The United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) condemns the recent Israeli closures of three Palestinian institutions of higher education, Al Quds University (Jerusalem), the Arab American University (Jenin), and Birzeit University. The Israeli military physically invaded each institution, but besides these direct acts of aggression, the recent attacks of the Israeli Army throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of Operation Brother”s Keeper have affected all Palestinian universities, as both the rights and ability of residents of the Occupied Territories to travel freely have been further restricted. These recent acts of illegal collective punishment are but one manifestation of the brutality and suffocating nature of the Israeli occupation and control of the West Bank and Gaza.
At Al Quds University, Israeli forces injured students with tear gas and broke into the offices of various faculty members, confiscating documents and computers. At the Arab American University, Israeli soldiers raided the headquarters of the school in addition to the student union, absconding with papers and files from the dean”s office and elsewhere. Similar incidents occurred at Birzeit University, which released a statement decrying Israel”s “barbaric aggression” and deeming the invasion a “direct violation of the sanctity of our university.”
All three universities suffered property damage and were dispossessed of documents and computer equipment. Furthermore, Israeli soldiers used the Palestinian Ahliya University, near Bethlehem, as a makeshift prison for people they detained during a raid on the nearby Dheisha Refugee Camp. In addition to the fact that the Israeli army had no right to enter the universities, the far-reaching nature of the disruptions and searches reveals that Israel”s motive was not merely looking for missing teenagers, but gathering information about the academic activities at the university and disrupting academic life.
This is the sort of assault on Palestinian education that led the American Studies Association (and other scholarly groups, including the Association for Asian American Studies, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and the Association for Humanist Sociology) to endorse the academic boycott of Israel. In response to the ASA resolution–which among other things seeks to support Palestinian universities facing militarized violence and repression by the Israeli state and to guarantee academic freedom and basic human rights for Palestinian faculty and students–dozens of American university presidents as well as the AAUP released statements decrying what they wrongly felt to be the boycott”s restriction of academic freedom. At that time, supporters of the resolution wondered why these same presidents were silent on the already-existing and well-documented abridgements of the academic freedoms of Palestinians and those scholars who support Palestinian rights in the United States. Perhaps they were unaware of such denials of academic freedom? These recent events, covered by the global media, make such ignorance of the facts difficult to maintain.
Thus USACBI calls on those same university presidents to reaffirm their commitment to the sanctity of academic freedom by publicly condemning the Israeli military assault on Palestinian campuses, which resulted in closures, theft of private documents, physical injury, and intimidation of faculty and students.
USACBI likewise calls on the Association of American University Professors (AAUP) to censure Israel with the same vigor with which it opposes any sanction on Israel in the name of protecting academic freedom.
Finally, USACBI calls with renewed urgency on American academics to endorse the academic boycott of Israel. Until the apartheid system in Israel/Palestine is dismantled, Palestinian academic life, one of the main means of achieving liberation, democracy, economic development, and cultural vibrancy, will remain vulnerable to Israeli incursion and control.