This Open Letter, to date containing 147 signatures, was drafted by members of the Middle East Caucus (MEC) of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), and has been endorsed by the Asian/Pacific American Caucus of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, “the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, Faculty 4 Palestine, the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine, and the Palestine Solidarity Committee in India. The Letter will eventually be submitted to the SCMS Executive Council along with a request that it facilitate an organization-wide consideration of BDS endorsement. The full list of signatories may be found at this link. Additional signatures from scholars and the film/media community may be submitted to [email protected].
As scholars, artists and community organizers, and as members of the Middle East Caucus (MEC) of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), we are deeply disturbed by the indiscriminate and disproportionate violence that has been waged these past weeks by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against the civilian population of Gaza. This is a population which has been living under a tight military and economic siege, enacted by Israel and bankrolled by the United States and its allies, for the past seven years in what has countless times been described as the largest “open air prison” in the world. While there are negotiations for a long-term ceasefire underway, Gaza has recently undergone devastating military bombardment by the Israeli army, turning it yet again into a humanitarian disaster. The siege affects everyone in Gaza, including students and educators, families and children, doctors and paramedics, farmers and civil society workers, all of whom are unable to find refuge. By all counts and in the mildest of terms, the violence has taken an unprecedented and savage turn, having reached genocidal proportions. Children who would otherwise be in school play one day on the beach in defiance of their parents’ fears and Israeli bombardments, and in an instant are purposefully targeted in plain sight by Israeli naval ships, their deaths captured by various media. As they run away from the first shelling, they are killed by the second, as incredulous journalists look on. Entire families die together now, neighborhoods wiped out. As of this writing, roughly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 10,000 injured in Gaza in this latest Israeli aggression, the third in six years, not to mention the lifetime injuries that defy quantification. A conservative estimate posits roughly eighty percent of those killed are civilian; among them more than 460 are children. Israel has yet again declared war on Palestinian civilians, students and academic institutions, without addressing its illegal occupation and besiegement of them.
Israel must be held accountable to international law and humanitarian principles, which prohibit collective punishment and stipulate the protection of civilians during times of war. International human rights organizations have documented IDF violations of fundamental norms of international law in what amounts to Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported after only the first week of the assault, “Horrific developments in Gaza have reached intolerable heights: Israel is bombing houses with people in them, entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. Hundreds have been killed so far, dozens in the last 24 hours only, many of them women and children. The number of refugees is rising: tens of thousands of people have nowhere to go and no safe haven.”
To remember the victims of past genocides and atrocities, we must also condemn present ones. We cannot condemn one genocide and tolerate another. We cannot accept or deny the wanton murder of others that we would otherwise find horrific, not under any justification.
In view of these conditions, and in an effort to add our voices to countless others worldwide who are speaking out to condemn and stand firm against the Israel atrocities, the MEC of SCMS endorses the Call for international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel that originated in Palestinian civil society in 2005. This non-violent call was modeled on the Call for BDS against the apartheid government of South Africa in the 1970s. In so doing, the MEC acknowledges, with appreciation, recent efforts by the American Studies Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Humanist Sociology, the Association of Asian American Studies, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, and the African Literature Association, which have adopted resolutions supporting the right of students and scholars to mobilize around BDS and endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The MEC’s support for BDS is in no way in response to any law, directive, program or mandate of any national government, including the provisional government of Palestine. The MEC recognizes and supports the call for BDS to continue until, as set forth in the Call,
“Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and;
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”