Five faculty from U.S. universities who recently completed a week-long visit to Occupied Palestine and Israel are calling on academic colleagues everywhere to support the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
The professors, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University; Robin D. G. Kelley, University of California Los Angeles; Bill V. Mullen, Purdue University; Nikihl Pal Singh, New York University, and Neferti Tadiar, Barnard College/Columbia University met with Palestinian scholars, university administrators, citizens, activists, and officials in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Haifa. They also visited the 5,000 person Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem.
The USACBI delegates report witnessing numerous violations of Palestinian civil and legal rights; daily rituals of “subordination, humiliation, and suspicion” at the hands of the Israeli security state; continued expansion of settlements into Palestinian territories in violation of the so-called “peace process.”
The delegation also listened to testimony from four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, refugees since 1948 who, in November 2008 and August 2009, were forcibly evicted from their homes in the dead of night by the Israeli military. Their houses were subsequently pillaged, taken over by settlers, and their belongings thrown out into the street.
The delegation learned through discussions with Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel that their lives are governed by a host of exceptional legal proscriptions and are subject to special scrutiny by the security services. Palestinian-Arabs who owned the vast majority of the land in pre-1948 Israel have seen that reduced to just 2.5%, even though they still comprise 20% of the Israeli population. The Israeli high court recently upheld a law denying Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel the right to live inside the post-1948 borders of Israel with Palestinian spouses from the West Bank, Gaza, or overseas.
In visits with university scholars and students, the delegation observed that Palestinian scholars and students are routinely denied academic freedom by the state of Israel. They noted that Israel has consistently closed Palestinian universities under security pretexts and restrictions on freedom of movement mean that it is often very difficult for students to attend universities; international and Palestinian scholars living abroad are denied visas for faculty appointments in the occupied territories. Furthermore, some 80 students from Birzeit University are held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, 10 of whom are currently being held without charge or trial. The delegation also reported that Israel thwarts Palestinian research capacities by restricting imports of equipment necessary for teaching basic science and engineering. It is all but impossible for Gaza students to attend West Bank universities, or for scholars from Ramallah, Gaza City, and East Jerusalem to meet in the same room.
A brief statement released by the delegation urges their academic colleagues to support USACBI and concludes: “We believe that the perpetuation of the international travesty of colonial occupation in a post-colonial world must be brought to an end. For it ultimately threatens the rights, dignity and security of everyone who believes in self-determination, equal justice and human rights.”
The USACBI campaign is inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and supports non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it abides by UN and international law. USACBI specifically calls for an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling of the existing Apartheid Wall; Israel’s recognition of the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respect, protection and promotion of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The campaign opposing ties between U.S. and Israeli universities that have generally been complicit, directly or indirectly, with upholding or defending Israeli occupation and state oppression and boycotting cultural institutions that whitewash Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. USACBI began in 2009 and currently has the support of nearly 600 American university professors, 200 cultural workers, and 44 organizations and associations.