Top Middle East scholars call for academic boycott of Israel

The Islamic University of Gaza on 2 August after it was bombed by Israeli warplanes.

Ashraf Amra APA images

More than one hundred senior scholars of the Middle East have signed an open letter calling for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

The letter’s organizers referred to the list of signatories — which includes many of the world’s best-known scholars of the history, literature, anthropology and politics of the Middle East — as an “unprecedented expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

While directly responding to the most recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, which have left thousands of civilians dead, injured and homeless, the letter also cites as reasons for their boycott call: “the occupation and dispossession in East Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and the West Bank; the construction of walls and fences around the Palestinian population, the curtailment of Palestinian freedom of movement and education, and the house demolitions.”

The announcement adds that these violations have “long histories and no apparent end in sight.”

A press release accompanying the list of signatories emphasizes that those endorsing the call are “senior and tenured scholars and librarians, all of whom have deep knowledge of the Middle East.”

In signing the letter, the press release states, these educators “have pledged not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel.”

This action follows a number of other academic boycott resolutions from scholarly associations including the American Studies Association, the Critical Ethnic Studies Association and African Literature Association.

These actions take their lead from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, one of the Palestinian civil society organizations that have called for the comprehensive implementation of boycott, divestment and sanctions measures against Israel.

The list of academic signatories brings together major scholars from occupied Palestine (such as Saleh Abdel Jawad, Fadwa Allabadi, George Giacaman, Islah Jad and Magid Shihade of Birzeit and Al Quds universities) with some of the most eminent names in Middle East studies around the world. These include Roger Owen of Harvard, Talal Asad of CUNY, Rosemary Sayigh of the American University of Beirut, Joel Beinin of Stanford, Karma Nabulsi of Oxford and Lila Abu-Lughod and Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University.

Scholars from the Arab world include those from Cairo (Khaled Fahmy) and Beirut (Mona Fawaz, Mona Harb, Tarif Khalidi and Nisreen Salti). And a number of academics of Jewish background have put their names to the statement, including Haim Bresheeth of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, Israeli sociologist and historian Ilan Pappe, now at Exeter, and Richard Falk, former UN rapporteur on Palestine and Princeton emeritus professor of international law.




91-year-old Dutchman Henk Zanoli has returned his and his mother's "Righteous among the nations" medals to Haim Divon, Israeli ambassador in The Hague, the Netherlands. The medals had been awarded by the State of Israel for the help the Zanolis gave to Jews in WWII.

A family member of Zanoli is married to a man born in Gaza. The man's family still lives in Gaza and on July 20 Israel bombed their house, killing the man's mother, his three brothers, one of his sisters-in-law and a nephew - together with a friend who was visiting.

Zanoli writes in his letter to Ambassador Divon that he would be betraying his mother and his family if he were to keep the medals: "Considering the circumstances, it is shocking and tragic that our family should be confronted by this murder by the state of Israel, four generations later".

The IDF has declined to comment.


This is OK. Needed is a boycott

1. of Israel

2. embargo of Israel

3. sanctions of all Israeli financial institutions, copmmodities

4.declaration of Israel as a terrorist state

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.