Open Letter to the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation & Partners: Partnering with the Hebrew University and Receiving Support from the Israeli Embassy despite the Gaza Massacre go beyond Complicity

3 September 2014 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on you to cancel your collaboration with the Hebrew University in the program….

3 September 2014 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) calls on you to cancel your collaboration with the Hebrew University in the program titled “Ancient Greek Drama: Influences and Contemporary Approaches,” due to the University’s deep complicity in Israel’s occupation and violation of human rights, and to reject any support from the Embassy of Israel in Athens, particularly in light of the grave war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

In its latest aggression on Gaza, Israel has killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, predominantly civilians. Hospitals, ambulances, rescue workers, mosques, churches and shelters for people with special needs have not been spared Israel’s US-supplied “smart” missiles and artillery shells.

Words cannot describe this murderous campaign; Israel has annihilated entire families in their homes, as its warplanes have targeted and bombed house after house. Over 16,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged in these criminal attacks. Families have been sought out and murdered in the UN schools where they have taken shelter, often after Israel has been repeatedly given the exact coordinates of the schools – revealing a deliberate intent to kill and terrorize civilians. Close to half a million Palestinians have been displaced, as the Israeli regime expanded its so-called buffer zone to encompass 45% of Gaza’s already small territory, literally “pushing Palestinians into the sea.” Save the Children has described Israel’s assault on Gaza as a “war on children”.

Carrying on with this collaboration indicates willful complicity in covering up Israel’s crimes and is an insult to the thousands of Palestinian civilians killed and injured by Israel in its latest massacre.

The absolute majority of Palestinian civil society, represented in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, has called for a boycott of Israel and of its complicit academic institutions until Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid are brought to an end.

The Hebrew University’s complicity in Israeli violations of international law are well documented. For instance, the land on which some of its Mount Scopus campus buildings and facilities were expanded was illegally acquired as a result of Israel’s 1968 illegal confiscation of 3345 dunums of Palestinian land. [1] This confiscated land in East Jerusalem is occupied territory according to international law. Israel’s unilateral annexation of occupied East Jerusalem into the State of Israel, and the application of Israeli domestic law to it, are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and have been repeatedly denounced as null and void by the international community, including by the UN Security Council (Resolution 252, 21 May 1968). Moving Israeli staff and students to work and live on occupied Palestinian land places the Hebrew University in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

Further, the university is complicit in the unequal treatment of Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel. [2] For instance, it does not provide teaching services to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in contrast to those provided to Jewish groups; no courses are offered in Arabic. Additionally, the Hebrew University has stood by the Israeli army while it committed a massacre against Palestinian civilians in Gaza. A notice circulated at Hebrew University announced a collection for goods including hygiene products, snacks and cigarettes “for the [Israeli] soldiers at the front according to the demand reported by the IDF [Israeli army] units.”

The Hebrew University administration restricts the freedom of speech and protest of its few Palestinian students. For example, it had forbidden a commemoration event for the invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 in which about 1,400 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli forces. On the other hand, the Hebrew University offered special considerations and benefits to students who participated in that invasion as soldiers.

In December 2012, Israel’s Minister of Defence approved recognition of Ariel University in the illegal colony of Ariel as an Israeli university in the Israeli academic system. As a result, staff from the Hebrew University take part in the supervision and promotion committees of students and staff from the colonial university of Ariel; and the (Jewish only) staff takes part in the supervision and in promotion committees for Hebrew University students and staff. The Hebrew University recognizes academic degrees awarded by the Ariel University, which is built on confiscated Palestinian land and surrounded by Palestinian communities, but does not recognize degrees awarded by the nearby Al-Quds University.

The Hebrew University is closely associated with Israeli annexation and ‘Separation/Apartheid Wall’ policies—policies that were strongly condemned on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

At a time when the international movement to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant and persistent infringement of Palestinian human and political rights, we urge scholars, art professionals as well as cultural and academic institutions worldwide to reflect upon the implications of collaborating with a complicit institution, and to refrain from providing it with a cover.

Paralleling the Apartheid era boycott of complicit South African universities, we believe that partnering with Israel or its complicit institutions in academic or cultural events — regardless of intentions — can only contribute to the prolongation of the injustice suffered by the Palestinian people by normalizing and thereby legitimizing it. It inadvertently contributes to Israel’s efforts to appear as a normal participant in the world of culture and scholarship while simultaneously practicing the most pernicious form of colonial control and legalized racial discrimination against Palestinians.

PACBI and its partners have consistently called on artists, academics and civil society at large to treat Israel exactly as apartheid South Africa was treated: as a pariah state. We, therefore, urge you to cancel this event with the Hebrew University and to refrain from receiving any support from Israel or its complicit institutions.


[1] The decision was published in the official Israeli Gazette (the Hebrew edition), number 1425. It was therefore “legalized” by Israel. This land, for the most part, was (still is) privately owned by Palestinians living in that area. A large part of the confiscated land was then given to the Hebrew University to expand its campus (mainly its dormitories). The Palestinian landowners refused to leave their lands and homes arguing that the confiscation order of 1968 was illegal. When the case was taken to the Jerusalem District Court in 1972 (file no. 1531/72), the court ruled in favor of the University and the state, deciding that the Palestinian families must evacuate their homes and be offered alternative housing. See also

[2] Keller, U. (2009) the Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories. The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin: Alternative Information Centre.