An Open Letter from the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)

On April 24, 2012, the New York Times transcended its usual subservience to Israel’s apartheid policies by publishing an ad from the “David Horowitz Freedom Center,” whose Orwellian logic and tone could serve the aims of a lynch mob.  The half-page ad charged supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement focused on Israel of inciting hatred which leads to calls for a “new Holocaust.” It also accused the BDS movement of being complicit with “modern day massacres” and collusion with the “murders of Jews,” including those of a rabbi and three Jewish children in Toulouse, France. The ad went on to list the names of 13 academics (one of whom is a graduate student) and called on citizens, alumni, and students to condemn faculty participation in the “Boycott of Hate” and asked that these scholars be “publicly shamed and condemned.” The ad concluded with a link to a list of “BDS supporters of hate and anti-Semitism” at the Horowitz Freedom Center”s website.

What many do not know about this hateful and slanderous ad is that the list of BDS supporters at the web link–which includes over 600 US academics, more than 200 cultural workers, 100 international colleagues, and about 50 organizations–is actually the list of all the U.S.-based scholars and cultural workers  who have endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). This advertisement is clearly a campaign of intimidation of those who dare to criticize or oppose the policies of the Israeli state, highlighting the names of not just Arab and  Jewish American, but also South Asian, Iranian, and Latina/o scholars and graduate students. Given the xenophobic, misogynistic, and racist record of the Freedom Center, it is not surprising that the ad specifically targets scholars who are immigrant, Muslim, indigenous, and of color.

USACBI condemns this vicious attack on the courageous individuals and groups who have taken a principled stand by endorsing USACBI–a campaign based on recognizing the international rights for the Palestinian people, and holding Israeli institutions accountable for complicity in violations of international law. We stand in solidarity with our endorsers and those singled out in the libelous ad, and with Palestinians–including students and scholars–who daily face occupation, violence, restrictions on movement, racial segregation, displacement, dispossession, and humiliation. Academics and individuals of conscience around the globe have joined the expanding non-violent campaign of boycott and divestment that is rapidly spreading across U.S. college campuses, modeled on the campaign opposing apartheid in South Africa, which was seen as a just struggle on U.S. campuses.

Horowitz” ad, and its fallacious accusations and invocations of anti-Semitism, equates with racism the supporters of a campaign to end occupation and racism. This is a tactic of silencing, an attempt to suppress a growing movement that threatens the dominant narrative about Palestine, and one with which the New York Times is complicit. Using the label, “BDS supporters of hate and anti-Semitism,” is itself hateful and it defames the professional credibility of all those listed in and linked to the ad. Moreover, the New York Times has demonstrated that it is willing to participate in the attack on a movement that is trying to break the exceptional silence around the issue of Palestine and to challenge biased propaganda in the mainstream media and also academy on this issue.

USACBI encourages open and honest discussion of the impact of the Israeli state”s occupation and apartheid system on Palestinian civil society, including students and educators, and its ongoing racist policies against and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. It was founded in 2009 during the Israeli massacre in Gaza and it continues to promote critical analysis of U.S. support for these violations of human rights and to oppose the collusion of U.S. scholars and academic institutions with Israeli institutions and programs that, directly or indirectly, support and legitimize occupation and apartheid.

We uphold the academic freedom of U.S. scholars and students to discuss and debate the Palestine issue freely without threat of censure or reprisals. We also vigorously defend the right to education of Palestinian students and scholars in the face of daily assaults on their academic freedom, not to mention their freedom to live without occupation, violence, racial segregation, displacement, and humiliation.

USACBI encourages all faculty members of conscience to endorse its Mission Statement [] and to exercise their academic freedom to call upon their colleagues, associations, and universities to support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.  Doing so demonstrates that we will not be silenced and bullied into self-censorship, and that we support struggles for freedom, racial equality, and self-determination.

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