International Scholars Cancel Their Plenary and Keynote Speeches at Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University Conferences after International Academics Call for a Boycott
Dear Colleagues and Supporters:
Illustrious keynote and plenary speakers initially invited to and/or scheduled for the June 7-9 Oral History Conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and for the June 8-11 Film and Television Studies Colloquium at Tel Aviv University withdrew from or declined their intended roles after they were appealed to by over 700 international colleagues, including many oral historians and film/media scholars. A shift in both conference programs from a proclaimed internationalism to a more local group of speakers and a narrower range of topics is a clear sign that the academic boycott appeals have been effective.
Indeed, the importance of the interventions against these conferences cannot be overestimated. The number of academics who have endorsed the appeal to boycott these conferences is unprecedented for the academic boycott of Israel campaign and bodes well for future endeavors and the expansion of the overall effort to hold Israeli academic institutions accountable for their complicity in supporting Israel’s regime of occupation and violations of international law. We take this opportunity to thank everyone who signed on and wrote letters urging plenary and keynote speakers to withdraw or decline and then thanked them for having done so.
After a petition that eventually garnered 500 signatures was released, the Hebrew University (HU) conference lost its original international keynote speakers and was compelled to fall back on colleagues at Israeli institutions. An ensuing petition that garnered over 200 signatures coincided with the Tel Aviv University (TAU) colloquium losing both its scheduled plenary and invited keynote speakers.
As a result, the vaunted “internationalism” of these conferences is now belied by their preponderance of participants from Israeli institutions (over 40% at HU, and 54% at TAU). Furthermore, the Nakba was added as a topic to the program at the Hebrew University conference only after our principled intervention.
At the Hebrew University conference, the original comprehensive focus of the conference now seems to have been scaled back, from Immigration and Transnationalism, Trauma Studies, Holocaust Studies, Human Rights, Conflict Studies, Minorities Studies, Gender Studies, and Culture and Identity, to an emphasis largely on Israel and/or international Jewish experiences, an unusually narrow emphasis for a conference that originally claimed to be “the first international conference in the field of oral history.” By some contrast, and due likely to its similar hermetic composition, the Tel Aviv University colloquium appears intellectually limited despite (and perhaps because of) an apparently sophisticated theme of “Traces of Things to Come.”
Again, we thank you for signing and forwarding these petitions, and as we continue to build this powerful movement we hope to share new victories with you in the near future.
On behalf of the HU and TAU Boycott Campaigns,
Ahmed Abbes, Samia Botmeh, Haim Bresheeth, Terri Ginsberg, Sherna Berger Gluck, Colleen Jancovic, Nur Masalha, Rosemary Sayigh, Lisa Taraki