We are not Free until the Palestinians are Free: Boycott Study Abroad in Israel!

Boycott study abroad in Israel! Sign here to take the pledge.

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) calls on all US faculty, administrators, students and staff to uphold the ongoing international academic boycott of Israel by refusing participation in any way in Study Abroad programs there. The academic boycott of Israel has been called for by Palestinian scholars and students living under military occupation and siege or in an apartheid state that violates their right to education on a daily basis. To enroll in a study abroad program at an Israeli institution means ignoring if not perpetuating the ongoing violation of the academic–and, indeed, human–freedoms of Palestinians. So we call on all students, faculty, and staff of conscience to refuse participation in such programs and reject complicity with occupation, colonization, and apartheid.

Study abroad prgrams in Israel also potentially violate the rights of US faculty and students and our campuses’ non-discrimination and equal opportunity policies. Some US students, faculty, and staff traveling to Israel on such programs risk discrimination and harassment based on protected categories such as religion and national origin. It is well-known that Israel routinely denies entry to persons of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin and subjects them to detention and harassment at borders, engaging unashamedly in racial profiling and effectively declaring such travelers suspect in advance. This has been confirmed by numerous individual travelers as well as the U.S. State Department, which openly observes that “U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin … may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza.” Moreover, a recent Israeli law (approved in March 2017) prohibits entry into Israel for anyone who has publicly supported the BDS movement.

Israel’s racial profiling thus has a real and discriminatory impact on students participating in U.S. educational programs, while its recent anti-BDS law means that US students could be prohibited entry into the country for an act of political expression that is fully protected under the US Constitution (NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 1982) .

We thereby issue this call to suspend participation in Israeli study abroad programs to mark and protest 70 years of the colonization of Palestine. In 1948, the year Israel was founded, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in an intentional, programmatic act of ethnic cleansing referred to by Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe. The Nakba continues to this very day, where Israel’s majority Jewish population has been maintained by the denial of the right of these refugees to return to their homes in historic Palestine, in contravention of international law. It has been sustained by racist laws like the Law of Return, which gives any Jewish person anywhere in the world the right to Israeli citizenship, and the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, which prohibits Palestinians outside Israel from gaining citizenship (or permanent or even temporary residence) if they marry an Israeli citizen.

Israeli universities are complicit with and perpetuate this ongoing Nakba. They have constructed and expanded their campuses on stolen Palestinian land. They maintain programs that systematically discriminate against Palestinian and advantage Jewish students; conduct demographic and resource research that guides land and resource expropriation; and contribute to the design of weaponry and information technology that maintain not only the occupation but also the system of discrimination against the Palestinian population. No Israeli university has ever publicly opposed the Israeli state’s illegal military occupation and racial discrimination against Palestinians. Indeed, commemoration of the Nakba is prohibited in Israeli universities as part of their erasure of Palestinian history and denial of Israel’s settler colonial character.

Israel nevertheless makes considerable public relations capital out of touting higher education opportunities and research collaborations as part of its Brand Israel campaign. Publicity for its Study Abroad programs represents Israel as a modern democracy with exciting intellectual opportunities for all. Yet beneath that façade is a racist and colonial state that segregates both its citizens and its subject populations on the basis of national, ethnic, and religious origin. While some claim these programs are an opportunity for “dialogue,” or even for “fact finding” about the conditions in Israel-Palestine, true dialogue and education cannot take place in a reality from which Palestinians are denied their rightful presence and in conditions in which they are racially subjugated and violently displaced.

U.S. faculty, students, and staff will no longer countenance participation in study abroad programs that serve as whitewashing propaganda for a fundamentally colonial and racist state and that also systematically discriminates against them. At a time of increasing protest and pushback against Muslim and refugee bans and encroaching neo-Nazi assaults on academic freedom, we cannot ignore Israel’s own Arab and Muslim bans and its ongoing denial of academic freedom to Palestinians.

We call on all students, factulty, administrators, and staff to stand with Palestinians, acknowledge this historical injustice, and oppose the continuing Nakba by pledging not to participate in Study Abroad in Israel until lsrael complies with the three demands of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement:

  • end its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  • recognize the full equality of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
  • respect and uphold the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Please pledge to boycott all such programs here. We also urge you, if you have not done so already, to endorse the academic and cultural boycott of Israel (www.usacbi.org) and join our movement!