Call to Action: Respond to Increasing Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Educational Institutions

Anthropologist for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions urges our colleagues and representative bodies to respond to increasing Israeli attacks on Palestinian educational institutions.

This past month, the State of Israel forced the Hind al-Husseini College and Al-Quds University’s College of Art, both located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, to shut down. The closure comes after the two colleges attempted to host an academic conference on the protection of Muslim and Christian heritage sites in Jerusalem. Israel also detained 15 of the conference participants.

Israel has also recently refused to renew visa applications for numerous visiting professors working at West Bank universities, effectively preventing them from teaching Palestinian students and collaborating with their Palestinian colleagues. At Birzeit University alone, 15 foreign passport holding professors have had their visa renewals denied or delayed. Many of those affected are professors of Palestinian origin but who are unable to obtain residency documents due to Israel’s discriminatory immigration policies.

While Israel was impeding the operation of Palestinian universities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Hebrew University held an academic conference on expanding green spaces in the occupied West Bank, a tactic Israel frequently uses to displace Palestinian communities and seize their land. The event featured a number of settler organizations – including a uniformed speaker from the Israeli Civil Administration, the military body that governs the West Bank – but no voices of dissent, Palestinian or Israeli.

These ongoing attacks on Palestinian education come amidst a flurry of discriminatory and violent actions undertaken by Israel. This past month, Israel’s parliament passed the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” downgrading the status of Arabic and promoting the creation of Jewish-only communities. Meanwhile, Israeli settlement activity and settler violencein the West Bank continues uninterrupted. And in Gaza, Israel’s increasingly violent attacks on Palestinian protesters have killed 165 Palestinians and injured nearly 9000 since 30 March.

During the 2015 debate at the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) annual meeting  over whether the AAA ought to endorse Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, opponents repeatedly assured us of their concern over violations of Palestinian rights. They assured us that there were other ways to effectively object to Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights and academic freedom.  In the face of these increasing attacks on Palestinian academic institutions, the silence of boycott opponents, both as a group and as individuals, reveals what we have argued all along: their calls for dialogue have translated into inaction, from them and from the AAA .

Following the narrow defeat of the boycott resolution, Alisse Waterston, acting in her capacity as President of the AAA wrote: “the general consensus has not changed: AAA can and should take appropriate action to address the serious threats to human rights and academic freedom that have been observed and documented in the region.” We strongly urge the AAA to live up to its promises and condemn these ongoing attacks on our Palestinian colleagues.

Until the AAA has the opportunity to reconsider its relationship to the separate and unequal education systems operating under Israeli sovereignty, we urge individual anthropologists to recommit themselves to a boycott of Israeli academic institutions called for by our Palestinian colleagues. Anthropologists can sign a statement of support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions here. Advice for how individual scholars can implement the boycott in their individual practice can be found at our website.