Vienna museum cancels Palestine event with leader of South African anti-apartheid struggle

A Vienna museum, Volkskundemuseum, has cancelled an Israeli Apartheid Week event where former minister in Nelson Mandela’s government Ronnie Kasrils was scheduled to speak

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For years, some diplomatic missions in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) -- including East Jerusalem -- have sponsored, organized, or otherwise facilitated joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that obfuscate or altogether ignore the reality of Israeli colonial and racist policies against the people of Palestine.

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. This appeal was issued within the framework of a call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) endorsed by over 200 Palestinian political parties, grassroots and non-governmental organizations, and unions.

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.

Visits to the OPT by international supporters and advocates of Palestinian rights have always been viewed by Palestinians as a source of encouragement and inspiration. These gestures of solidarity are very important to us; they help break down the walls of isolation imposed by Israel and the global centers of power, and also demonstrate to Israel and the world that the Palestinians are not alone in their struggle for freedom.

Whereas the IMA has shown blatant disregard for the ethical issue of medical neutrality, with the IMA unconditionally defending the violations of medical neutrality by the Israeli army in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT); Whereas the IMA is charged with being the executive arm of the Israeli establishment working to support political imperatives rather than serving universal medical ethics;

In May 2002, long before the Palestinian call for academic boycott of Israel was issued [1], and in support of the early British efforts to impose a moratorium on the European Union’s scientific association with Israel, Tanya Reinhart was a pioneer in laying the logical and political foundations for what later developed into an institutional academic boycott movement. In a letter refuting the anti-boycott arguments of her fellow Israeli academic, Baruch Kimmerling, Tanya wrote with her typical clarity and resoluteness [2]: