Palestinian students, teachers condemn Italian university’s normalization project

The following statement was issued on 6 July 2010 by the Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and University Teachers’ Association in Palestine:

Over and over again, champions of the boycott movement have condemned cooperation with apartheid Israel in acts of normalization. We, the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, have adamantly and insistently written to artists, musicians, writers and student bodies urging them to cancel concerts, refuse prizes and divest from companies cooperating with Israel’s racist institutions and government.

Not more than a week ago, it came to our attention that the Italian Development Cooperation (DGCS), with the support of UNESCO, engineered the partnership of three Israeli universities with that of Al-Quds University in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a masters program that allows 20 Israeli and Palestinian students to participate in learning about “cooperation, humanitarianism, peace and cultural preservation” amongst other things. The program is to be coordinated by La Sapienza University in Rome.

We are appalled that this project is being carried out in spite of Israel’s indiscriminate killings of civilian Palestinians in Gaza 2009 in acts of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in spite of Israel’s destruction of Palestinian universities in Gaza, its military occupation of the West Bank and its policy of racial discrimination against the indigenous population of Palestine 1948.

Most Israeli academic institutions, including the Hebrew University, Haifa and Tel Aviv University are built on stolen land; they don’t recognize the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, and are complicit in the apartheid policies of the state of Israel against the 1948 Palestinians — not to mention the siege on Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank.

In sending Palestinian students over to Italy in order to have them learn about “peace making and cooperation” with a state that killed their grandparents, ethnically cleansed the land of their forbearers and demolishes their houses is an insult to the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid and occupation. This act of normalization aims to blur the boundaries between oppressor and oppressed, colonizer and colonized, occupier and occupied, executioner and victim, and ultimately aims at whitewashing Israel’s war crimes, the last of which was committed in the high seas against international peace activists on their way to break the deadly hermetic siege of Gaza. The projected program speaks about “peace and cooperation” without mentioning Israel’s gross violations of human rights, and deals with the Palestine question as one of conflict, rather than one of colonization and apartheid. It does not mention Israel being the only nuclear power in the region, owning the fourth strongest army in the world. It claims to be about “peace and humanitarianism” without a mention of justice and accountability. Therefore, it is a sham, an insult to the spilt blood of tens of thousands of murdered Palestinians, including students, since 1948.

On another note, we, as Palestinian students and teachers, would accept this course only if it does not include cooperation with Israeli universities. We ask: is the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe’s book about the 1948 Nakba The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine an essential course text book in this MA program? Is there a course about the end of apartheid in South Africa and lessons that students can learn from the South African experience? Does the program include a discussion of Palestinian right of self-determination and right of return?

Israel must abide by international law and end its policy of occupation, colonization and apartheid. That is our understanding of peace with justice.