The Association of University Teachers (AUT) in the UK voted in its Council meeting today to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities and to disseminate to all its chapters our Call for Boycott of Israeli academic institutions. This historic decision, which sets a landmark precedent, stands as a major achievement in the struggle to attain a just peace in our region. Finally, boycotting Israeli institutions, as a morally and politically sound response to Israelï¿½s crimes, is on the mainstream agenda in the west; and no one can ignore it now.
For years, Israeli academics have by and large served in the occupation army, thereby participating in, or at least witnessing, crimes committed on a daily basis against the civilian population of Palestine. They have hardly ever publicly denounced Israel’s occupation, its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, or its adamant denial of the internationally-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties. This constitutes collusion.
After this ground-breaking AUT decision, all these aspects of Palestinian suffering and the complicity of Israelï¿½s academics in perpetuating them have now become part of the ongoing debate on Israelï¿½s record of oppression and abuse of human rights. The AUT today gave voice to the hitherto voiceless civil resistance against Israelï¿½s racist and colonial policies. For this, the AUT should be commended.
Aside from passing the boycott motions, the debate itself about Israelï¿½s oppression and the collusion of Israeli academic institutions in it and the extensive media coverage that ensued have played a significant role in educating many around the world about the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and equality.
The taboo has been shattered, at last. From now on, it will be acceptable to compare Israelï¿½s apartheid system to its South African predecessor. As a consequence, proposing practical measures to punish Israeli institutions for their role in the racist and colonial policies of their state will no longer be considered beyond the pale. Israeli academic institutions will no longer be able to share in the crime while enjoying international cooperation and support. Most importantly, Israel will start losing its so far assured impunity, its exceptional status as a state above the law, a country that considers itself unaccountable before the international community of nations.
We applaud the AUT for its vision and its moral commitment to a just peace in Palestine.
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
P.O.Box 1701, Ramallah, Palestine.
1. AUT’s statement: “AUT Council today decided to boycott Haifa University and the Bar-Ilan University. The executive committee will issue guidance to AUT members on these decisions. Council delegates also referred a call to boycott the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the executive committee will investigate the background to this and will report in due course. Council delegates also agreed to circulate to all local associations a statement from Palestinian organisations calling for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.” (Israel universities - statement by AUT general secretary Sally Hunt, 22 April 2005)