidarity actions or that takes as given that administrations have limited authority over how their endowment is invested should be an immediate red flag. The campus movement should be planning, ready, and committed to push for further gains, use the agreements as building blocks for further mobilization, and return to protests should administrators renege on commitments. This ensures that incremental gains can be protected and built upon. 

  • Encampments are powerful and a much-needed tactic, along with any ethically principled and strategically sound form of on-the-ground peaceful disruption of business-as-usual, including civil disobedience. Yet, some campuses have more impact than others for various reasons, as we have seen in the campus mobilizations for divesting from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s and the anti-Vietnam war mobilizations of the 1960s. Repression on some campuses can ignite global opinion, while repression at others can go by with only a footnote. We must take note that in some cases a nonviolent escalation is appropriate and a tactical way forward, while in other situations, escalation can do more harm than good. Still, strategic civil disobedience, when done as part of an overall strategy, raises awareness and ignites the consciousness of the world. They can be an important tool and a force that brings about gains elsewhere. 

  • Coordination and communication across our movement and across campuses is important, and it is even more necessary when deciding to escalate or reach agreements. This is both to understand each other's context to prevent public attacks and factionalizing, and to amplify messaging that can energize our movement. We are all working for Palestinian liberation, including the right of refugees to return. This is a time to unite around the Palestinian people’s express demands and the points of unity that the overwhelming Palestinian grassroots networks, coalitions, and organizations call on solidarity movements to adopt.

We salute the student movements everywhere and the encampments that are spreading globally. We must continue to amplify each other’s voices. Multiple fronts, different contexts, a diversity of strategic and principled tactics - but one struggle for return, justice, and liberation from the river to the sea.


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