PACBI Statement

Don't Collaborate with TAU, an Apartheid Institution!

September 4, 2009

Open Letter from PACBI to International Co-Organizers and Participants in the Conference ”Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe,” organized by the Israeli Law and Society Association, Tel Aviv University Law Faculty, December 20-21, 2009;

Open Letter from PACBI to International Co-Organizers and Participants in the Conference ”Secularism, Nationalism and Human Rights: Law and Politics in the Middle East and Europe,” organized by the Israeli Law and Society Association, Tel Aviv University Law Faculty, December 20-21, 2009;
“Global Concepts in Local Context: Socio-Legal Perspectives on Nation, Religion and Fundamental Rights,” workshop organized by the Law & Society Institute Berlin (LSI) Humboldt University Berlin and the Tel Aviv branch of the Minerva Center for Human Rights, Tel Aviv University, December 20-23, 2009.

Occupied Ramallah, 4 September 2009

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) [1] views with concern your co-organization and/or participation in these conferences held at Tel Aviv University. At a time when the international movement to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant infringement of Palestinian human and political rights, we urge you to reflect upon the implication of your accepting an invitation to take part in a conference at an Israeli university. We believe that participation in socio-legal conferences or similar events in Israel not dedicated to ending Israel’s illegal occupation and systematic racial discrimination contributes to the prolongation of this injustice by normalizing and thereby legitimizing it. As distinguished legal scholars, you are acutely aware that Israel has flaunted international law for several decades [2]; since the hegemonic world powers are active agents in acquiescence to Israel’s colonial and other oppressive policies, we believe that the only avenue open to achieving justice is sustained work on the part of Palestinian and international civil society, particularly scholars and activists for a just peace based on international law, to put pressure on Israel and its complicit institutions, particularly the academy, to help end this oppression. A campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is, we believe, the most morally and politically sound way to achieve this. More than 170 Palestinian civil society unions and organizations issued the Call for BDS as a non-violent form of resisting Israel’s oppression. This call for boycott is supported by all major Palestinian civil society institutions.

Co-organizing and participating in a conference at Tel Aviv University (TAU) is particularly indefensible given TAU’s deep and well documented collaboration with the Israeli military and intelligence establishment, its racially exclusivist university policy towards Palestinian citizens of Israel and its refusal to acknowledge its past and to commemorate the destroyed Palestinian village on which grounds the university was built.

This year’s comprehensive report by the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) presents strong evidence of intensive, purposive and open institutional cooperation of TAU with the Israeli military establishment. [3] TAU must therefore be condemned for providing cross-departmental legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and deepening the Israeli occupation by assisting in this year‘s lethal assaults on Gaza and by defending and justifying Israel’s apartheid Wall, declared illegal by International Court of Justice (ICJ) in July 2004, the expansion of illegal settlements and the extended networks of military roadblocks, all of which constitute serious human rights abuses to Palestinians. These policies are implicitly and explicitly supported by TAU’s Law Faculty which appointed an Israeli army colonel, Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, to its staff recently. As the army’s principal international law counsel Sharvit-Baruch is responsible for green-lighting the decision to target civilian infrastructure and for a ‘relaxing of the rules of engagement’ regarding civilians on the army’s International Law Division. The SOAS Report points out: “… (T)here is nothing unique about state institutions being implicated in the pursuit of state objectives, including security-related objectives. The tense military mobilisation of Jewish-Israeli society, its constant-war footing, and the closely related knowledge of circles which compose the defence R&D community in this comparatively small country, together amplify the role played by academic institutions in military affairs. TAU, as the largest university in Israel, is, unremarkably, at the centre of this militarization (…). Ultimately, (…) this collusion with the military amounts to the commissioning of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Additionally, studies by the Alternative Information Center (2006), Adalah (2003), and Human Rights Watch (2001), among others, corroborate and document accusations that Israeli educational institutions, including TAU, pursue discriminatory racial policies that are meant to prevent Palestinians in Israel from enrolling. [4] These policies make it yet more difficult for Palestinian citizens of Israel to obtain faculty positions. Any encounter at an Israeli university thus nearly always excludes or marginalizes Palestinian voices.

TAU has conspicuously refused to recognize and commemorate the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwanis and its expelled population on whose land the university was partially built. Despite sustained activists’ campaigning, TAU has so far rejected even mounting a plaque referencing and commemorating the village and its history, and has failed to acknowledge the moral debt for injustices caused to the indigenous Palestinian people during the establishment of the state of Israel.[5]

The latest reactions of prominent Israeli university administrators asking Israeli academics supporting the call for boycott to resign suggests yet again that Israeli universities are not the bastions of critical and liberal thought, freedom of speech and academic exchange they are billed to be.  Critical academic voices tackling the core issues of oppression and exclusion have repeatedly been asked to leave or have been silenced. [6]

These factors, taken together, are the basis for the growing support among international[7] and Israeli academics [8] for the Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott.

 In conclusion, and appealing to your sense of justice and moral consistency, we hope that, until Israel fully abides by international law, you shall treat it exactly as most of the world treated racist South Africa, or indeed any other state that legislates and practices apartheid: a pariah state. Only then can there be a real chance for a just peace in harmony with international law and based on equal human rights for all, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or other identity considerations.

We urge you to end your collaboration with Tel Aviv University.


[2]Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the
occupied Palestinian territories under international law, A study by the Middle East Project of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, 2009,
[3] SOAS Palestine Society Report: „Tel Aviv University part and parcel of the Israeli Occupation,
[4] Tel Aviv University’s Age Restrictions Discriminate against Arab Students in Admission to its Medical School, ;
Reference Material in Support of Palestinian and International Academic Boycott Campaigns (2006) compiled by the Alternative Information Center, ;
Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Education rights—Palestinian citizens of Israel, (2003), Shafa’amr, Israel;
Human Rights Watch. Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools (2001),
[5] Tel Aviv University is asked to acknowledge its past and to commemorate the Palestinian village on which grounds the university was built,  
[6] Israel and Academic Freedom,
[7] UK Academic Signatories, ;
US Academic Signatories ,
[8] Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within,

September 4, 2009


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