We, the undersigned anthropologists, are circulating this petition to voice our opposition to the ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including the Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and to boycott Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations.
The recent military assault on the Gaza Strip by Israel is only the latest reminder that the world’s governments and mainstream media do not hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments. Acting in solidarity with Palestinian civil society continues a disciplinary tradition of support for anticolonial and human rights struggles, itself an important departure from anthropology’s historical complicity with colonialism. As laid out in the American Anthropological Association (AAA)’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights, “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity…When any culture or society denies or permits the denial of such opportunity to any of its own members or others, the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose such deprivation.”
Israel has maintained an illegal siege on the Gaza Strip for seven years, severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Palestinians are also being dispossessed of their lands and livelihoods throughout the West Bank, where Israel’s separation barrier curtails Palestinian freedom of movement and education. These and other ongoing violations will continue unless people around the world act where their governments have failed.
As employees in institutions of higher learning, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. In recent months, Israeli forces have raided Al Quds University in Jerusalem, the Arab American University in Jenin, and Birzeit University near Ramallah. In this summer’s assault, Israeli aerial bombardment destroyed much of the Islamic University of Gaza. More generally, the Israeli state discriminates against Palestinian students in Israeli universities and it isolates Palestinian academia by, among other tactics, preventing foreign academics from visiting Palestinian institutions in Gaza and the West Bank. We are also alarmed by the long history of confiscations of Palestinian archives and the destruction of libraries and research centers.
Israeli academic institutions are complicit with the occupation and oppression of Palestinians. Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bar Ilan University, Haifa University, Technion, and Ben Gurion University have publicly declared their unconditional support for the Israeli military. Furthermore, there are intimate connections between Israeli academic institutions and the military, security, and political establishments in Israel. To take but one example: Tel Aviv University is directly implicated, through its Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), in developing the Dahiya Doctrine, adopted by the Israeli military in its assaults on Lebanon in 2006 and on Gaza this summer. The Dahiya Doctrine advocates the extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure and “intense suffering” among the civilian population as an “effective” means to subdue any resistance.
As anthropologists, we feel compelled to join academics around the world who support the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. This call is part of a long-standing appeal by Palestinian civil society organizations for the comprehensive implementation of boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel, and is supported by the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE).
In responding to the Palestinian call, we seek to practice what the AAA calls an “engaged anthropology” that is “committed to supporting social change efforts that arise from the interaction between community goals and anthropological research.” Anthropological research has illuminated the destructive effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian society. And the Palestinian community has called for an academic boycott of Israel as a necessary step to ensuring Palestinian rights, including the right to education.
In accordance with these stated principles in support of rights and justice, anthropologists both independently and through the AAA have taken strong stances on a number of issues: apartheid in South Africa, Namibia, and Burundi; violence against civilians in the former Yugoslavia and Pakistan; violence against indigenous and minority populations in Chile, Brazil, and Bulgaria; the use of torture; the Pinochet coup in Chile; and the misuse of anthropological knowledge in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System. As an organization, the AAA has also participated in boycotts on several occasions: of the Fulbright-Chile program in 1975; of the State of Illinois in 1999; of the Hilton hotel chain in 2004; of Coca-Cola in 2006; and of the State of Arizona in 2010.
Boycotting Israeli academic institutions is very much in concert with these previous actions. Our decision now to sign on as individuals to the academic boycott represents a concrete and consequential assertion of our commitment as anthropologists to the struggle of the Palestinian people.
Following in the footsteps of the growing number of US academic associations that have endorsed boycott resolutions, we call on our anthropologist colleagues to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Given that decades of interaction, cooperation and collaboration with Israeli institutions have not produced mutual understanding or stopped the military occupation and its violations, we believe that this boycott is the only non-violent form of pressure that could persuade Israelis to call for – and act for – meaningful change that could lead to a just peace. Palestinians must be free to attend universities, in Palestine and internationally, in security. They must have a flourishing, inclusive, well-rounded educational experience. They must be free to meet and learn from scholars from all over the world.
We pledge not to collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions, not to teach at or to attend conferences and other events at such institutions, and not to publish in academic journals based in Israel. We call for doing so until such time as these institutions end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law, and respect the full rights of Palestinians by calling on Israel to:
- End its siege of Gaza, its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, and dismantle the settlements and the walls;
- Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel and the stateless Negev Bedouins to full equality; and
- Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
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