SOAS vote for the Academic Boycott of Israel - stand on the right side of history
We the undersigned Palestinian student and academic unions, with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), strongly urge all the University of London, SOAS community to vote for the institutional academic boycott of Israel in the campus wide referendum taking place 23-27 February. We take this opportunity to salute all campaigners who have worked tirelessly to promote the Yes vote and explain to the wider student, faculty and staff body both the necessity and urgency of a boycott of Israel’s academic institutions.
We who endure the brunt of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid policies in the academic sector can attest not only to Israel’s deliberate, decades-long policies of stifling Palestinian academic life and repressing Palestinian academic freedom, but also to the deep complicity of Israel’s academic institutions in planning, implementing and whitewashing this regime of oppression.
During Israel’s latest military assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, that left entire neighbourhoods levelled to the ground, destroyed schools, university buildings and UN shelters, as well as killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, Israel’s academic institutions came out in support of the Israeli military while it deliberately bombed universities and other civilian infrastructure in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.
Hebrew University specifically, with whom SOAS has an institutional link, is partially built on stolen Palestinian land and has an army base on its campus; its complicity in Israeli violations of international law are well documented. Hebrew University stood by the Israeli army during the attack on Gaza; a notice circulated at the university announced a collection of goods including hygiene products, snacks and cigarettes “for the [Israeli] soldiers at the front according to the demand reported by the IDF [Israeli army] units.” Hebrew University maintains close ties to the Israeli military industry and collaborates with the Israeli army in training officers and recruits. Further, staff from the Hebrew University take part in the supervision and promotion committees of students and staff at the colony-college of Ariel, which was established on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. These are only some of the most obvious reasons that the SOAS community should vote for ending such tainted collaborations with Hebrew University.
We restate that our call for an academic boycott is an institutional one. It targets the privileged status of Israel’s academic institutions and the image of normality they project while being deeply complicit in a colonial context built on the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian academic boycott against Israel does not target individuals, so it clearly does not target the very few courageous Israeli academics that have come out in support of Palestinian rights. On the contrary, we strongly support their academic freedom and stand against the censorship and intimidation they face from their own institutions when they express dissenting views that support Palestinian rights, let alone any form of boycott to achieve those rights.
We are thankful to all campaigners who opened up this important discussion and debate at University of London, SOAS. While opponents of the academic boycott of Israel’s institutions often complain that it infringes on open dialogue, in reality it is clear that such referendums open up space for debate on a topic often side-lined and silenced on university campuses. We know that the wider SOAS community has a long history of backing Palestinian rights, including one of the first positive votes in a UK student union in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The first conference calling for the academic boycott of Israel was held at SOAS in 2004. We are happy to see the continuation of this tradition with dynamic, practical and effective campaigns.
Finally, we reiterate that Israel’s academic institutions, far from being “bastions of liberalism,” are a pillar of Israel’s system of colonial oppression. The least that people of conscience can do to support our struggle for freedom, justice and equality is to end all complicity in these institutions’ role in our oppression.
We strongly urge the SAOS community to vote Yes to end such complicity and to stand on the right side of history, as was done against apartheid South Africa.
- Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
- Palestinian Federation of University Unions of Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)
- University Teachers' Society in Palestine (UTSP)
- Abnaa el Balad Student Movement
- Almubadara Youth
- Al-Najah National University student union
- Alquds University Student Union
- Arab American University Student Union
- Beirziet University Student Union
- Bethlehem University Student Union
- Fateh Youth and Student Movement
- Hebron University Student Union
- NDA Student Movement
- Palestine Polytechnic University Student Union
- Palestinian Students' Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
- Palestinian Youth Struggle Union
- Palestinian Democratic Youth Union
- Palestinian Students’ Liberation Front
- Student Department of CPI (Communist Party of Israel) & DFPE (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality)
- Student’s Struggle Block
- Students Unions in Alquds open university in the following branches : Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Salfeet, Toubas, Qalqilia, Jenin, Toulkarem, Bedia, Doura, Yata, Biet Sahour, Alezarieh,