Updates from the palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
Israel’s military occupation -- the longest in modern history -- is not an abstract notion to us. It manifests itself in wilful killings of civilians, particularly children; wanton demolition of homes and property; uprooting of more than a million trees; incessant theft of land and water resources; denial of freedom of movement to millions; and cutting up the occupied Palestinian territory into Bantustans, some entirely caged by walls, fences and hundreds of roadblocks.
Academic boycott has been advocated in the past as an effective tool in resisting injustice. In the 1920s, Mahatma Gandhi called for boycotting British-run academic institutions, to increase Indian self-reliance and also to protest the role of those institutions in maintaining British colonial domination over India. In the 1950s, the African National Congress (ANC) called for a comprehensive boycott of the entire South African academy, as a means to further isolate the apartheid regime. To their credit, British academics were among the very first to adopt the latter boycott.
As a Palestinian academic, I find the argument about academic freedom insensitive and offensive. Do Palestinian universities somehow fall outside the remit of the "universal" principle of academic freedom? The Israeli academics who argue for their unfettered access to international academic networks, grants, visiting professorships, fellowships and other benefits of the academic system, have paid scant attention to the total denial of the most basic freedoms to Palestinians, academics or otherwise.
Heartened by the growing international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Palestinian academics, trade unionists, professionals, and human rights activists will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Council when it convenes on May 30. The British academics’ initiative is particularly timely due to Israel’s escalation of its oppression of the Palestinian people.
Performing in Israel at this time is morally equivalent to performing in South Africa during the apartheid era. We all remember how leading Rolling Stones musicians played a prominent role in enforcing a cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 1980’s, and participated in recording the timeless song, Sun City, which had a singular influence on raising public awareness about apartheid and its injustices. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Prof.
The motion came in response to a statement made in August 2006 by over 120 Palestinian artists, filmmakers and cultural workers calling on artists and cultural institutions around the world to join a cultural boycott of Israel.
At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel‘s colonial and racist policies, we respectfully urge conscientious academics, artists and intellectuals from around the world, including those who visit the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), to refrain from visiting Israel to participate in any event or encounter that is not explicitly dedicated to ending Israel‘s illegal occupation and other forms of oppression.