Birzeit University Faculty Advocate for Academic Boycott of Israel

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the Palestinian BDS call urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law. (Photo: Social Media)

Academics at the historic Palestinian Birzeit University wrote an open letter to educators around the world to join the academic boycott of Israeli universities.

According to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, Palestinian civil society has called for an academic boycott of complicit Israeli academic institutions with the support of many academic associations, student governments and unions as well as thousands of international academics around the world.

The following is the full open letter which was published January 8:

“We at Birzeit University call on the academic community to protest the Israeli government’s deliberate harassment of international students and academics who travel to Palestine in order to study or work in Palestinian academic institutions.

“The past few years have seen many international students and academics stopped, interrogated, and/or deported by Israeli security as they tried to enter Palestine through the entry points controlled by Israel.

“These excessive measures violate academic freedom, the right to education, and the free exchange of students and academics. Such actions are often pursued without charge and include interrogation techniques, many of which constitute verbal assault. Thus, it is another flagrant violation of basic human rights by the Israeli occupation.

“We call upon the international academic community – especially universities – to stand in solidarity with both their own students and academics, as well as Palestinian institutions, in common condemnation of these unjust practices and violations. We also call upon you to intensify your efforts in boycotting Israel and its academic institutions till it ends its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians.

“The right to access Palestinian academic institutions is denied through systematic abuse of power designed to discourage prospective members of the academic community, coupled with an implied threat of retaliation should members of that community persist in seeking their rights. Human rights conventions state that access to education should be granted based on merit and ability. But in this unique situation, Israel is denying academic access and unjustly punishing those seeking it.

“The decision of some international institutions to stop their students from engaging with their Palestinian counterparts is giving the Israeli authorities a helping hand in implementing these violations. Condemnation should be directed instead towards the Israeli authority’s harassment of these institutions’ own students and academics in Palestine.

“Such a decision reflects the sad reality that punishes the victims of Israeli discrimination and human rights violations, as well as the Palestinian academic institutions. Students and academics who experience discrimination, harassment, and denial of entry at the hands of the Israeli authority should receive support and protection from their own states and academic institutions.”

Birzeit University was founded nearly a century ago as a small girls’ school in the West Bank town of Birzeit. It has now become the most prestigious Palestinian university, transforming Palestinian higher education through its impact on community awareness, culture and resistance.

Birzeit University has been a thorn in the side of the occupation, insisting on playing its role of enlightenment and creating a multicultural Palestinian society on the campus grounds. Students and staff are able to dialogue and communicate, rejecting – as they say – ‘the occupation’s attempts to chaperone thought and culture’.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society organizations founded what is now the BDS movement, calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel.

The BDS movement was launched by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organizations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other Palestinian civil society bodies.

 (PC, Social Media)

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