PACBI Statement

Morgan Freeman: Don’t accept an award tarnished with apartheid and colonialism

March 26, 2013

 Dear Mr. Freeman,

 Dear Mr. Freeman,

It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned that you will be accepting the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University Award ‘the Key of Knowledge Award’ on May 6, 2013 [1].  We hope that a personal appeal from us, a campaign that enjoys overwhelming consensus amongst Palestinian civil society, will convince you otherwise [2].   
The intension of the award is to honor your work in ‘combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide’ [3]. Given that Israel practices forms of racism through its system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and violates the rights of Palestinians to education and life, it is cynical, and nothing short of a dishonor to your lifelong achievements to be accepting an award from a group that is in deep support of an Israeli University complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of human rights and international law. The Hebrew University is specifically implicated in serious violations in a number of ways.  The University illegally acquired a significant portion of the land on which its Mount Scopus campus and dormitories are built. On 1 September 1968, about one year after Israel‘s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities confiscated 3345 dunums of Palestinian land [4].  Part of this land was then used to build the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University.
The basis for the illegality of the Hebrew University land confiscation deal is that this land is part of East Jerusalem, which is occupied territory according to international law. Israel‘s unilateral annexation of occupied East Jerusalem into the State of Israel, and the application of Israeli domestic law to it, are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and have been repeatedly denounced as null and void by the international community, including by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 252 (21 May 1968). By moving Israelis (staff and students) to work and live on occupied Palestinian land, the Hebrew University is, therefore, in grave violation of those same Geneva conventions.  To accept an award from such an institution would send a message that the Hebrew University can continue its complicity, and still receive international acclaim and publicity by honoring respected moral figures such as you.
Prominent actors who accept awards from the friends of Israel around the world, in fact, unwittingly lend their names to the state’s propaganda effort, which is part and parcel of the “Brand Israel” campaign [5].  Brand Israel initiatives, partially plagiarized from apartheid South Africa [6], are designed to whitewash Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression against the Palestinian people, including: its ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands; its 223 Jewish-only settlements and “outposts” built on Palestinian land in violation of international law; its apartheid wall that further appropriates Palestinian land, also in violation of international law according to the International Court of Justice; its demolition of over 24,000 Palestinian homes since 1967; and its 2008-2009 war on Gaza, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, prompting allegations of war crimes by a United Nations Fact Finding Mission, as well as Israel’s recent onslaught on Gaza, where more than 150 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 34 children [7].  In addition, Israel has enacted over 20 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel and enshrines their status as second-class citizens based on their identity.
At a time when fellow artists are taking a stand against Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, it would be a travesty for you to do anything less. Musicians like Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, the Pixies and the late Gil Scott-Heron have eloquently explained their principled stand, cultural figures such as Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Judith Butler and Naomi Klein have given their support for BDS, and others like director Ken Loach and art critic John Berger have worked tirelessly in support of our boycott. In addition, support for BDS has grown tremendously through its endorsement by groups that include the international alliance of Artists Against Apartheid [8], South-African Artists Against Apartheid [9], Creative Workers Union of South Africa, 500 Montreal artists [10], and 200 Irish artists [11]. With this kind of international support, our movement is growing and can no longer be ignored.
Conscientious artists and humanitarians have acted to condemn Israel’s continued disregard for international law and the basic rights of the Palestinian people; We hope and expect a similar kind of solidarity from people of conscience such as yourself, just as people stood with the oppressed in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu had this to say about dealing with apartheid and its supporters:
margin-left:.5in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;text-autospace:none">International Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against the Apartheid regime, combined with the mass struggle inside South Africa, led to our victory … Just as we said during apartheid that it was inappropriate for international artists to perform in South Africa in a society founded on discriminatory laws and racial exclusivity, so it would be wrong … to perform in Israel. [12]
In refusing to publish her book with an Israeli publisher, Alice Walker recently invoked her own brave boycott of apartheid South Africa.  She wrote of how she decided to wait to bring her works to the people of South Africa, believing “deeply in non-violent methods of social change though they sometimes seem to take forever.”  Her waiting paid off, and she was so happy that after the downfall of that regime she was able to share her work.  In relation to Israel, she concluded:
margin-left:.5in;margin-bottom:.0001pt;text-autospace:none">I would so like knowing my books are read by the people of your country, especially by the young, and by the brave Israeli activists (Jewish and Palestinian) for justice and peace I have had the joy of working beside.  I am hopeful that one day, maybe soon, this may happen.  But now is not the time. [13]
justify;text-justify:inter-ideograph;text-autospace:none">Just as in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, where international solidarity played a central role in bringing down apartheid, we believe that the global BDS movement is the most effective, non-violent and morally consistent way to pressure Israel to comply with international law and recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights. For this reason we hope you will decline to be honored by supporters of the Hebrew University, a complicit Israeli institution. We urge you not to cross our picket line, to honor the fight against racism, to promote knowledge and education worldwide by standing in support of the struggle for freedom, justice and equality through declining this award until such time that Israel respects these principles.
In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI [14] issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel‘s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.  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.”  Following this, in 2005, an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society called for an all-encompassing BDS campaign [15] based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality.  The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights 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."
11.0pt;Times New Roman"">Notes:
11.0pt;Times New Roman"">[2]
[4] The decision was published in the official Israeli Gazette -- the Hebrew edition -- number 1425. It was therefore "legalized" by Israel. This land, for the most part, was (still is) privately owned by Palestinians living in that area. A large part of the confiscated land was then given to the Hebrew University to expand its campus (mainly its dormitories). The Palestinian landowners refused to leave their lands and homes arguing that the confiscation order of 1968 was illegal.  Consequently, the case was taken to the Jerusalem District Court in 1972 (file no. 1531/72). In 1973, as expected, the Israeli court ruled in favor of the University and the state. The court decided that the Palestinian families must evacuate their homes and be offered alternative housing.
justify;text-justify:inter-ideograph;text-autospace:none"> [8] text-underline:blue;text-decoration:none;text-underline:none">
justify;text-justify:inter-ideograph;text-autospace:none">[9] text-underline:none">
justify;text-justify:inter-ideograph;text-autospace:none">[10] text-underline:none">
11.0pt;Times New Roman"">[11]
March 26, 2013


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