Palestinians Urge Dan David Prize Recipients To Help Dismantle Israeli Apartheid by Rejecting Complicit Award

As Palestinians face Israel’s most racist, fundamentalist government to date, which is escalating the violent oppression that has dominated our lives for decades, we call on recipients to reject recognition from institutions so deeply complicit in the silencing and erasure of an entire population.

The following letter was sent to the 2023 recipients of Israel's Dan David Prize

Dear Dr. Saheed Aderinto, Dr. Ana Antic, Dr. Karma Ben Johanan, Dr. Elise K. Burton, Dr. Adam Clulow, Dr. Krista Goff, Dr. Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, Dr. Anita Radini, Chao Tayiana Maina,

We are writing from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a founding member of the global, nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. PACBI is endorsed by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), as well as by a broad cross-section of Palestinian academics and academic associations. We hope this finds you well.

We understand that you have been awarded Israel’s Dan David Prize. We wanted to reach out to provide you with additional background information on the prize and its context, and to urge you to reconsider accepting it.

As we write, Israel’s most racist, fundamentalist government to date is escalating the violent oppression that has dominated our lives for decades. We are facing pogroms by violent settler militias, supported by the Israeli military and incited by government ministers, burning down Palestinian towns, killing sprees by Israeli soldiers taking our young and elderly alike, and expanding illegal Israeli settlements forcing us into shrinking bantustans in our homeland.

As you may know, after years of denunciations by Palestinian scholars and before this government came to power, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, together with Israel’s most prominent human rights organization B’Tselem, recently concluded that Israel is committing the crime against humanity of apartheid against Palestinians.

What you might not have considered is how accepting the Dan David Prize would bolster Israel’s human rights and international law violations by legitimizing its violent apartheid rule over Palestinians.

Indeed, the prize is endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University, two institutions that are deeply complicit in Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. 

The complicity of the very institutions administering the prize in Israeli apartheid makes accepting it even more problematic. Please allow us to illustrate some examples of this complicity below.

The Dan David Foundation counts among its partners the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), both government organizations actively involved in Israel’s gradual ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Palestinians.

The IAA is headquartered in Israeli-occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. The IAA and the NPA, in partnership with the far-right Israeli settler organization Elad, oversee excavations in occupied Jerusalem as part of a planned Israeli archeological park that is forcing Palestinians from their homes.

The IAA carries out excavations throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), looting Palestinian cultural heritage and designating Palestinian land as off-limits to Palestinians. This IAA map showing an “Archaeological Survey of Israel” completely erases the OPT.

The IAA also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in the Qumran caves in the Palestinian West Bank in 1947 and subsequently held in the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem. Israel seized the scrolls in 1967 when it illegally occupied Jerusalem along with the rest of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza.

The NPA appropriates and designates Palestinian land as national parks in order to force Palestinians off the land. It operates numerous parks, including the Qumran National Park where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and nature reserves across the occupied Palestinian territory, as this NPA map shows. Once again, the Occupied Palestinian Territory has been completely erased.

The Dan David Prize’s host, Tel Aviv University (TAU), is fully enlisted in Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

TAU maintains partnerships with Israel’s largest weapons manufacturers and just recently announced a new joint “Air and Space Power Center” with the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The IAF has carried out multiple aerial bombings of the besieged Palestinian population in Gaza, killing thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of children.

TAU houses the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), which boasts of having developed the so-called “Dahiya Doctrine” of disproportionate force. Adopted by the Israeli military, the Dahiya Doctrine calls for “the destruction of the national [civilian] infrastructure, and intense suffering among the [civilian] population.”

TAU also regularly hosts recruitment events for the Shin Bet, Israel’s notorious domestic intelligence agency. Shin Bet has been condemned by the UN Committee Against Torture over its use of violent and degrading interrogation tactics on Palestinians.

International calls and actions, including by individuals, taken to isolate the apartheid regime in South Africa helped to dismantle it.

Now scholars are responding to the call from Palestinian civil society and taking action to help dismantle Israeli apartheid. In 2016, historian Catherine Hall declined the Dan David Prize, following “discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine.”

Just last week, philosopher Sophie Grace Chappell withdrew from an ethics conference in Israel over “the longstanding failure of the State of Israel to accord basic human rights to the Palestinian people.”

The work you have done to preserve and broaden our understanding of history deserves to be recognized. However, and we hope you will agree with us, accepting recognition from institutions so deeply complicit in the silencing and erasure of an entire population would do a disservice to your extraordinary achievements.

It is our hope that you will reconsider accepting this prize and join the many international scholars and academic departments, programs, unions and associations taking a stand for Palestinian rights and calling for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes. 


Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)


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