Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Fellow Organizers:
No doubt you have heard of the most recent incidents of censorship and intimidation of pro-Palestine students, academics, and artists in the US, such as the “dis-inviting” of distinguished poet and novelist Alice Walker, who has been outspoken in her critique of Israeli occupation and apartheid, by the University of Michigan”s Center for Education on Women (CEW) and the harsh penalizing of students at Florida Atlantic University, for peacefully disrupting an Israeli military officer”s lecture, as has happened at other campuses across the nation (http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2013/08/fau_student_protest_pealstine_isreal_gruber.php). No doubt you or someone you know has encountered some kind of backlash, vilification, or disapproval for speaking critically about Israel.
Our work, your work, and our solidarity with the Palestinian people, often come at a heavy price. While the space to speak honestly about Palestine is opening slowly in the U.S. media and academy, we expect that academic freedom, and the freedom to think and speak critically about Israel-Palestine, will continue to come under attack in this new academic year. We note that Israel has launched a new $300 million initiative to market Israel to Jewish Americans and a program that pays students for tweeting Zionist propaganda while appearing not to be associated with the Israeli government (see: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/israel-setting-covert-units-tweet-facebook-government-propaganda)
You have probably also heard about the numerous successes of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel over the past several months. Surely the crowning victory for academic boycott campaigns was the successful academic boycott resolution unanimously passed by members at the Association of Asian American Studies conference in April, organized and supported by members and endorsers of USACBI. This was the first academic boycott resolution passed by any professional, academic association in North America, making this a truly historic victory. This November, an effort led by American Studies academics, including scholars who went to Palestine on a USACBI faculty delegation, is resulting in another historic discussion of an academic boycott resolution at the American Studies Association conference. With our allies in the US and globally, we have appealed to artists and succeeded in educating them about not crossing the international picket line, with the result that several have cancelled their performances in Israel. In the case of Stevie Wonder, we and others successfully rallied to have him cancel a performance at a fundraiser in Los Angeles for the Friends of the IDF (Israeli Occupation Forces). These are just a few examples of the campaigns spreading rapidly across the U.S.
Both the growing power of the boycott and divestment movement, and the counter-campaigns of demonization and harassment, demonstrate the pressing need for USACBI to continue its work.
But we cannot do this work without you–without the critical mass of signatories on our letters to artists, the fans who support and launch their own local initiatives, and academics who have mobilized in support of boycott and divestment. Thank you for being a part of the movement.
We ask you at this critical juncture in the BDS movement to please consider asking your friends and colleagues to also endorse USACBI. We have over 800 academic signatories and about 250 signatures from cultural workers, but we should have at least 1000 academic signatories and 500 from cultural workers! Please ask 5 of your friends to endorse. It is not simply about numbers, but the numbers do send a message about the strength of our movement.
We also cannot build this movement without some minimal funding, so as to offer workshops, organize meetings, and distribute educational materials around the country, including at the upcoming Annual National Organizers” Conference and the American Studies Association meeting. We may have a great impact, but we are a small, all-volunteer group, with no paid staff.
We appeal to you for a financial contribution, however small, so we can continue our work. Along with all the other contributions you make, this, too, is one way that you can support USACBI in our collective efforts to oppose occupation and apartheid.
You can endorse and/or donate online by going to: http://www.usacbi.org/about/. You can also send checks, made payable to Al Awda and earmarked “FOR USACBI,” by mail to: Nada Elia, P.O. Box 226, Redmond, WA 98073
The USACBI Organizing Collective