“It’s the most odious time of the year,” writes Seffi Kogen, director of campus affairs and editor of the American Jewish Committee Zionist newsletter, AJC Quad, as he laments the annual return of Israeli Apartheid Week panel discussions, film screenings, and other educational and cultural events on a number of U.S. campuses. Kogen is particularly alarmed at the fact that students are connecting the points between Israel and Trump: “Now anti-Israel students are also doing the one thing sure to lower the popularity of anything in the eyes of college students: tying Israel to President Trump.”
But for an ever growing number of people around the globe, the connections, while odious indeed, are also becoming more obvious by the day. And a new campaign by the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) is enabling students and faculty to enact their opposition to Israel’s crimes, by pledging to boycott Study Abroad programs that take them there.
Launched on Palestinian Land Day, the USACBI campaign calls for the boycott of study abroad programs in Israel beginning in Fall 2018. “To enroll in a study abroad program at an Israeli institution means ignoring if not perpetuating the ongoing violation of the academic–and, indeed, human–freedoms of Palestinians. So we call on all students, faculty, and staff of conscience to refuse participation in such programs and reject complicity with occupation, colonization, and apartheid,” USACBI’s pledge form reads. The USACBI statement adds: “Study abroad programs in Israel also potentially violate the rights of U.S. faculty and students and our campuses’ non-discrimination and equal opportunity policies.”
Heike Schotten, a member of the USACBI Steering Collective and co-organizer of the campaign, wrote me that “ If the academic boycott of Israel means anything at all, it means refusing to normalize settler colonialism, military occupation, and racial apartheid, especially when this happens under the guise of university education or “study abroad” programming. In this 70th year of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, USACBI calls on all students, faculty, and staff to refuse to participate in off-campus study at Israeli universities until Palestinians are free and able to exercise their internationally recognized right to return to their homes.”
Another USACBI Steering Collective member and campaign co-organizer, Sunaina Maira, added:
“Building on the victories of the student-led divestment campaigns on campuses across the U.S. in recent years, as well as the stunning successes of academic boycott campaigns in different academic associations in which USACBI organizers have been involved, we are calling on our colleagues and students to refuse participation in Study Abroad programs at Israeli academic institutions until Israel complies with the human rights principles of BDS.”
Maira explained that “Israeli universities are complicit with the state’s occupation and warfare targeting Palestinians and in the systemic racism against Palestinians, and none have taken a stance against these human rights abuses. On this [Land] day when Palestinians were brutally repressed for protesting the confiscation of their land, we declare that we will not study in Israel until Palestinians can return to their homeland.”
According to the AJC’s Kogen, at this “most odious” time, students reproduce “the security barrier” and call it Apartheid Wall, and further demonize Israel by drawing comparisons between that “security barrier” and the U.S.-Mexico wall. What Kogen fails to mention is that the comparisons, the parallels, are indeed very much there. Trump has referred to Israel’s Apartheid Wall as an inspiration for the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. Israeli contractors who built the Apartheid Wall are bidding for work on the U.S.-Mexico border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a rightwing hawk riddled with scandals, loves the equally abhorrent U.S. president. White Supremacy and Zionism are birds of a feather, both in the U.S., where the NRA and AIPAC are among the most powerful, and most loathed, lobbies in the nation’s capital, and in Israel, where the government deports African refugees, and sterilizes Black Jews.
And the mood amongst students in the U.S. towards the country that would have us view it as a democracy—albeit a qualified democracy, a (white), “Jewish democracy,” as if qualifying democracy did not void that term of its quintessence—is souring.
While government officials in Washington DC and Tel Aviv are mired ever deeper in their racism, corruption, warmongering, and attempts at scandal mitigation, the political battlefront, and the promise of change, have firmly moved away from the capital cities, onto campuses around the nation, where Israel continues to lose its foothold amongst students and faculty, as its criminality becomes more obvious by the day.
Academics can register their opposition to Israel’s violations of international law and the human rights of the Palestinians by endorsing the call for an academic boycott of Israel here, and by pledging to boycott study abroad programs here.