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June 23, 2013

10 Reasons for an Academic Boycott of Israel

June 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment

My article for the “10 Reasons for a Cultural Boycott of Israel” campaign has prompted requests for a similar article about the academic boycott.  So without further ado: 10 reasons for an academic boycott of Israel.

  1. Israel systematically destroys the education opportunities in the territories under its occupation by military means: From demolishing universities, schools and kindergartens; through the apartheid wall and checkpoints, separating children and teachers from the schools; to the arrests of students and professors; to the stopping of school supplies from entering Gaza and the bombing of its infrastructures.
  2. Academic institutions are not separate from the economic realities they exist in. Academia is- as any other institution- unfortunately, powered by money.
  3. Academia in Israel is subsidized (with little gain for the public) by the state.
  4. The aforementioned economic hurdles discriminate towards an intentionally impoverished Palestinian population within the 1948 armistice line, who are also citizens of Israel. A recent report indicates that only 11% of the Palestinian population of Israel is accepted to college. Although Palestinian citizens of Israel are a quarter of the college-age population, they comprise only 8% of the students attending Israeli universities. In 2009 half of this quarter- about 5,400 – chose to study abroad, mainly in neighboring Jordan, because of the difficulties they faced in Israel.
  5. While discrimination is practiced against Palestinian students, ex-military personnel are simultaneously favored. Further straining not only the economic gaps, but also the militarizing phenomena in Israel, in which one type of citizen is “acceptable” and the other is a “security threat”.
  6. These policies of discrimination within the university are directly linked with the Israeli government policies of ethnic cleansing: “Far-right leaders have suggested in the past that the Arab minority can be encouraged to emigrate by restricting access to higher education. Benny Elon, a former cabinet minister, notoriously summed up the policy as: “I will close the universities to you, I will make your lives difficult, until you want to leave.”” (The ministers are referring to the population which Israel refers to as “Israeli Arabs”-it’s own citizens.)
  7. All universities in Israel and many private academic institutions have some form of “security studies”, in which occupation-army uniform-clad students and “professors” exchange ideas about how to more efficiently kill and control the Palestinian population.
  8. While there’s also room for significant criticism of the regime in Israel’s academia, it is the allowance of this criticism that is used as a fig leaf by the institutions and the state for a pretense of democracy, as if they are not themselves condoning, promoting, and developing the weapons, policies, and moral justifications to the apartheid military regime, while themselves practicing discrimination.
  9. While criticism exists in the academy, it’s speakers pay heavy personal and professional prices, once they’ve “gone too far” in the eyes of the academy. Usually calling for boycott is this imaginary red line. Meanwhile the Ministry of Hasbara commissions academics to speak favorably about Israel abroad. (also furthering the divide between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” citizens.)
  10. Non-participation in oppressive systems is fueled by information sharing. The key to any grassroots movement is education on the issues. When the BDS movement asks that academic institutions be boycotted, the only way to achieve participation is explain why. Thus BDS further’s freedom of speech in the Israeli academy and abroad.

Relevant links:

Security studies in Israel’s universities and colleges: 

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Mohammed Assaf wins Arab Idol

Jubilation among Palestinians as singer who grew up in refugee camp wins over voters

    • guardian.co.uk,             Sunday 23 June 2013 04.27 BST

Link to video: Arab Idol: Mohammed Assaf wins talent searchPalestinian cities erupted in joy after the Gazan singer Mohammed Assaf won the Arab Idol singing contest final held in Beirut on Saturday night, providing a welcome break from conflict with Israel. The fresh-faced 22-year-old from humble roots in a refugee camp endeared millions of voting television viewers with his Palestinian patriotic anthems and folk songs. After watching Assaf’s victory from giant screens in the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank, tens of thousands of Palestinians set off fireworks, danced in the streets and blasted his music from cars idling in frantic traffic jams.

“This shows that Palestinians don’t just fight and struggle, but we rejoice and make great art,” said a beaming Awad Najib, a government employee, after a mass viewing outside the Ramallah presidential palace in the West Bank. Some Muslim clerics in Friday sermons had dismissed the pageant, saying its title encouraged idolatry and that people’s energies would be better spent confronting Israel’s occupation. Political activists too complained that the glitzy spectacle had little to do with the Palestinian plight. But most Palestinians would have none of this and Saturday’s revelry was like the end-of-Ramadan holiday combined with the World Cup final.

The scale of the celebrations easily outstripped most political or protest rallies of recent years and far exceeded those held after Palestinians gained non-member statehood in a vote at the UN general assembly in November 2012. Many political leaders, who have increasingly alienated Palestinians with their bickering, have sought to try to hitch a ride from Assaf’s galloping popularity. Some greying officials changed their Facebook profile pictures to his smiling face and spiked hair, urged people to text him their votes and praised his nationalist credentials.

“This win is a source of pride and a victory for our people on the road to achieving its dream of establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” President Mahmoud Abbas said. Abbas was jolted this week by his prime minister’s surprise offer to resign and faces pressure from the US secretary of state, John Kerry, to jumpstart stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But for locals, Assaf was all and politics took a backseat. “In the middle of the political failures Assaf achieved something that made Palestinians everywhere feel hope was still possible,” said Imad Ahmed, a teacher from Gaza watching the show with his family at a beachfront restaurant. After the victory Assaf was named by the UN as its first youth ambassador to Palestinian refugee camps in the territories and neighbouring countries. He is expected to visit the West Bank to perform.

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