US academics have joined Palestinians in condemning a series of violent Israeli military raids on universities in the occupied West Bank, saying that the violations underscore the justification for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
The raids took place during a broad crackdown over the past two weeks in which Israeli occupation forces have killed five Palestinians, detained hundreds more and raided hundreds of homes, businesses and social institutions.
Israel launched the crackdown under the pretext of searching for three Israeli youths who went missing in the occupied West Bank on 12 June.
The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) condemned “the recent Israeli closures of three Palestinian institutions of higher education, Al Quds University (Jerusalem), the Arab American University (Jenin), and Birzeit University.”
“At Al Quds University, Israeli forces injured students with tear gas and broke into the offices of various faculty members, confiscating documents and computers,” USACBI said.
“At the Arab American University, Israeli soldiers raided the headquarters of the school in addition to the student union, absconding with papers and files from the dean’s office and elsewhere.”
Birzeit University, near Ramallah, issued a statement condemning raids against its campus, calling the assault part of Israel’s “barbaric aggression on our people and national institutions.”
The raids during the early hours of 19 June were a “direct violation of the sanctity of our university and a blatant attack on the right to education and the freedom of education guaranteed by international conventions and law,” the university said.
“We deplore the conversion of [Birzeit’s] academic facilities to military barracks, as well as the confiscation of its student property, in addition to wiping out the eastern and western gates, searching parts of the Faculty of Science building and attempting to force open administrative offices,” the university stated.
This video shows Israeli army vehicles taking over the campus and armed soldiers occupying university buildings:
“Reign of terror”
Aisha Shalash and Haneen Dwaib, two students in Birzeit’s Masters of Public Health program, wrote about the stress the Israeli “reign of terror” across the West Bank, and specifically the assault on universities, caused to students while many were studying for final exams.
“Why are they doing this? We have done nothing wrong? Why are they violating our university campus and our lives? Why are they disrupting our learning and our exams? Why are they creating and maintaining fear, and ruling us not only with brute force, but by making our daily life unbearably insecure?” Shalash and Dwaib wrote at the The Lancet Student.
As this Wattan TV report shows, students and faculty gathered in the wake of the raids to demonstrate their anger, and called for international condemnation of Israel and boycott of its institutions in protest at Israeli violations of Palestinians’ academic freedom.
“In addition to the fact that the Israeli army had no right to enter the universities, the far-reaching nature of the disruptions and searches reveals that Israel’s motive was not merely looking for missing teenagers, but gathering information about the academic activities at the university and disrupting academic life,” USACBI said in its statement.
“This is the sort of assault on Palestinian education that led the American Studies Association (and other scholarly groups, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the Association for Humanist Sociology) to endorse the academic boycott of Israel,” USACBI said.
The group noted that many US university presidents, as well as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), had “released statements decrying what they wrongly felt to be the boycott’s restriction of academic freedom.”
Now, USACBI is challenging AAUP and “those same university presidents to reaffirm their commitment to the sanctity of academic freedom by publicly condemning the Israeli military assault on Palestinian campuses, which resulted in closures, theft of private documents, physical injury, and intimidation of faculty and students.”
It also urged individual academics to endorse its boycott call.