The Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott Revised – Adjusting the Parameters of the Debate

From the archive (legacy material)

PACBI | 28 January 2006

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has decided to omit from its 2004 Call for Boycott (enclosed below) an exclusion clause which has been justifiably misunderstood by supporters and misrepresented by critics as inconsistent with the institutional boycott advocated by PACBI. With this revision, PACBI sincerely hopes that, rather than being sidetracked by discussions on a formal and unintentional discrepancy in the drafting of our Call, the debate will once again focus on the very real grounds for this boycott Call, namely Israel’s military occupation and colonization, its denial of refugee rights and its system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens.
The PACBI Call, which was the basis for the academic boycott briefly adopted by the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) in April 2005, urged academics, intellectuals and artists around the world to “comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” PACBI proposed a number of measures to realize this Call, including the rejection of all forms of cooperation with Israeli institutions; suspension of funding and subsidies to these institutions; divestment initiatives; and the adoption of resolutions by academic, professional, and cultural bodies condemning Israeli policies.
Since the Call was issued, PACBI has been very consistent — in its statements, press releases and articles published in the media — in highlighting the institutional nature of the boycott. This resulted from a strong underlying belief that boycotts, divestment initiatives and sanctions ought to be directed against Israel as a state and those institutions that have been complicit in perpetuating the occupation, oppression and persistent violations of Palestinian human rights.
However, the fourth clause in the PACBI Call, excluding from the proposed measures against Israeli institutions “any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies,” has caused some confusion about the nature of the boycott advocated by PACBI and has also inadvertently allowed boycott opponents an opportunity to question PACBI’s consistency. The two most common questions in this regard were:
(a) Isn’t it inconsistent for a clearly institutional call for boycott to exclude individuals who struggle against their state’s policies?
(b) Doesn’t this exclusion open the door to “political tests” and the drawing of lists of “good” and “bad” individuals?
PACBI admits that there is an unavoidable inconsistency in advocating an institutional boycott and then excluding individuals. Nevertheless, this clause was intended to address the inevitable grey-area situations where it is not clear whether academics or intellectuals are acting in their personal capacities or as representatives of institutions subject to boycott. Since all institutional boycotts ultimately hurt individuals, PACBI felt the need to add this clause in order to nuance its Call and to avoid harming progressive Israelis whom we consider allies in the struggle for justice, equality and genuine peace.
However, since this has been misunderstood as a position condoning a boycott of individuals or supporting “black-listing” or “political tests,” both of which are entirely incompatible with PACBI’s position, PACBI has decided to delete the exclusion clause from its Call.
PACBI’s Call, similar to the wider Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel , is motivated by the need for the international community to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and breaches of international law in order to bring about the possibility of a just peace. Only with wide support from international civil societies for this non-violent form of resistance to oppression can we all hope for a better future in our region, anchored in justice, equality and peace.
Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Whereas Israel’s colonial oppression of the Palestinian people, which is based on Zionist ideology, comprises the following:
• Denial of its responsibility for the Nakba — in particular the waves of ethnic cleansing and dispossession that created the Palestinian refugee problem — and therefore refusal to accept the inalienable rights of the refugees and displaced stipulated in and protected by international law;
• Military occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza since 1967, in violation of international law and UN resolutions;
• The entrenched system of racial discrimination and segregation against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, which resembles the defunct apartheid system in South Africa;
Since Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to maintaining, defending or otherwise justifying the above forms of oppression, or have been complicit in them through their silence,
Given that all forms of international intervention have until now failed to force Israel to comply with international law or to end its repression of the Palestinians, which has manifested itself in many forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton destruction and the racist colonial wall,
In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott,
Recognizing that the growing international boycott movement against Israel has expressed the need for a Palestinian frame of reference outlining guiding principles,
In the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression,
We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:
1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
4. Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies;
5. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
6. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.