A Call For The Academic Boycott Of Israel.

Update: March 22, 2017.

1. This year it will be 70 years since the UN adopted the partition plan of Palestine (followed by the Nakba or Catastrophe). Also, it will be 50 years since the Israel started its occupation and colonization of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Today, the Palestinians continue to be deprived of their basic rights to a free, peaceful, just and dignified life. Israeli police and security forces and the army, in their daily “routine” of persecution and repression, continue violating international law and human rights. 274 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire since the outbreak of the “youth intifada” (October 2015), including 78 children and 24 women including 12 minors. Some 7,000 Palestinians, among them nearly 400 children, are incarcerated in Israeli prisons and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment and even torture. Meanwhile, Israel demolishes more Palestinian homes and buildings - in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as in Israel itself - than in any year since 2009.

Every night, adults and children are terrorized by armed soldiers or police bursting into their homes, ransacking them and kidnapping men and/or children. Every day, while queueing many hours at hundreds of checkpoints, men, women and children, besides being robbed of their time and their life, are subjected to racist humiliations, arbitrariness and violence from soldiers and border police. In the Gaza Strip, almost three years after the last murderous invasion, its nearly 2 million inhabitants hardly survive under an unabated barbarous, medieval blockade which is almost 10 years old. With the devastations of homes and infrastructure (electricity, water, health care...), the inhuman conditions of life (especially for children) and the recurrent military attacks, the hopelessness of the situation is hallucinatory. This is not a natural disaster but is being politically manufactured by Israel. A "genocidal intent", as a consequence, cannot be excluded right away. The Palestinian refugees and their descendants, finally, continue pining away in their camps in the Occupied Territories and the Arab world, their disastrous plight for many of them being further worsened by the war in Syria (their return to Palestine being refused by Israel).

2. There is more to Israel’s persisting policies of oppression of the Palestinians than just military occupation. The authors of a recent UN report on Israeli Apartheid [1] "conclude that available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law". The report, indeed, is a detailed analysis of Israeli legislation, policies and practices that enable Israel to operate an apartheid regime that "dominates the Palestinian people as a whole, i.e. not restricted to the Occupied Territories. The prohibition being a "ius cogens" in international law, "the United Nations and its agencies, and all Member States, have a legal obligation to act within their capabilities to prevent and punish instances of apartheid that are responsibly brought to their attention". Finally, "civil society institutions and individuals also have a moral duty to use the instruments at their disposal" (p.53).

In addition to racial segregation and institutionalized racial discrimination, Palestinians are confronted, since 1948, with a coordinated policy of State dispossession of Palestine: dispossession of its territory, its natural and material resources and its economy, destruction of its urban patrimony and its landscapes, erasure of its history, its culture and its identity. In short, what is aimed at by their occupiers, is the complete dismemberment of Palestine's social and political fabric. The Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling, coined the word “politicide” for it. Ethnic cleansing going on, the remaining Palestinians should resign themselves “to live like dogs” (Moshe Dayan, 1967), without dignity, in separate, powerless "Bantustans". The similarity with South Africa, indeed, is striking: there as well "the architects of apartheid adopted a strategy of so-called “grand apartheid” to secure white supremacy in the long term through the country’s geographic partition into white areas (most of the country) and disarticulated black areas" (the UN-ESCWA Report, p.46).

3. Universities are an important institutional pillar of Israel's militaristic society, contributing to legitimatize and facilitate its policies of oppression and apartheid. The IDF (IOF, actually), safeguarding its organic link with the universities, is often physically present on campuses. Many academics, at the same time, hold a military rank and many universities offer special courses for the benefit of defense and security operatives (e.g. of the Shin Bet). Major universities (Tel Aviv, Bar-Ilan...) accommodate a semi-military research center dedicated to Israel's "national security".

Technologically, some universities are directly implicated in the military-industrial complex: 'Technion', e.g., collaborates closely with Israel’s four greatest arms factories and contributes actively to the development of high-tech weapon systems (e.g. combat drone technologies). It even provides a course for the benefit of future weapons salesmen. These salesmen enjoy an important advantage, anyway, in comparison with their international competitors: they recommend their products for being “field-tested” and fine-tuned in the Occupied Territories, the latter serving as its “laboratory” with almost 5 million Palestinians as its “lab-rats”. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for Israeli “security” technology: thanks to the collaboration between universities, the technology sector, the IDF intelligence services and "homeland security" companies and the expertise acquired in the oppression of the Palestinians, Israel is developing itself more and more into a global hub in matters of security systems. The "sins of Israel", in other words, are "good for business".

4. The strategic importance for Israel of science and technology explains why the academic boycott is provoking more ideological and political hysteria from Israel's establishment and it lobbies abroad than the purely economic BDS. It contributes, one could say, to unmask the ideological infrastructure of the settler-colonial Apartheid State. En plus, scientific and high-tech achievements (as well as artistic products) are an essential part of the “Brand Israel” campaign. Launched in 2005, it is meant to make Israel attractive to a western public as being a "normal", western, democratic and “hip” country.

Not one Israeli university or faculty ever distanced itself from the occupation, the murderous invasions of Gaza or the blockade, never mind that it would have protested publicly. On the contrary: they applauded the punitive invasions and remunerated their student-soldiers who participated in them. Not even one of them expressed its solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues suffering from discriminations and agressions. A number, though, of individual academics did criticize the colonial policies of their country, some of them supporting the boycott campaign as well (cf. "Boycott from Within"). Alas, they are few in numbers (some hundreds on a total of some 9,000). Today, they are silenced, mostly, by orchestrated campaigns of hatred against them (e.g. by NGO Monitor, founded at Bar-Ilan University, and Im Tirzu). Our campaign should help to hearten them.

5. One of the foremost victims of Israel's Apartheid policies is the Palestinians’ right to future-oriented education and research. On the occasion of boycott debates the flag of “academic freedom” is often raised but almost never on behalf of the Palestinian academics, researchers and students. It is their academic freedom, though, which is violated daily. Their right to mobility and academic collaboration (nationally as well as internationally) is more and more restricted by the colonizer. When protesting or resisting, lecturers and students risk being beaten up (sometimes even shot at), arrested and incarcerated. In 2016, a report states, "the occupation’s violations resulted in the death of 26 students and one teacher, as well as the wounding of 1,810 students and 101 teachers and administrators, noting that 198 students, teachers and employees were arrested from the West Bank"[2]. Not rarely, university campuses are stormed by heavily armed Israeli troops shooting tear gas canisters, rubber or even live bullets, etc., the university's infrastructure, archives and libraries being ransacked. The Al-Quds, Kadoorie and Birzeit Universities e.g. were subjected more than once to this kind of intimidating, willful hooliganism.

6. Today, ultra-nationalist and religious extremists are in power in Israel, and its society is becoming “extremely brainwashed and nationalistic, religious, right-wing and even racist, more and more”. So, “the only way to change things in Israeli policy will be only by pressure from the outside” (Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy). As long as international sanctions fail to materialize, however, Palestinians’ hopes for justice will be vested in the international BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) campaign they launched in 2005. It should play as important a role as did the global boycott of South Africa in ending Apartheid there. No wonder, the UN-ESCWA 2017 Apartheid Report recommends a.o.: "National Governments should support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives"; and: "Efforts should be made to broaden support for boycott, divestment and sanctions initiatives among civil society actors" (p. 56). This transnational activism of civil society should contribute to "exert pressure on Israel to dismantle apartheid structures and negotiate in good faith for a lasting peace that acknowledges the rights of Palestinians under international law and makes it possible for the two peoples to live together on the basis of real equality" (o.c., p. 53).

The Israeli State is a military superpower engaged in a war against a defenseless civil population, against its children in the first place. No acceptable reason can be thought of, either from a military, a political or a moral point of view, why, of all statess Israel alone should not have to comply with its international legal obligations. Its “exceptionalism” and impunity should at last come to an end. According to international law, third countries have the obligation to see to it that those legal rules should be respected by Israel as well.

7. Within BDS, the academic and cultural boycott campaign as well was launched by Palestinian civil society. Guided by PACBI, it gets a hearing in more and more universities in the world. The academic boycott campaign, in particular, is directed at Israeli academic institutions for their deep collusion with the Israeli Apartheid regime and the occupation army's crimes against international law. Here as well boycott is not an end in itself but a temporary tactic, i.e. a means towards helping the Palestinians achieve their human rights. At the same time we pledge our academic and moral solidarity with and support for our Palestinian embattled colleagues and students. Thanks to their much-praised “sumud” or resilience, Palestinians, wherever they live, persist standing up as a society, in spite of all the evil that is being done to them. They are counting on our solidarity. Let us stand with them.

BACBI‘s call is endorsed until now by 480 intellectuals and colleagues from all Belgian universities. Our Statement of Principles emphasizes that the boycott is directed at Israel’s academic institutions. Collaborating with individual Israeli scholars is encouraged (unless a project is explicitly and officially sponsored by an institution or the Israeli State) is no problem: the fact that every academic automatically belongs to and is remuneraterd by an institution is of no consequence. Not included under the boycott either is participation in scientific networks having individual Israeli researchers among them as well.

Statement of Principles: bacbi-statement.htm. Please endorse the Statement by signing the form on: bacbi-sign.htm.


1. "Palestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1: Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid", UN-ESCWA (UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), March 15, Beirut 2017 (pdf, 74p.). The report was co-authored by Prof. Richard Falk and Prof. Virginia Tilley. Under heavy Israeli and US pressure, though, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrez after two days ordered to remove the report from the ESCWA website. Out of protest UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary, Ms. Rima Khalaf, quitted. For her resignation letter: click here! We saved the full report on this website: click here! The Executive Summary could also be read separately, but was removed as well. On this website: click here! The Summary can also read online on the website of Jadaliyya, klik hier!

2. Vide: "Report: Israel kills 26 Palestinian students, arrests 198 in 2016" (MEMo, Feb 28, 2017): klik hier!

PS If you have questions about the academic boycott, please visit our FAQs pagina: click here! You could read as well: Lawrence DAVIDSON, "Why The Academic Boycott Is Necessary", click herel!

BACBI's Coordinating Committee: Prof. Marie-Christine Closon (UCLouvain), Prof. Patrick Deboosere (VUBrussel), Dr. Pascal Debruyne (UGent), Prof. Lieven De Cauter (KULeuven), Em.Prof. Herman De Ley (UGent), Lieve Franssen (director Brussels Brecht-Eislerkoor), Carl Gydé (director CAMPO), Prof. Perrine Humblet (ULBruxelles), Prof. Marc Jacquemain (ULiège), Raven Ruëll (regisseur).


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