Ghosh: Do not undermine the Palestinian struggle for freedom!
PACBI | 25 April 2010
Occupied Ramallah, 25 April 2010
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was extremely disappointed by the recent statement you issued in response to pleas from individuals and groups around the world urging you not to associate your name with Israel’s efforts to white-wash its crimes. Your acceptance of the Dan David Prize comes at a time when the international movement to boycott Israel is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant violation of Palestinian human and political rights; we appeal to you to reflect upon the implication of your acceptance of this prize.
You titled your statement ‘It is not awarded by the state of Israel’, yet the prize is administered by a university that is funded by the state and, more crucially, is a leading academic partner of the state in developing weapons and justifying war crimes. The prize ceremony is presided over by the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, the architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, whose record boasts a series of war crimes and grave violations of human rights. Only to cite one: on April 18, the Israeli army shelled the UN shelter in Qana, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly. Many more were injured. Human Rights Watch, the UN and Amnesty International subsequently established that Israel’s attack on the UN base was deliberate, disproving Israeli propaganda to the contrary. Shimon Peres said at the time, “In my opinion, everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way. I am at peace.” The Qana massacre led to Shimon Peres being denied the job he coveted at the time: that of UN Secretary-General.
You will be receiving this prize from the head of a state that has for more than six decades imposed a colonial and apartheid regime on the people of Palestine and has for the last 43 years militarily occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Despite the “peace process” which began 17 years ago, Israel routinely violates the Palestinians’ most fundamental human rights with impunity. Israel extra-judicially kills Palestinian leaders and activists; keeps over 8,000 Palestinians imprisoned, including numerous members of parliament. As we write, Israel continues to build illegal Jewish-only colonies on occupied Palestinian land and an apartheid infrastructure of roads, blockades and the Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice at the Hague in 2004. Israel denies millions of Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their lands, as stipulated in UN resolutions. Moreover, Israel maintains a system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens that largely conforms to the definition of apartheid in the UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid and that is reminiscent of key elements of apartheid South Africa. In the latest Israeli war of aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip, Palestinian civilians were massacred by Israel’s indiscriminate bombing, condemned by UN experts and leading human rights organizations, particular in the Goldstone report, as war crimes. This assault left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, predominantly civilians, of whom 431 were children, and injured another 5380. 
Since much of your work considers how human beings survived dislocations and colonialism, you may be interested to know that Tel Aviv University (TAU) has conspicuously refused to recognize and commemorate the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis and its ethnically cleansed population on whose land the university was partially built. Despite sustained activists’ campaigning, TAU has so far rejected even mounting a plaque referencing and commemorating the village and its history, and has failed to acknowledge the moral debt for injustices caused to the indigenous Palestinian people during the establishment of the state of Israel. 
Last year’s comprehensive report by the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) presents strong evidence of intensive, purposive and open institutional cooperation of TAU with the Israeli military establishment. TAU Professor Avraham Katzir observed:
One of the things which helps the State of Israel […] is the fact that each one of us is both an Israeli citizen and working in these fields […] I’m an academic at university and I’ve also done my [military] service, and I was also at [state arms manufacturer] RAFAEL for some years. All of those things come together; we’re helping one another – something which doesn’t happen [elsewhere]; I’ve been in the US and Europe, and there is a disconnect between the workshops and the army; they hate the army! [With us], I think that we succeed by virtue of the fact that we help one another so much. 
Additionally, studies by the Alternative Information Center (2009), Adalah (2003), and Human Rights Watch (2001), among others, corroborate and document accusations that Israeli educational institutions, including TAU, pursue discriminatory racial policies that are meant to prevent Palestinians in Israel from enrolling.  These policies make it yet more difficult for Palestinian citizens of Israel to obtain faculty positions. Any encounter at an Israeli university thus nearly always excludes or marginalizes Palestinian voices.
You note in your statement that you object to boycotts and embargoes when they concern matters of culture and learning. Aside from the crucial fact that the Palestinian call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel targets institutions, not individuals,  why should cultural and learning institutions be exempt from boycotts if they are implicated in the atrocities as any other sector? Culture and learning were not exempt in the South African case. The Palestinian civil society campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which is a strategy endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian unions, NGOs, cultural organizations, among others, as a legitimate non-violent and effective means of struggle against Israel’s oppression, has been largely inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid. When you reject our call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, you undermine our struggle for freedom and ignore the voices of almost all prominent Palestinian artists, writers and other cultural workers  and the many international intellectuals who have joined our boycott .
If you have any doubts that the situation of Palestinians is similar to that of black South African’s under apartheid, we urge you to read the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who in a recent letter to Berkeley students wrote:
“I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government. In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.” 
As was the case in South Africa, where international solidarity played a crucial role in bringing down apartheid by boycotting the economic, educational and cultural institutions of the apartheid regime, we sincerely hope you will not accept any prizes offered by complicit Israeli institutions, until Israel fulfils its obligations under international law and fully recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to live in full equality and freedom in their homeland.
We call upon you not just to be ‘appalled’ by Israel’s actions, but to show real solidarity with us in our struggle for freedom by refusing to associate your name with Israel’s atrocities.
 Tel Aviv University is asked to acknowledge its past and to commemorate the Palestinian village on which grounds the university was built, www.zochrot.org/index.php?id=143
 SOAS Palestine Society Report: “Tel Aviv University part and parcel of the Israeli Occupation,” http://www.electronicintifada.net/downloads/pdf/090708-soas-palestine-society.pdf
 Tel Aviv University’s Age Restrictions Discriminate against Arab Students in Admission to its Medical School, www.adalah.org/newsletter/eng/jan08/4.php;
Reference Material in Support of Palestinian and International Academic Boycott Campaigns (2006) compiled by the Alternative Information Center, www.alternativenews.org;
Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Education rights—Palestinian citizens of Israel, (2003), Shafa’amr, Israel;
Human Rights Watch. Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools (2001), www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/
 See the PACBI Call for Boycott at: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869 and the Guidelines for the International Cultural Boycott of Israel at: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047
Posted on 25-04-2010