Belgian academics call for an academic boycott of Israel

The constitution of an extremist right-wing government makes it abundantly clear: there is no hope for change for the better from within Israel. More than ever the occupation and colonization….

The constitution of an extremist right-wing government makes it abundantly clear: there is no hope for change for the better from within Israel. More than ever the occupation and colonization of the West Bank and East-Jerusalem as well as the inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip will be continued unabashedly. The Israeli Peace Movement, its good intentions notwithstanding, is unable to stem the tide of overt racism and political as well religious extremism.

Palestinian society, more than ever, is collapsing due to an economic, medical, psychological as well as social crisis. The West Bank has been broken up into enclaves – ghetto’s, you might say – by the Wall, while being at the mercy of arbitrary aggression by the army and the settlers day and night. The Gaza-Strip, on the other hand, was once more subjected to a cruel, punitive war ten months ago. More than two thousand people died, among them 501 children, and thousands were wounded; there was an immense devastation of infrastructure, as well, which so far has not been repaired. Today Gaza is ollapsing in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and waiting for the next war. The only hope the Palestinians might have, one day, to recover their freedom and human dignity, comes from without: i.e. from the increasing international pressure on Israel. Inspired by the boycott movement against South-African Apartheid, Palestinian civil organizations are urging us to participate in a comprehensive and consistent movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The boycott wil have to take as long as the Israeli State is refusing to respect international law and the universal principals of human rights.

The urgent call for an international boycott is taken up by Palestinian academics and intellectuals as well. The moving force, here, is PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel). Its call is supported by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE), as well as by more than 70 other organisations of Palestine society.

Some hundreds of Israeli professors and researchers, it is true, did condemn Israel’s colonial policies, putting their job at risk. Many of them are even calling for a boycott. They deserve our fullest support. The academic institutions as such, however, either maintain a complicit silence, or, most commonly, collaborate closely with the State, the army, the security services and/or the arms industry. The wars against the Gaza Strip have been supported by them as well. In brief, the militarized character of Israeli institutions constitutes an organic part and instrument of Israel’s colonial project, not allowing for any hope for changes from within.

At the same time, Palestinian universities, their teachers, researchers and students, are subject to discriminating and repressive measures. There is a long history of confiscations of Palestinian archives and destruction of university buildings, libraries and research centers. The same goes for Israel’s ignoring the right to education and academic freedom and blocking free contact and academic exchange with the rest of the world. Here as well Israeli academics (some 400 of a total of 9000) protested (in 2008) against the infringements on the academic freedom of their Palestinian colleagues. At the same time they expressed their “great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”. On the other hand, not a single Israeli academic institution has petitioned the Israeli government to protect Palestinian right to education or to cease interference with and destruction of Palestinian schools and colleges.

The signatories of the present appeal feel compelled to join academics around the world supporting the Palestinian call to boycott the Israeli academic institutions. For that reason we are creating a Belgian branch of PACBI: “BACBI”, or “Belgian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel”. Our call for a boycott, though, is aimed at the Israeli academic institutions, not at individual scholars, whatever their nationality. At this moment our basic principles are endorsed by more than 300 colleagues belonging to Dutch- as well as French-speaking institutions for higher education and scientific research. We are calling on our colleagues to join us. “For those concerned with the plight of the Palestinians, it is now more than ever time to redouble our efforts. Only outside pressure on Israel will make a difference.” (David Glick, March 25). And… “there is no better way than boycott” (Robert Cohen, April 12).

Finally: the Middle East, presently, is being subjected to unspeakable human tragedies. Can this be a reason, one could ask, for ignoring Israel’s violations of international law and human rights? We think not. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been at the root of anti-western radicalization amongst Arabs and Muslims for over 60 years, in the Middle East as well as in Europe and the rest of the world. Solving it – which is still possible in a non-violent way – would remove one of the long-standing confrontations between the “East” and the “West”. .

Herman De Ley.

BACBI: Statement of Principles

We, Belgian academics and intellectuals, support the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). We call upon our colleagues in the Belgian academic community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, by applying the following:

  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint project with Israeli institutions and research entities;
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions, not of individual Israeli academics, at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to those institutions;
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment by international academic institutions from Israel and multinational corporations that are instrumental in the systematic violations of international law committed by the state of Israel;
  4. Work towards the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organisations;
  5. Support constructive dialogue with Israeli colleagues to jointly strive for the respect of international law by the state of Israel, in the same spirit as the call for co‐resistance by Palestinian academics, who launched the PACBI initiative;
  6. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions.

In order to sign please click on “Sign Statement“. We’ll try to update the public list of signatories regularly. If you signed and don’t find your name on the list, please check the time the list was last updated (above the list).

Steering Committee:

Prof. Marie-Christine Closon (UCLouvain), Prof. Patrick Deboosere (VUB), Prof. Lieven de Cauter (KULeuven), Em.Prof. Herman De Ley (UGent), Prof. Perrine Humblet (ULB), Prof. Marc Jacquemain (ULiège).