FFIPP-UK mailing, 24th May 2006
1. Motion to be put to Natfhe conference on 29th May 2006
2. FFIPP-UK statement (on Guardian Education website, 25th May)
3. Letter from academics around Engage, Guardian 27th May
4. Letter from Pacbi supporters, Guardian 27th May
5. Pacbi mailing
6. Engage articles
1. Motion to be put to Natfhe conference on 29th May 2006
Conference notes continuing Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices. It recalls its motion of solidarity last year for the AUT resolution to exercise moral and professional responsibility.
Conference instructs the NEC to facilitate meetings in each university and college, and to circulate information to Branches, offering to fund the speakers’ travel costs.
Conference invites members to consider their own responsibility for ensuring equity and non-discrimination in contacts with Israeli educational institutions or individuals and to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies.
The Faculty for Israeli Palestinian Peace has been working for the last three years to bring Israeli and Palestinian academics together in opposition to the occupation. We wish we could report an improvement in the situation over this period but we can’t. In particular, things have worsened since the boycott issue was raised at the AUT last year.
Palestinian civil society, devastated by the isolation imposed on it over five years of the second intifada, is now under massive international economic pressure because it dared to elect a government of which the West disapproves.
Sanctions, we have heard over the years from our leaders, are unthinkable. But suddenly at the drop of a hat the US and the EU have rushed to impose them on the poverty-struck victims of a cruel occupation. It is time to call an end to double standards. The US, Israel and the EU are applying sanctions against the elected government of the Palestinian people. Palestinian society is being torn apart as a massive collective punishment is imposed. Human misery and suffering are being used as a political weapon.
Despite our strong reservations about Hamas, the Palestinian people need support and solidarity as never before. It is vital that the international isolation of their democratically elected government be lifted; that its tax revenues illegally withheld by Israel be restored; that the EU help reconstruct its ability to function.
We remain fully behind calls to defend academic freedom. But let us be even-handed. To talk of academic freedom in Palestine at present is a hollow joke: even where staff and students are allowed the freedom of movement to attend university, the material basis for a functioning academic life barely exists. The worsening of the situation in the last year is palpable.
Now that sanctions are squarely on the agenda in the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is time to consider international sanctions to bring about the implementation of the ICJ ruling on the Israeli wall, the closure of West Bank settlements and the release of Palestinian political prisoners.
In this context academics have a special responsibility. Relations with Israeli academia are not neutral. Academic life in Israel (and elsewhere) does not unfold in an ivory tower.
In current circumstances calls from Palestinian academics for a boycott of Israeli academics are understandable; as is the proposed motion to Natfhe conference next weekend. But, whatever their supporters feel they may accomplish, such boycott calls also divide those who share a common purpose in wishing to end the occupation. Some academics are resolutely opposed; others swayed by the need to respond to a deteriorating situation. We must not allow the boycott issue to divert attention from what we can all do to give meaningful support to those on the ground – Palestinian and Israeli. Boycotts are only to be considered as a last resort.
What we need to develop are interventions that express our commitment to academic freedom for all, for equality and human rights for all. We repeat our call for professional bodies and associations of academics, in Israel and internationally, to take a stand against the occupation and to issue guidelines regarding the use of academic connections to promote the end of Israeli occupation. We hope such interventions will promote awareness of and resistance to Israeli infringements of human and civil rights.
* We need to develop a large programme of assistance for Palestinian institutions of higher education among international academics, involving exchanges, sharing of research and research materials etc.
* We call on academics visiting Israeli universities, and Israeli academics visiting foreign institutions, to make clear their objection to the continued Israeli occupation.
* We call on academics visiting Israeli universities to make sure they also visit Palestinian universities and try to understand the realities of occupation.
* We believe that British academics should think carefully before developing research links and exchanges with Israelis: ascertaining whether they are part of the military machine or work to sustain the occupation; whether they are prepared to address and criticise infringements of Palestinian rights and willing/able to work with Palestinians.
* We call on academics to give positive support to those Israelis who, in the face of enormous pressures, are opposing the occupation and standing firm in support of Palestinian human rights.
* We reiterate: we see no reason for Israel to be granted special privileges within the EU research-funding regime or to be treated as a European country in any scientific programmes.
In particular we draw attention to the situation of the College of Judea and Samaria based in the illegal settlement of Ariel in the occupied territories. During a visit to the College with Shimon Peres in March, (then acting) Prime Minister Olmert said he viewed it as Israel’s leading college and intends to carry out the May 2, 2005 government decision to upgrade it into a fully-fledged university within the Israeli system. A boycott of this institution and a call for Israeli universities to take a stand against it is entirely in order.
The situation in Israel-Palestine is not normal. Israeli academia has to account for its role in this situation. And British academics must not shirk their responsibilities behind platitudes about how academic collaboration and exchange should stand above and beyond politics. When Palestinians are full and equal partners in the academic enterprise such words will carry more conviction.
Prof Lynne Segal
Prof Irene Bruegel
3. Letter from academics around Engage Saturday May 27, 2006
We call on Natfhe to reject the motion that “invites” academics to blacklist Israeli “institutions and individuals” that do not “publicly dissociate themselves” from “Israeli apartheid policies”. The purpose of the apartheid analogy is not to shed light on the conflict but to mobilise an emotional vote for a blacklist. We oppose the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the daily violence that is necessary to sustain it, as we oppose campaigns to kill Israelis. We are for peace and mutual recognition between Israel and Palestine. But this boycott proposal would do more harm than good, if the aim is to bolster the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements.
The political test for Israeli academics builds on a tradition established by McCarthy in the US and the antisemitic purges in communist eastern Europe. We oppose forcing academics to sign a statement to demonstrate political cleanliness. Unions should have consistent policy with regard to human rights abuses and the curtailment of academic freedom that goes with them. We oppose the inconsistency of blacklisting Israelis, but adopting a different attitude to academics in the US, China, Russia, Britain, Sudan, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Syria or Egypt – or in the long list of other states that are responsible for equal or worse human rights abuses.
Israeli universities are among the most open and anti-racist spaces in Israel. They have large numbers of Arab students and teachers. The Oslo peace process was forged by links between Israeli and Palestinian academics.
Natfhe and the AUT are currently involved in a bitter dispute with university managements over pay. This boycott proposal degrades our unity at a moment when academics need to stand together. After democratic discussion, the AUT rejected the boycott; not one AUT branch voted in favour. Natfhe has not organised a discussion within its universities and colleges. This motion would be passed by a small coterie of activists and would not represent the democratic will of academic trade unionists.The two unions will merge three days after the debate. We do not want the UCU to be born, while fighting an industrial dispute, into a row over blacklisting Israeli colleagues.
University of Westminster, Natfhe
Anglia Ruskin University, Natfhe
Aylesbury College, Natfhe
Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College, Natfhe
and 599 more academics worldwide
4. Letter from supporters of Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (Pacbi)
On behalf of organisations representing hundreds of academics throughout occupied Palestine, we applaud the British academics who have proposed a motion to boycott Israel. At this time of escalating colonial repression, coupled with a particularly inhumane and illegal siege, Palestinians will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Natfhe council.
Israeli academic institutions are implicated in the various forms of oppression. Israeli research institutes, thinktanks and academic departments have historically granted legitimacy to academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights and other discriminatory policies against the Palestinians. Cooperation with the intelligence services, the army, and other agencies of the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy. No Israeli academic body has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor criticised their government’s longstanding siege of Palestinian academic institutions.
The Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is endorsed by the most important associations of academics and professionals and is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine. Like Palestinian civil society’s widely endorsed call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), it is based on the moral principle of the international campaign against South African apartheid: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all means of civil resistance available to end oppression.
We hope that Natfhe members will join the growing international BDS movement by showing that no business as usual can be conducted with the Israeli academy until it takes an unequivocal stand against the forms of oppression practiced by the Israeli state. Only that can give us hope for the realisation of justice, equality and genuine peace.
Former acting president of Birzeit University; founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Director general, Federation of Unions of Palestinian University Professors and Employees
* Open Letter to NATFHE from Palestinian Academics Under Israeli Occupation has been published in the Times Higher Education Supplement:
1. Israeli group calls for boycott over Hebrew U. program for Shin Bet
Tamara Traubmann | Haaretz | May 26, 2006
2. If not boycott, what?
Steven Rose | Guardian Unlimited | May 24, 2006
Jon Pike Chuck out 198C!
For other articles go the Engage forum