BDS must target Israeli academia

The movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005 against Israel continues to slowly but surely gain traction around the world as many begin to understand the importance of making Israel pay a price for its expansionism and apartheid policies.

However, one aspect of BDS that seems to make many uncomfortable is the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, with many saying that academia should never be a political target. The counterargument to this point has been made many times over, here and elsewhere, not least because Israeli academia in general contributes directly to Israel”s military research, has a leading role in formulating and developing apartheid policy and fails to stand up against the Israeli government”s frequent denial of the Palestinian right to education.

But another, even clearer reason developed two days ago when Ehud Barak ordered a college in the illegal Jewish colony of Ariel in the occupied West Bank to be officially recognized as an Israeli university, thereby giving further internal legitimacy to the illegal theft of Palestinian land and resources. This recognition sheds yet more light on the determination of Israel to permanently hold on to major areas in the West Bank and exposes the lie that the settler project is an extremist movement separate from the rest of Israeli society. Indeed, when the idea of converting the college”s status was floated in 2005, Ariel Sharon”s cabinet passed a resolution saying that it saw “national importance” in transforming the college into a university-in other words, the primary motivation here is political, not academic.

While it is true that Israel”s Council of Higher Education opposes this move, I believe this university is no different than the Israeli colleges and universities built inside the Green Line on land stolen from the ethnically cleansed population of Palestine. Zionism is one movement with one goal, whether it is on land occupied in 1948 or 1967, and we must stand up to it everywhere.

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