PACBI Statement

International Society for Political Psychology: Heed the Call for Boycott of Israel!

May 20, 2013

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is deeply disturbed by the decision of the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP) to hold its conference at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel, from July 8-11, 2013 [1].

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is deeply disturbed by the decision of the International Society for Political Psychology (ISPP) to hold its conference at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya, Israel, from July 8-11, 2013 [1]. We urge the ISPP to relocate this conference to another country that does not embody injustice through maintaining a regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid [2], as Israel does.  We also appeal to all members of ISPP to refrain from participating in the conference if it is convened in Israel, just as most academics avoided visiting South Africa until it ended its apartheid system.

As scholars, you are acutely aware that Israel has flouted international law for several decades [3].  Since the world powers are actively complicit in enabling and perpetuating Israel’s colonial and oppressive policies, we believe that the only avenue open to achieving justice and upholding international law is through sustained work on the part of Palestinian and international civil society to put pressure on Israel and its complicit institutions to end this oppression.  

Your willingness to attend a conference in Israel and engage an Israeli academic institution comes at a time when the academic boycott of Israel is increasingly gaining steam.  Just recently, the International Community Psychology Conference – Global Perspectives and Local Practices, meeting in Birzeit University, in occupied Palestine, released a declaration in support of academic and cultural boycott [4], and the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) also voted on a resolution to uphold the Palestinian call [5].  In the scientific realm, after Palestinian scholars reached out to Stephen Hawking [6], he canceled his participation at an Israeli conference, citing the unanimous Palestinian voices calling on him to boycott as his reason for not attending.  This move was met with approval by such mainstream press as the Boston Globe [7].

The Israeli academy is not only deeply implicated in providing the ideological rationale and “scientific” basis for Israel’s colonial policies, but is also a full partner in maintaining the military and security infrastructure of a state that is practicing forms of colonialism, occupation and apartheid.  The IDC Herzliya is in itself an institution complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. It is a private university with strong ties to the Israeli military intelligence community.  It expresses pride in its links with the Israeli army, despite the army‘s war crimes, including the brutal siege on the Gaza Strip. Representatives of Israel‘s most profitable arms manufacturers frequently sit on the IDC‘s management committee, while 10 percent of its student admittance is reserved for veterans of elite combat units in the Israeli army.  The IDC is thus part and parcel of building Israel’s military and political strategy to enhance its oppressive system of settler-colonialism, occupation and apartheid [8].  Is this an institution whose mission you wish to further by allowing it to host your events?

Furthermore, we wish to stress that conferences of this kind are being used politically as an Israeli public relations tool to cover up Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and to undermine the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is endorsed by the absolute majority of Palestinian society.  A mainstream Israeli news source has reported that many international professionals are staying away from Israel for its violations of international law and out of their respect for the Palestinian boycott call [9].  Your participation in and organization of this conference will constitute a direct rejection of Palestinian civil society’s act of nonviolent resistance [10]

By participating in such a conference at an Israeli institution, ISPP lends its legitimacy to Israel, allowing it to whitewash its crimes by making it appear like a center of learning and bastion of liberalism and academic freedom. 


The Necessary Consideration of Academic Freedom


The PACBI call targets Israeli academic institutions, not individual academics.  The argument that such a nuanced and targeted boycott infringes on academic freedom not only ignores this basic fact; it also flies in the face of the South African academic boycott which targeted all institutions and academics in South Africa but still eventually garnered mass support among academics worldwide after years of hesitation.

Moreover, the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights defines academic freedom to include:

the liberty of individuals to express freely opinions about the institution or system in which they work, to fulfill their functions without discrimination or fear of repression by the state or any other actor, to participate in professional or representative academic bodies, and to enjoy all the internationally recognized human rights applicable to other individuals in the same jurisdiction. The enjoyment of academic freedom carries with it obligations, such as the duty to respect the academic freedom of others, to ensure the fair discussion of contrary views, and to treat all without discrimination on any of the prohibited grounds. [11], emphasis added]

On this basis, Israel’s academic institutions are deeply implicated in an oppressive system that denies Palestinians their basic freedoms, including academic freedom.  They also institutionalize racial discrimination against “non-Jewish” students, feeding the overall system of Israeli apartheid.   Judith Butler has called on us to question

the classically liberal conception of academic freedom with a view that grasps the political realities at stake, and see that our struggles for academic freedom must work in concert with the opposition to state violence, ideological surveillance, and the systematic devastation of everyday life. [12]

It is incumbent on academics to develop such a nuanced understanding of academic freedom if we are to call for social justice and work alongside the oppressed in their struggles.  

The Israeli academy is not the bastion of dissent and liberalism it is purported to be by those who seek to defend Israel, and, in doing so, attempt to delegitimize the Palestinian call for academic boycott.  The vast majority of the Israeli academic community is oblivious to the oppression of the Palestinian people--both inside Israel and in the occupied territory--and has never fought to oppose the practices and policies of their state. In fact, they duly serve in the reserve forces of the occupation army and as such are either perpetrators of or silent witnesses to the daily brutality of the occupation and other forms of human rights violations.  They also do not hesitate to partner in their academic research with the security-military establishment that is the chief architect and executor of the occupation and other forms of oppression of the Palestinian people. 

This is without mentioning academic collusion in the various institutional structures of oppression, such as support of the military, building universities on dispossessed Palestinian land, or practicing forms of discrimination against Palestinian students.  All this and more, make Israeli academia deeply complicit in the practices and sustenance of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

Today, many international artists, intellectuals, and cultural workers reject Israel’s cynical use of the arts and the academy to whitewash its apartheid and colonial policies. Among those who have supported the BDS movement are distinguished artists, writers, and anti-racist activists such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Berger, Judith Butler, Stephen Hawking, Arundhati Roy, Adrienne Rich, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, and Roger Waters.  Yet, we are not even asking you at this point to take their courageous position and endorse the boycott of Israel, but are simply asking you not to cross our boycott picket line—not to undermine our struggle for freedom, justice and equality. 

We, therefore, call upon members of the ISPP to press for the conference venue to be changed to another country that has a better record on human rights and respect for international law.  In the event that this demand is not met, we urge a widespread boycott of this conference.  No self-respecting professional body, and especially not one whose practical significance is guided by the principles of universal human rights [13], should enable or whitewash a regime of occupation and apartheid.







About PACBI and the BDS movement


In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid [14].  The 2004 Palestinian call appealed to the international academic community to, among other things, “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions[15]

Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality [16].  The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights and international law standards as other nations. It is asking the international academic community to heed the boycott call, as it did in the struggle against South African apartheid, 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." [17]



[2] In its most recent session in Cape Town, South Africa, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that, “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid,”

[10] Your decision to hold a conference in Israel will violate the Palestinian call for boycott by specifically contravening clause 1 of the “PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel,” in which it calls for a boycott of: “Academic events (such as conferences, symposia, workshops, book and museum exhibits) convened or co-sponsored by Israeli institutions. All academic events, whether held in Israel or abroad, and convened or co-sponsored by Israeli academic institutions or their departments and institutes, deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds. These boycottable activities include panels and other activities sponsored or organized by Israeli academic bodies or associations at international conferences outside Israel. Importantly, they also include the convening in Israel of meetings of international bodies and associations.” [emphasis added; See]

[11] UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, “The Right to Education (Art.13),” December 8, 1999,

[12] Judith Butler. "Israel/Palestine and the Paradoxes of Academic Freedom." in: Radical Philosophy. Vol 135. pp. 8-17, January/February 2006. (Accessed on December 10, 2011)

[15] Ibid


May 20, 2013


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