24 May 24 — The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the courage and moral consistency of British academics who support an institutional academic boycott of Israel similar to that imposed on apartheid South Africa in the past. We specifically welcome the motions submitted to the upcoming University and College Union (UCU) Council in Bournemouth that recognize the complicity of the Israeli academy in the occupation, urge academics “to consider the moral implications of existing and proposed links with Israeli academic institutions,” oppose any upgrade of Israel’s EU status until it ends the occupation of Palestinian land and fully complies with EU Human Rights law, and call for the circulation of the full text of the Palestinian boycott call to UCU members. We urge UCU delegates to support these motions, fulfilling the mandate of academics and intellectuals to speak out against oppression and injustice.
Heartened by the growing international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, Palestinian academics, trade unionists, professionals, and human rights activists will be eagerly following the deliberations of the Council when it convenes on May 30. The British academics’ initiative is particularly timely due to Israel’s escalation of its oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel has continued with unprecedented impunity its indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians, at least a third of whom are children; confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources; construction of the apartheid Wall, condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; and wanton destruction of Palestinian agricultural lands, infrastructure and entire civilian neighborhoods. A report recently published by the World Bank scolds Israel for breaking up the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) into “cantons” thereby curtailing Palestinian freedom of movement through impeding access to “work, school, shopping, healthcare facilities and agricultural land.” These colonial and racist policies have lately prompted the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the OPT to join Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils, and many others in comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa.
But why boycott the Israeli academy? Almost sixty years since the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their lands, and after forty years of Israeli military occupation and colonization of Arab land, Israeli universities, think tanks and research centers have remained an integral and complicit part of the structures of oppression in Israel. They have played a direct or indirect role in promoting, developing or supporting the state’s violation of human rights and international law. It is significant that no Israeli academic body or institution has ever taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, nor have academic institutions or representative bodies of Israeli academics criticized their government’s long standing siege of Palestinian education. We note in particular that the Coordinating Council of Israel’s University Faculty Associations, which is touring the UK currently to try and dissuade UCU delegates from supporting the boycott, has remained silent on the serious damage the Israeli state has wrought upon the basic infrastructure of higher education in Palestine. It is indeed ironic that these representatives of Israeli academics, while pleading for respect for their academic freedom, have shown scant regard for the basic freedoms of Palestinians, including those of academics.
The Palestinian call for boycott of Israeli academic institutions (http://www.pacbi.org/campaign_statement.htm) is endorsed by the major federations and associations of academics and professionals and is supported by dozens of civil society institutions in Palestine. Like the Palestinian civil society’s widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), it is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring an end to oppression. Palestinians are appealing to academics, professionals, artists and other activists in the world to work to bring an end to a regime that practices colonial oppression, racial discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, and which denies the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland.
PACBI hopes that the UCU will join the growing international movement by showing that no business as usual can be conducted with the Israeli academy until it takes a clear and unequivocal stand against the forms of oppression practiced by the Israeli state. Until it does so, the Israeli academy — as a major institutional upholder of the prevailing order — cannot expect exemption from the boycott. Boycott and divestment are among the most effective, morally sound nonviolent forms of action available to people of conscience the world over. Palestinians are sincerely grateful to those who recognize that, since justice cannot be expected from the international centers of world power, they must organize and apply effective pressure on Israel to further the cause of justice and genuine peace. In the face of Israel’s oppression, silence means acquiescence.
 In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian political parties, unions (including the PGFTU and the PFUUPE), associations, and organizations endorsed the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law.