Archive for January, 2009

The Case for Academic Boycott

Posted in International BDS Actions on January 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

January 31, 2009 By Jason Kunin

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Of the various campaigns for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel , none seems to have provoked as much condemnation and rage as the threat of academic boycott. Even among people who have no problem with boycotts against products made in the Israeli settlements, or against companies like Caterpillar that manufactures the bulldozers Israel uses to demolish Palestinian homes, you will find a certain level of discomfort with academic boycott. At a recent talk in Toronto, for example, Susan Nathan – a committed and active anti-Zionist whose book The Other Side of Israel provides some of the best commentary out there on the mechanisms of apartheid within Israel – came out, to my surprise, against academic boycott on the grounds that it punished the innocent and the guilty alike.

For many, academia is simply not a fair or reasonable target, either because academics are not seen as being directly involved in Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians, or because there is a notion that Israeli universities are sites of dissent against the occupation, or because requiring that academics, regardless of their discipline, to pass an ideological litmus test conjures memories of McCarthyism. To target all academics, some will argue, amounts to collective punishment and makes the solidarity movement no better than Israel, which brands all Palestinians as terrorists. Yes, some will concede, there are Israeli academics involved in weapons research or Zionist propaganda, but what do they have to do with professors of astronomy or plant science who have little or no active involvement or interest in politics? Why punish them?

These are all reasonable objections, but, as I hope to show, unfounded. Academic boycott is entirely appropriate, legitimate, and just.

Is academic boycott collective punishment?

Leaving aside the fact that Israel routinely engages in the collective punishment of Palestinians, let me begin with the concern that academic boycott amounts to collective punishment – that, as Susan Nathan has argued, it punishes the innocent and the guilty alike. To be sure, there are a handful of Israeli academics who have voiced criticism of their government’s treatment of the Palestinians. Baruch Kimmerling, Israel Shahak, Tanya Reinhart, Ilan Pappe, and Jeff Halper, for example, have all come out of the Israeli academy and have been invaluable allies in the Palestinian struggle.

True, one would be hard-pressed to name half a dozen of such people operating in the Israeli university today – Kimmerling, Shahak, and Reinhart are dead, Pappe now lives in England, and Halper is retired though now a full-time activist – yet even so, the vast number, maybe even the majority, of Israeli academics are neither politically active nor involved in work that would seem to be connected directly to Israel’s occupation. Wouldn’t targeting them amount to collective punishment?

The answer is no. And to understand why, it is useful to turn to one of the most important inquiries on the subject of collective guilt, Carl Jaspers’s The Question of German Guilt.

As an ordinary German during the Second World War – and maybe even as an exceptional German since Jaspers was an outspoken critic of the Nazi government throughout those dark and dangerous years – Jaspers struggled after the war to understand the degree to which ordinary German citizens bore responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Jasper’s friend Hannah Arendt had already rejected the notion of collective guilt, arguing, in her famous formulation, that “if everyone is guilty, then no one is guilty.” Arendt felt that “collective guilt” diluted the concept of guilt so much that those who were truly responsible for the deaths of millions, and therefore the real criminals, would be let off the hook. Jaspers agreed. For this reason, he felt the need to distinguish between four types of guilt: criminal guilt, which is determined by human laws and their instruments; moral guilt, which is determined by one’s conscience; metaphysical guilt, which is determined by God; and political guilt, which is determined, in the case of war, by the victor, or in peace time, by international law.

“Everybody is responsible for the way he is governed,” Jaspers argues. Yet political “responsibility” is not the same thing as criminal or metaphysical responsibility. As Jaspers explains, “There is liability for political guilt,” and therefore one can demand appropriate consequences, such as the payment of reparations or “the loss or restriction of political power and political rights (on the part of the guilty).”

Ordinary Israeli citizens should not be held criminally responsible for the crimes committed by their soldiers or by their government, and therefore they should not be considered legitimate targets of military resistance, such as Qassam rockets or suicide bombers. On this, I part ways with Hamas. Nevertheless, following on Jaspers, Israeli citizens are politically liable for what their government does, and therefore they can be seen legitimate targets of political resistance, such as boycott.

Boycott is the revocation of a privilege, not the violation of a right

It is part of the condition of privilege that those born with privileges mistake them for rights. The ability to travel virtually anywhere in the world with a valid passport is something most citizens of Europe or Canada take for granted but which the majority inhabitants of the global South know only as a privilege they will never enjoy. Similarly, the ability to have one’s voice and opinions heard and published and taken seriously – to be regarded as an “expert” – is a privilege enjoyed by very few people anywhere. It is worth noting that even within the Palestine solidarity movement, Jewish voices are often conferred greater authority than those of Palestinians. Susan Nathan’s The Other Side of Israel does a great service educating people about apartheid systems within Israel, but we shouldn’t have needed Susan Nathan to write this book when there are over a million Palestinians living within Israel who could have told us the same things and more. But if a Jew is saying it, it must be so. The fact that we do need Susan Nathan – and we do – speaks to the privilege that Jewishness confers upon us who are Jewish, even for those of us, such as queer Jews or black Jews or poor Jews, who might experience marginalization in other ways.

Certainly, there are many marginalized Jews and Jewish communities in Israel, but we should note that academic boycott does not target them. Its target, rather, is Israel’s intellectual leadership, the educated elite whose record consists largely of misinforming Israelis about their history, distorting their understanding of current conflicts, normalizing the racism of their society, and providing to the Israeli military and government the legal, technological, and political tools it needs to facilitate the continued theft of Palestinian land and the containment of its restive population. There are exceptions, of course, a brave few who stick their necks out or engage in small acts of quiet rebellion – and then, of course, there are those who, like Dante’s poor souls in the outer circle of hell, sit on the sidelines and do nothing – but by and large this is the overall picture.

Nevertheless, the smattering presence of a few dissenting voices is not an argument against academic boycott. True, God said He would spare Sodom and Gemorrah if He could find just ten righteous people living there (unfortunately, He found only four, probably about the same number of anti-Zionists currently in the Israeli academy), but then academic boycott hardly amounts to the wrath of God, and it certainly doesn’t even come close to the brutality visited upon people in occupied Palestine by the Israeli army. It simply seeks to revoke the privileges of an intellectual class that has failed to live up to the moral responsibilities that come with those privileges. It targets not those Israelis who are kept in the dark and don’t know what their government is doing, but those who should know better and are part of the apparatus of misinformation that misinforms the Israeli public. And if in its sweep it penalizes the odd Israeli academic who supports Palestinian rights – and let’s keep things in perspective, we’re not exactly talking death by firing squad here, only the cancellation of a few visiting lectures – the fact is that those of us Jews who are allies in the Palestinian struggle need to understand that part of being an ally is being prepared to give up some of the unearned privileges we enjoy, especially those that are contingent on the silencing of Palestinians themselves.

What about academic freedom?

One of the liberal myths of societies built upon Enlightenment ideals such as intellectual freedom is that universities are special, protected sites where dissent is allowed to reign free and absolute freedom of speech and inquiry exists and needs to be protected. The fact is, however, that absolute academic freedom has never existed anywhere – not in Canada, not in the United States, not in Europe, and certainly not in Israel. Anyone who has ever applied for research funding can tell you that certain types of projects will simply not get money, particularly as sources of funding come more and more under corporate and government control. In Canada, universities are increasingly reliant on private endowments and corporate partnerships, which never come without strings and which place certain types of research off-limits. (Just ask Dr. Nancy Olivieri, the Hospital for Sick Children doctor who was removed from her position after publishing research critical of thalassaemia, a drug produced by the pharmaceutical company Apotext that was funding her research.) Tenure-track appointments and contract renewals are all subject to ideological controls. Try making a career in academia as a specialist in the genocidal policies of your own government, or as an anti-Zionist critic of Israel and the Holocaust industry, then ask the formerly-tenured professor Ward Churchill or the now unemployed Norman Finkelstein what kind of career possibilities exist.

In Israel, things are no better. For a country that likes to boast of its robust democracy and wide spectrum of debate, the ideological climate in the universities is even more stifling than in the United States and Canada. Dissent beyond a certain point, especially if it questions the Zionist foundations of the state itself or calls too much attention to the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous inhabitants, is simply not tolerated. Tanya Reinhart and Ilan Pappe, two of the most forceful and insightful critics to come out of the Israeli academy, both faced such intolerable levels of harassment while there that they eventually left the country of their birth to teach in the U.S. and England respectively. Pappe in particular has been subject to death threats, denunciation in the Knesset, and an unsuccessful bid to have him dismissed from his tenured post at the University, which finally backed off but then barred him from participating in seminars or conferences. When a graduate student at Pappe’s university named Teddy Katz published his MA thesis about a massacre of Palestinian villagers by an Israeli military unit during the 1948 war, he was sued for libel by veterans of the war. The lawsuit drained Katz’s savings and destroyed his health. He was eventually pressured to sign a public “apology” for his work, which he quickly after retracted. of Haifa is no different.

The argument that a boycott of Israeli academics constitutes a violation of some sort of mythical academic freedom simply doesn’t take account of the various indirect ways in which the freedom to teach, publish, and research are already restricted. All universities are subject to ideological controls. Israel

Academic boycott is actually a mechanism to ease these controls by creating external pressure on the universities to allow for the expression of opinions it does not currently tolerate. Indeed, one could argue that boycotting Israeli academics who do not take a public stand against the Israeli occupation is, in fact, a way of giving them more freedom to say what they do not at the moment feel free to say. Now they have an excuse to speak out.

“The freest universities in the Middle East”

When the
Ontario division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) put forward a motion last month in the midst of Israel’s Gaza onslaught to boycott Israeli academics who did not condemn it, the newspapers were filled with the usual denunciations. A common point that came up a few times was that Israel’s universities are “the freest in the Middle East.” One letter writer in The Globe and Mail even suggested that CUPE boycott Arab universities instead!

Apart from being a tired tactic of Israel’s defenders – calling attention to any other country but Israel – such denunciations miss the point: why boycott academics who have no freedom to criticize their government? If you are going to argue that Israel’s universities are the “freest in the Middle East,” then you imply that it is the individuals themselves, not the institutions, who are responsible for their silence on what their government is doing to the Palestinian people, and therefore you are arguing they can be held to account. Certainly, those who profess to care about academic freedom in Israel tend to show a stunning indifference to the plight of Palestinian universities, which have been bombed, sliced in half by Israel’s “security fence,” and regularly shut down under Israeli military order. Checkpoints routinely prevent students and faculty from attending classes. Immigration and security officials deny visiting scholars their visa. Students winning scholarships abroad are denied permits to leave. And these are not universities under the control of Arab governments but under the control of Israel, the very country whose universities are supposedly the “freest in the Middle East.”

The boycott movement is actually more generous towards Israeli academics than Israel’s supporters, for unlike them, the boycott movement recognizes the constraints under which they operate and does not presume that they are totally free. This is why it is the institutions, not the individuals who are targeted for boycott. I suppose you could argue that institutions are comprised of individuals and therefore individuals will be affected, but academic boycott targets individuals only in their capacity as academics working for Israeli institutions. It does not target them for being fathers, grandfathers, sisters, or friendly neighbours. Nor does it seek to prevent them from writing, speaking, or publishing, provided that they are not doing so as representatives of Israeli universities or functioning as organs of the state.

Supporters of Israel always complain of “imbalance” in any venue or context in which their view of the world is not affirmed. Admittedly, boycotting Israeli academics will not create “balance,” but only because the current imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians is too great and Israel is too powerful. Academic boycott is just a tiny step in restoring some balance to this most imbalanced conflict.

Jason Kunin is a Toronto teacher and writer. He can be reached at jkunin [at] rogers.com.

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Palestinian orgs. call for boycott and end of Gaza siege

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on January 29, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Press release, Palestinian NGO Network, 29 January 2009

The following position paper was issued on 28 January 2009 by the Palestinian NGO Network:

On 27 December 2008, Israeli occupying forces launched a full-scale military offensive on the Gaza Strip from the sea, land and air. For 22 days the Israeli military indiscriminately shelled homes, mosques and schools, leaving no area of Gazan society untouched. During Israel’s barbaric military campaign, approximately 1,300 Palestinians were killed. According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, almost four of every five persons killed was a civilian. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than one of every three fatalities was a child. Practices and tactics adopted by the Israeli military during its offensive, which included bombing and shelling densely populated areas, strongly indicate that civilians were deliberately targeted.

The goal of the Israeli military was clearly to leave an indelible imprint in the minds of the Palestinians, both the current and future generations — an image of unprecedented destruction — in the hope of erasing the memory of resistance and struggle amongst the people of Gaza. In doing so Israel would be free to impose its goals, and instill a culture of obedience, and compliance with the occupying power.

Israel’s actions amount to an illegal act of aggression and there is growing evidence that the circumstances in which many of the civilians were killed may amount not only to war crimes but also crimes against humanity.

We, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), demand immediate intervention, particularly by the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to thoroughly investigate Israel’s military conduct during its full-scale 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip, and to consequently prosecute all those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed.

This aggression, orchestrated by the Israeli body politic, depicts a grave disregard for the fundamental human rights of a civilian population under the control and protection of Israel, as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, and has a direct bearing on the current media campaigns and the pending Israeli elections.

Although Israel’s stated goals were not reached, the people of Gaza heroically endured the systematic destruction of their lives for 22 days.

However, Israel’s hidden goals were to deepen the rift already existing between Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank, in order to further divide Palestinian people both politically and geographically.

We call for immediate action to be taken to achieve the following:

* An immediate end to the internal conflict, a revival of national unity as to avoid polarization on a regional and international level, which does not serve common Palestinian goals, and formation of a National Unity Government to lead the Palestinian people through these critical times.

* Immediate commencement of reconstruction work in Gaza with a priority of finding homes for those without. The reconstruction of Gaza should be handled by Palestinians as their knowledge of the affected areas is second to none. Although Israel should take full responsibility for rebuilding all destroyed civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, if reconstruction is to be bankrolled by the international community, reconstruction funds should be handled exclusively by a Palestinian team, which should be selected on the basis of transparency, accountability and professionalism, and should consist of members from civil society, the private sector and the government. This team should utilize their collective experience on a local, regional and international level and apply it as specified by the needs of the team.

* Cooperation with civil and popular initiatives in order to allow them the possibility to assist the victims of this war. In addition, the role and independence of civil society should also be respected.

* We, Palestinian non-governmental organizations declare our complete rejection of any aid coming from USAID due to the United States’ constant military and financial support to Israel, or from any other parties whose support to Israel facilitated Israel’s military aggression in the Gaza Strip.

* An end of the siege on Gaza and opening of the borders and crossings. In addition, a safe and free passage that links the West Bank to Gaza should be created, while avoiding anything that deepens the already existing division between the West Bank and Gaza.

* Preservation of the freedom of expression and right to criticize the performance of any authorities involved in the war, and let them be answerable for their respective roles. We call for the release of all political prisoners and the immediate cessation of arrests, while allowing media impartiality and freedom from external influence.

* Conducting a comprehensive revision of Palestinian negotiating policy to ensure an immediate cessation of the construction of Israeli settlements, the end of the siege on Gaza, the end of Israel’s policy to isolate Jerusalem and to end all Israeli aggression. This policy should be linked with existing UN treaties, resolutions and standards of international law and should help develop Palestinian political discourse and its mechanisms. The reference of negotiation should be based on the Palestinian Political Prisoners Initiative with an emphasis on the right to resist.

* The intervention of the international community in providing protection for the people of Gaza and the West Bank, ending the occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel and guaranteeing Palestinians’ right to self-determination, through application of international conventions and resolutions. It is not acceptable to place the Palestinians on the same level as the Israelis; it is now clearer than ever who the oppressor is and who is being oppressed.

* Bringing the Israeli authorities before a war tribunal to hold them to account for the damage and destruction they have caused in Gaza, and to ensure the appropriate reparations are made. We propose to form a national committee to work on this front.

* Upholding the current global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign to boycott Israeli goods, support of divestment initiatives and encourage sanctions against Israel, to re-enforce its aims in light of Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza.

International Writers and Scholars Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

Posted in International BDS Actions on January 27, 2009 by Marcy Newman

by Steven Salaita / January 27th, 2009

We stand in support of the indigenous Palestinian people in Gaza, who are fighting for their survival against one of the most brutal uses of state power in both this century and the last.

We condemn Israel’s recent (December 2008/ January 2009) breaches of international law in the Gaza Strip, which include the bombing of densely-populated neighborhoods, illegal deployment of the chemical white phosphorous, and attacks on schools, ambulances, relief agencies, hospitals, universities, and places of worship. We condemn Israel’s restriction of access to media and aid workers.

We reject as false Israel’s characterization of its military attacks on Gaza as retaliation. Israel’s latest assault on Gaza is part of its longtime racist jurisprudence against its indigenous Palestinian population, during which the Israeli state has systematically dispossessed, starved, tortured, and economically exploited the Palestinian people.

We reject as untrue the Israeli government’s claims that the Palestinians use civilians as human shields, and that Hamas is an irredeemable terrorist organization. Without endorsing its platforms or philosophy, we recognize Hamas as a democratically elected ruling party. We do not endorse the regime of any existing Arab state, and call for the upholding of internationally mandated human rights and democratic elections in all Arab states.

We call upon our fellow writers and academics in the United States to question discourses that justify and rationalize injustice, and to address Israeli assaults on civilians in Gaza as one of the most important moral issues of our time.

We call upon institutions of higher education in the U.S. to cut ties with Israeli academic institutions, dissolve study abroad programs in Israel, and divest institutional funds from Israeli companies, using the 1980s boycott against apartheid South Africa as a model.

We call on all people of conscience to join us in boycotting Israeli products and institutions until a just, democratic state for all residents of Palestine/Israel comes into existence.

Mohammed Abed
Elmaz Abinader
Diana Abu-Jaber
Ali Abunimah
Opal Palmer Adisa
Deborah Al-Najjar
Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany
Amina Baraka
Amiri Baraka
George Bisharat
Sherwin Bitsui
Breyten Breytenbach
Van Brock
Hayan Charara
Allison Hedge Coke
Lara Deeb
Vicente Diaz
Marilyn Hacker
Mechthild Hart
Sam Hamill
Randa Jarrar
Fady Joudah
Mohja Kahf
Rima Najjar Kapitan
Persis Karim
J. Kehaulani Kauanui
Haunani Kay-Trask
David Lloyd
Sunaina Maira
Nur Masalha
Khaled Mattawa
Daniel AbdalHayy Moore
Aileen Moreton-Robinson
Nadine Naber
Marcy Newman
Viet Nguyen
Simon J. Ortiz
Vijay Prashad
Steven Salaita
Therese Saliba
Sarita See
Deema Shehabi
Matthew Shenoda
Naomi Shihab Nye
Magid Shihade
Vandana Shiva
Noenoe Silva
Andrea Smith
Ahdaf Soueif
Ghada Talhami
Frank X. Walker
Robert Warrior

“Where’s the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza?”

Posted in Palestinian Education, Zionism on January 27, 2009 by Marcy Newman

The Islamic University (Gaza) | Press Release | January 25, 2009

On Saturday December 27th, 2008, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) was ready to start the final exams of the fall semester for more than 20,000 students (60% of whom are women) enrolled into its 10 colleges -education, religion, art, commerce, Shariah law, science, engineering, information technology, medicine, and nursing. On that day, more than 60 American made Israeli F16 warplanes began to bomb the Palestinian population of Gaza at a time when the maximum number of children going to and coming from schools.

On Sunday December 28th, 2008, the Israeli F16 fighters bombed IUG during the recent horrific attack on the people of Gaza who have been under suffocating siege for about 2 years.

Two 5-story buildings were completely destroyed by Israeli warplanes: the Science Lab Building and the Engineering Lab Building. The two major buildings had more than 50 labs that contained invaluable scientific and medical equipment and devices, and many academic materials which were destroyed. The buildings targeted served as research and development centers for students, faculty and community.

The six-rocket bombardment of both buildings also caused wide damage to all university buildings, including the central library close to the labs buildings.

It is worth mentioning that since its establishment in 1987, IUG has faced many challenges and restrictions imposed by the Israeli military authorities. Yet, IUG managed to provide quality academic education and serve the local community. With the help and support of all good people in the world, the university campus was converted from simple tents and barracks of asbestos to a modern campus with recent facilities that match the best in the world.
The bombing and shelling come at a time IUG faces major financial difficulties as many students’ families cannot pay fees due to high rate of unemployment caused by the siege imposed by the Israeli army.

The Israeli propaganda machine has accompanied the savage aggression in order to justify the extensive damage to many civilian facilities throughout the Gaza Strip including IUG, UN schools and food warehouses, 3 hospitals, 16 health facilities, 16 ambulances and the Headquarter of the Ministry of Education.

The Israeli propaganda broadcasts massive misinformation, allegations and lies about the targets Israeli warplanes destroyed. To prevent any verification of the Israeli false claims, The Israeli army prevented journalists and human rights monitors from entering Gaza during the aggression.

But the truth of the indiscriminate bombing and using both internationally banned white phosphorus shells and dime bombs has been confirmed by UN and other NGOs on the ground, including Israeli human rights groups and academics:

1. Wheres the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza? By Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper

2. Official UN Statements on Crisis in Gaza

3. Israel admits troops may have used phosphorus shells in Gaza

4. Statement by Mr. Max Gaylard, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory

5. Human Rights Watch: The Incendiary IDF by Kenneth Roth

We firmly believe that the illegal Israeli occupation have deliberately and continuously targeted the Palestinian academic institutions, including IUG, in an attempt to keep the Palestinians ignorant and insecure so the oppressive Israeli occupation could last longer.

By destroying the university buildings, IUG is facing major disarray and delay in completing the second semester, entailing the inability of hundreds of students to graduate.

Such bombardment is a flagrant violation of international law including the Fourth Geneva Convention. This violation shows a total disregard for Palestinian rights to education and for the legitimacy of the international community and international law, declarations and resolutions.

We therefore call upon all academics, students, concerned bodies and the international community to show their support and solidarity to the right of the Palestinians to education:

1. Boycotting Israeli academic institutions and refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation.

2. Lobbying (emails, letter, fax, etc) your MP and government to pressure the government of Israel to adhere to its legal obligations to end occupation and stop attacking Palestinian educational institutions.

3. Preparing and signing petitions calling on trade unions, education institutions, organizations, social and political movements and concerned individuals around the world to support the right to education in Palestine.

4. Organizing exchange visit to and from IUG to students and faculty members to come on a speaking tour to universities and organizations in your country.

5. Sponsoring students at IUG to enable them to continue their education.

6. Initiating active academic relations with IUG through departmental links; student and faculty exchange; joint research projects; and inclusion at international academic conferences.

7. Making a donation to reconstruct the IUG buildings and facilities.

8. Establishing connections with Palestinian universities, students and faculty, through solidarity links or academic exchange.

9. Support the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for “a full investigation and to make those responsible people accountable.”

Below are some actions taken worldwide and can be replicated with necessary modifications:

1. U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel Joins International Calls To Boycott Israeli Academic and Cultural Institutions

2. 148 Irish Academics call for EU to cut links with Israel

3. A Petition Signed by Academics, Educators and Teachers

4. A Statement of Determination to Boycott Israel

5. Association of University Teachers in Gaza calls for Boycott

6. Canadian Association of University Teachers on Gaza

7. Faculty 4 Palestine condemns Israeli bombing of Islamic University and massacre in Gaza

8. Open letter to international academic institutions from the R2E Campaign

9. Open letter to U.S academics on Gaza from American academics teaching in Middle East

10. Why would Israel bomb a university? Dr. Akram Habeeb

For more relevant and accurate information, please visit these websites:

1. Right to Education website

2. Electronic Intifada

3. Palestine Solidarity Campaign

4. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)

Please contact : public [at] iugaza.edu.ps

Your solidarity and support for the right to education in Palestine is vital and highly appreciated.

SF Labor Council Resolution Demanding Immediate Opening of Border Crossings into Gaza

Posted in Labor Organizing on January 26, 2009 by Marcy Newman

San Francisco Labor Council
January 26th, 2009

Resolution Demanding the Immediate Opening of Border Crossings into Gaza

[Note: The following resolution was adopted unanimously, with two abstentions, by the delegates’ meeting of the San Francisco Labor Council on Jan. 26, 2009.]

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council delegates’ meeting on Jan. 12, 2009, adopted a resolution on the situation in Gaza in which it first notes that “the U.N. Security Council … has called for the opening of border crossings,” and then goes on to support “the call of the U.N. Security Council … to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs of the people of Gaza,” including the opening of borders; and

Whereas, the Israeli government announced on Jan. 23, following the ceasefire agreement, that it would not open the border crossings into the Gaza Strip “in the near future” (source:, Jan. 23, 2009); and Financial Times

Whereas, the three-week bombing and ground invasion of Gaza by the Israeli armed forces left 1,337 dead, according to U.N. officials, 40% of whom were women and children under the age of 18, with an additional 5,000 civilians injured, many of them maimed for life; and

Whereas, according to the New York Times (Jan. 17, 2009), an estimated 35% of all the infrastructure of Gaza was destroyed (with damages estimated at US$2 billion) during this military attack, leaving two-thirds of the country with little to no electricity, more than 500,000 people with no access to potable water, while sewage is running in the streets throughout the Gaza Strip, and hospitals cannot function for lack of electricity and lack of spare parts for their generators; and

Whereas, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has not abated with the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, but is only getting worse by the day, with the risk of thousands of more deaths due to the unsanitary conditions and the lack of basic infrastructure to attend to the needs of the population; and

Whereas, there can be no relief from this humanitarian emergency in Gaza without opening all border crossings into Gaza, as “‘[l]ifting the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip is necessary for the reconstruction and relief effort; much of the territory’s civilian infrastructure has been destroyed during the three-week Israeli offensive and without building materials and supplies, there is little hope of rebuilding the water, sewage and power networks, as well as private homes and key government buildings (source: Tobias Buck, “Israel Warns It Will Keep Gaza Crossings Closed,” Financial Times, Jan. 23, 2009); and

Whereas, governments the world over, as well as international human rights organizations — from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to Amnesty International, to major human rights organizations in Israel itself — are calling for the immediate opening of Israel’s borders to Gaza to allow the reconstruction and relief efforts to proceed post-haste.

Therefore be it resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council reaffirms its call on the Israeli government to open immediately its border crossings into Gaza so that urgently needed humanitarian and reconstruction assistance can avert further pain and suffering by the Palestinian people in Gaza; and

Be in finally resolved, that a copy of this resolution shall be forwarded to all affiliates of this Council, and to the California Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO, and Change to Win with a request that they take a similar position.

Submitted by

Alan Benjamin*, OPEIU Local 3
Frank Martin del Campo*, San Francisco LCLAA
Conny Ford*, OPEIU Local 3
Maria Guillen*, SEIU Local 1021
Kathy Lipscomb*, SEIU-UHW
Denis Mosgofian*, GCC IBT 4-N
Francesca Rosa*, SEIU Local 1021
Rodger Scott*, AFT Local 2121
Howard Wallace*, Pride at Work
Dave Welsh*, Letter Carriers Local 214

(* union local listed for id. only)

Israel Boycott Movement Comes to U.S.

Posted in International BDS Actions on January 26, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Inside Higher Ed | January 26th

The movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions has largely been centered in Britain (where in 2007 the University and College Union dropped the call). In response to the conflict in Gaza, calls for academic boycotts have crossed the Atlantic, surfacing first in Ontario, and now in the United States.

The U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, launched last week, enumerates five goals. These include: “Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine,” “promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions,” and “supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”

The group’s press release continues, “We believe that non-violent external pressure on Israel, in the form of an academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel, can help bring an end to the ongoing massacres of civilians and an end [to] the occupation of Gaza and Palestine” — with “Palestine” referring to the West Bank land occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, explained David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of Southern California who’s involved with the campaign. “We are actually literally following the call of the Palestinian civil society groups that call for a boycott, and what they ask for is a return to 1967 borders.”

As of Saturday afternoon, two days after the campaign’s press release went out, Lloyd reported that the campaign had received more than 70 endorsements by individuals, and two by organizations.

“Many universities in the United States have direct involvement with Israeli institutions, ranging from study abroad programs to collaborative research. And we believe that should be suspended until such time that Israel respects international and humanitarian law,” said Lloyd.

In the United States, opposition to academic boycotts is strong. A 2007 statement signed by nearly 300 university presidents sums up why: “In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.”

The statement was issued in response to the boycott movement then afoot in Britain, and was written by Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger. “At my institution, our president, Lee Bollinger, has said publicly that if you boycott Israeli academics you boycott us at Columbia,” said Andrew R. Marks, president and founder of International Academic Friends of Israel and chair of Columbia’s physiology department. “He’s taken a stand against academic boycotts which I’m proud of, and I think that would be the norm among the better universities in the United States. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t affect our students and others who are impressionable and looking for a cause to pick up, that sort of thing, so it certainly concerns me.”

Beyond the argument in favor of exchange and dialogue, “You go to the question of whether or not this [an academic boycott] could possibly ever help the Palestinian people. And that’s quite doubtful, since the academics in Israel, as in many countries, tend to be pretty left-wing and actually are some of the most forceful voices in favor of peace and fair treatment of Palestinians,” Marks continued. “So I tend to think this whole movement, which originated in the U.K., was very much an anti-Israel movement and not really honestly designed to help the Palestinians. And I think it’s very unfortunate it’s spreading to the United States, but not surprising.”

Marks said the boycott call seems to be an extension of the divestiture movement, which focuses on university investments and endowments – “so it’s not entirely new but it’s taking it a step further.”

Lloyd in fact said, of the campaign’s plans, “Our effort is not so much to initiate as to connect with already existing, scattered divestment movements around the country.” Asked about the argument that academic boycotts fly in the face of academic freedom, Lloyd responded, “Israeli institutions are complicit in immense infringement on Palestinian academic freedom, so it’s really hard, it seems to me, for Israeli institutions to claim the rights of academic freedom that they are so systematically denying to their Palestinian counterparts.”

The campaign’s press release cites “Israel’s ongoing scholasticide” – a reference to its attacks on educational facilities during the war in Gaza, but also to what the writers describe as systematic, 40-year-long restrictions on Palestinian access to schools and universities in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We feel that we should not collaborate with Israel as long as it is refusing academic freedom to Palestinians. It is really a profoundly moral issue,” Lloyd said.

“Presidents of universities have spoken out against the boycott of Israeli academics in the past. They are not speaking out against the systematic and gradual destruction of Palestinian institutions by Israel.”

The American Association of University Professors in 2006 issued a statement opposing academic boycotts, “in view of the Association’s long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas.” The AAUP particularly opposes boycotts such as the one being proposed here, in which institutions would be boycotted unless they “vocally oppose” Israeli policies. “We especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test,” the AAUP statement says. “We understand that such selective boycotts may be intended to preserve academic exchange with those more open to the views of boycott proponents, but we cannot endorse the use of political or religious views as a test of eligibility for participation in the academic community.”

Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP and a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, added that, practically speaking, “I think it’s inappropriate to expect institutions to take positions on a nation state’s policy…. How would an institution in the United States take a stand on national policy? Would the Faculty Senate vote, would the administration impose a policy, would the entire campus vote, would the students have an equal vote?”

In Britain, student protesters in support of Gaza have held sit-ins at 16 universities, as the Guardian has reported. At the London School of Economics and Political Science, the director refused to issue a university statement condemning Israel’s attacks on Gaza, but supported a fund-raising drive for scholarships for Palestinian students.

Nelson said the scholarship approach seemed to him a creative and “specifically academic” idea. “A scholarship program for Palestinian students is a very straight-forward contribution that American academics can make and I think it’s a wonderful suggestion.”

— Elizabeth Redden

Spanish boycott letter

Posted in International BDS Actions on January 25, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Dear Islamic University of Gaza, Bir Zeit University, PCHR,

Concerned about the recently halted Israeli aggression against Gaza and keeping in mind the long history of continuous Israeli and Zionist aggressions against Palestinians, some professors, students and employees at the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (Uned) -Spanish Distance Learning University-, have met several times since early January to:

1. Condemn Israel latest aggression against Gaza and its never
ending policies against Palestinians.

2. Show solidarity with all Palestinians, mainly those living in
Gaza, and specially those involved in the education sector.

3. Plan activities at the university and coordinate with other
concerned groups in and out of the academia working for justice
and human rights in Palestine.

4. Ask the university authority to condemn Israeli aggressions and
to severe links with Israeli universities which do not condemn
both the attacks against Gaza and the occupation of Palestinian
lands.

Up until now (January 24th , 2009) we have mobilised an 85 strong group of professors, students and employees at the Uned through an email, poster and add campaign.

We have increased and started links with some other concerned colleagues at several Spanish universities: Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Universidad Carlos III (Madrid), Universidad de Sevilla and Universidad de Alicante.

We hope more links will be established soon, also with some other non university organisations involved with Palestinian issues. The aim is to increase awareness amongst university campuses all over Spain and hopefully to agree about a common course of action regarding our position on Israel’s aggressions and occupation of Palestinian lands.

Last Thursday 22th, we have met with the Uned’s president to ask him to back our demand for an official university condemnation of the Israeli attacks plus the severing of links with Israeli counterparts which do not condemn the Israeli aggression and occupation policies.

He told us that in the next few days he will be holding another meeting with us to propose us an official draft document, which would be voted by the main university governing board in its regular meeting at the end of February.

Whatever his decision, we have already circulated around some Spanish universities a condemnation document, already signed by around 200 people at the Uned. Besides, it has already been circulated to the aforementioned universities and we have learnt that some other concerned people at other Spanish universities have already done the same in their own campuses without any contacts with us up until now.

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