The construction of the Israeli wall across and through Palestinian land in flagrant violation of the rulings of the International Court and despite international condemnation, notably from the EU, is making everyday life, to say nothing of teaching and research, ever more difficult for our Palestinian colleagues.
In response to these continued acts of oppression, there have been international calls for sanctions against Israel and boycotts of Israeli institutions. Trade Unions, including AUT and NATFHE, now united as UCU, have endorsed such calls, as have a number of MPs (ref 1 below) and MEPS (ref 2 below).
We recognise that there are a number of courageous individual Israeli academics who are openly critical of their country's policies, who support their Palestinian academic colleagues and who work with the peace movement. We pay tribute to such individual academic colleagues of conscience and stand in solidarity with them. However, they are few (3) in number (less than 1%), and institutionally, Israeli universities are at worst active supporters of Israeli state policy, at best in passive compliance with it. BRICUP therefore supports these growing calls for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions until such time as a just peace is negotiated.
Especially in the current climate of rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, boycott is among the clearest and least violent forms of action in resisting occupation and injustice at an international level. An academic boycott is a weapon to be used selectively and only under clearly defined conditions (4).
At this stage of the long struggle for Palestinian self determination, an academic boycott is both a personal and a collective act made in solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues whose academic freedom is currently denied. By supporting this important sector of Palestinian civil society BRICUP seeks to help foster a non-violent and just solution in this troubled region.
As in the case of South Africa, it will be a long haul from ethical acts of solidarity to full UN-administered economic cultural and academic sanctions. The comparison with the anti-Apartheid movement and the need for pressure from international civil society – specifically from universities - has been made by leading ANC figures and also Archbishop Desmond Tutu (5).
BRICUP also stands against the smearing of critics of Israeli state policy as ‘anti-semites' or ‘self-hating Jews.'
Indeed, Israel has sought to convince the world that it is supported unconditionally by world Jewry; however this claim is under renewed challenge. Within Europe the international organisation of European Jews for a Just Peace and within the US the call for university disinvestment initiated by Jewish academics say ‘not in our name'.
Indeed It should be remembered that trenchant criticism of Israel by leading Jewish intellectuals accompanied the brutal founding of the Israeli State. In 1948 Albert Einstein, Sidney Hook, and Hannah Arendt, amongst others, published a letter in the New York Times (6) comparing Menachem Begin and his Herut /Freedom/ Likud Party to the Nazi and Fascist parties.
Nor did this critical tradition retreat quickly. In 1958 Martin Buber compared the philosophy behind Zionist/Israeli statism and nationalism (as against Jewish migration) and the expulsion of the Palestinians and refusal of their return (which today we would call ethnic cleansing) as something learned from Adolf Hitler (7).
In this spirit, BRICUP calls for honest forthright criticism by all of Israeli state crimes.
References from above
(1) Gerald Kaufman, amongst others, has called for sanctions
(2) notably Caroline Lucas, of the Greens
(3) according to the distinguished Israeli historian, Professor Ilan Pappe
(4)see for example Sir Patrick Bateson, FRS, Index on Censorship, September 2002
(5) Middle East Research and Information Project, summer 2002
(6)New York Times, December 2 nd 1948
(7)Old Zionism and Modern Israel, Jewish Newsletter 14, June 2 nd 1958