The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is extremely disappointed by the news that you intend to accept the Israeli Wolf Prize in May, at a time when the international movement to boycott Israel is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant violations of international law and the human rights of Palestinians. We appeal to you to reject this prize, and to reflect upon the implications of your acceptance of this recognition from an apartheid and colonial state.
You will be receiving this prize personally from the president of a state that has for more than six decades imposed a colonial and apartheid regime on the people of Palestine, and has for the last 46 years been ruling the people of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, by military force. As we write, Israel continues to build illegal Jewish-only colonies on occupied Palestinian land, and to institute an apartheid infrastructure including roads, blockades and the Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague in 2004. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands, as stipulated in UN resolutions. Moreover, it maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens.
The man who will be bestowing the prize upon you, Shimon Peres, has a public record of implication in war crimes and other grave violations of human rights. In 1996, when Israel still occupied southern Lebanon, Peres as Prime Minister launched "Operation Grapes of Wrath" causing massive destruction and forcing 400,000 Lebanese civilians to flee their homes, with almost 800 of them taking refuge at a UN base in the village of Qana in South Lebanon. The Israeli army later shelled the UN shelter in Qana, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly. Many more were injured. Human Rights Watch, the UN and Amnesty International subsequently established that Israel‘s attack on the UN base was deliberate, disproving Israeli propaganda to the contrary. Shimon Peres is also an architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program - one which remains outside the scrutiny of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and is credited for setting up the first settlement in the heart of the West Bank, Kedumim, which has been terrorizing its Palestinian neighbors to this day.
Peres presides over a state that continues to build illegal colonies on occupied land, and an elaborate system of barriers, roadblocks, and road systems in pursuit of separation, segregation, and colonization. In this regard, we wish to draw your attention to the fact that architecture and related professional fields in Israel are deeply complicit in the design and implementation of the system of apartheid in Palestine. Your professional counterparts in Israel have not, as a body, dissociated themselves from the degradation of their profession and are thus complicit in their silence or active collusion with the system. It is also timely that we draw your attention to an international group of conscientious architects and planners, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, who have been campaigning untiringly to challenge Israel’s continued membership in the International Union of Architects until such time as its architects and planners and their representative bodies respect the charter of the IUA and the precepts of international law.
As was the case in South Africa, where international solidarity played a crucial role in bringing down apartheid by boycotting the economic, educational and cultural institutions of the apartheid regime, we sincerely hope you will decline to receive the Wolf Prize. This prize is offered by an institution whose Council is headed by an Israeli government minister, and is presented by the Israeli head of state. We appeal to you not to participate in whitewashing Israel’s crimes. Prizes such as the Wolf Prize and the ceremonies surrounding them are occasions where Israel attempts to normalize its presence in the international community of scientists, artists and public intellectuals despite its continuous campaign of ethnic cleansing, discrimination, and denial of Palestinians’ right to self-determination. We urge you to deny Israel this spotlight until it fully respects international law.
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 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
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."