Yesterday Academics for Palestine launched in Dublin with the announcement that scores of educators would boycott Israeli institutions– “just as they did with apartheid South Africa,” in the words of Conor McCarthy. It issued the statement below, and posted the press conference, above, which begins with the reading of congratulations from Omar Barghouti and Ilan Pappe and includes statements by the Palestinian author Ghada Karmi and Israeli filmmaker Haim Bresheeth.
Karmi’s statement is particularly eloquent and instructive of the politics of the matter. she begins at about 9:30. (I did not transcribe the end of her remarks, in which she exclaims over the incredible support Israel enjoys from world powers, including the 2020 Horizon program in Europe).
I cannot tell you how much I welcome this initiative… I speak here as a Palestinian and as somebody aware throughout my life, that we the Palestinians never enjoyed the support of any state, major power or even a major institution in this world. In the end, our case, the people we looked to, the areas we have looked to for support in our struggle against injustice, are civil society. We learnt through a very painful process that waiting for governments to help, waiting for formal official bodies to understand that a great injustice had been committed in Palestine in 1948 and that everything we see today, the occupation of the post-1967 territories, is only the result of what happened in 1948. A great injustice was committed. We waited for a very long time for people at the official level to understand that, to take up the struggle with us, to help us. It never happened. So in the end, through a very, very hard road, we learnt that our true friends resided not in officialdom, not in states which have interests, but in decent ordinary people because that’s what I think we are, too, and hence the call to boycott which appeared from the Palestinian civil society in 2004 and has taken off since then. To me, looking at you today represents a very real and optimistic change in what had been a very dark scenario… entrenched centers of power… keep this whole show on the road.
Here is the press release:
On February 20th 2014, 138 Irish academics (now 144) signed a pledge, organised by Academics for Palestine, to support an Academic Boycott of Israel until Palestinian rights are respected. The pledge reads as follows:
“In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel, we pledge not to engage in any professional association with Israeli academic, research and state institutions and with those representing these institutions, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
The signatories come from a wide range of disciplines and include many well-known names, such as Seamus Deane, Ailbhe Smyth, Luke Gibbons, Ronit Lentin, Joe Cleary, Kieran Allen, Kathleen Lynch, Tadhg Foley, Terrence McDonough and Helena Sheehan. At least one of the signatories has previously withdrawn from an EU-funded project because of Israeli involvement.
Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian doctor of medicine, scholar and lecturer at the University of Exeter, emphasised that the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) does not target Israeli individuals but institutions. Far from being a threat to academic freedom, she says BDS affirms its importance for Palestinians: “Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimisation of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom”.
Dr Conor McCarthy, lecturer in English in NUI Maynooth and a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, welcomed the initiative, saying that “the recent endorsement of the boycott campaign by the 5,000-member American Studies Association in the US, along with positive moves by the Modern Language Association and the controversy over Scarlett Johansson, showed that BDS is now very much part of a mainstream international debate”.
In April 2013, the Teachers Union of Ireland, which represents lecturers at institutes of technology across the State, became one of the first academic unions in the world to endorse the boycott.
According to Prof. Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli film-maker and scholar, “the US, EU and other states have protected Israel and financed its occupation ever since 1967, making it impossible to resolve the conflict through the UN or international diplomatic channels. It puts a special responsibility on international civil society, and BDS is its main tool to resolve the conflict in a just and peaceful way.”
This release was posted first at Academics for Palestine. The group solicits new signers: If you are an academic based in Ireland and would like to sign the pledge, please contact us at: [email protected]