Letter to participants in Jerusalem chemistry conference calls them to join the academic boycott

The following letter was sent to the participants in “The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences,” a conference taking place in Jerusalem from June 3-7, 2018. Sponsored by major Israeli academic institutions, including the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the conference is billed as a celebration of “the 70th birthday of the State of Israel.” Initiated by USACBI Organizing Collective member and mathematician Prof. David Klein and signed by many members of the OC, the letter urges participants to honor the call by Palestinian academics and civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel until it recognizes and implements Palestinian human rights:

Letter to Participants of the Conference, The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences, Jerusalem, June 3-7, 2018

May 27, 2018

Dear Distinguished Professor;

We write as representatives of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel(USABCI) to urge you to reconsider your participation in the forthcoming conference, The Grand Challenges in the Chemical Sciences to be held in Jerusalem next month.We ask instead that you consider acting in concert with thousands of academics and many academic associations and honor the call by Palestinian academics and civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel [1], until Israel:

1. Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Apartheid Wall;

2. Recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

In 2013, the leading physicist, Stephen Hawking, honored requests from Palestinian scientists and cancelled his scheduled participation in an Israeli conference [2].

We call to your attention that the academic boycott of Israel is directed solely at Israeli institutions, not individual academics. It is regrettable that many in the scientific community have chosen to denounce the academic boycott of Israeli institutions utilizing the justification of protecting academic freedom [3]. That justification is misdirected. Participation in the academic and cultural boycott is not a denial of academic freedom, it is an exercise of academic freedom [4]. It is a choice not to participate in joint projects with Israeli institutions, which are deeply complicit with Israel’s program of ethnic cleansing and apartheid policies.

Rather than Israeli scholars, it is Palestinian academics who suffer denial of academic freedom in its most violent and extreme forms. Israel’s assaults on the right to education and academic freedom for Palestinians have been unrelenting. During the years 2012, 2013 and 2014, for example, there were 31 attacks on Al-Quds University from which 2473 people were injured, 5121 tear gas canisters and bullets were shot, and 276 people were interrogated by Israeli intelligence. During the 2013-2014 academic year alone, at Al-Quds University, 640 lectures had to be cancelled, more than 830 students were treated for tear gas injuries, 1000 students had to cancel registration attendance, and more than 12,000 students were forced to evacuate the university on three occasions because of Israeli-inflicted violence [5].

The University of Gaza has been bombed multiple times [6]. Birzeit University in the West Bank has been closed down at least 15 times by the Israeli military, and its former president, Dr. Hanna Nasir, a physicist, was deported and was forced to carry out his administrative duties in exile for 19 years [7]. Israel has destroyed or damaged hundreds of Palestinian schools, even kindergartens [8].

Israeli military authorities forbid students from Gaza to attend universities in the West Bank, and vice versa, and the system of Israeli checkpoints that crisscrosses the West Bank makes school attendance nearly impossible for Palestinian students. Palestinian researchers are regularly denied permission to travel abroad to attend conferences and participate in joint projects. And Palestinian students with Israeli citizenship face institutionalized discrimination [9].

Israeli universities regularly cooperate with the military, reducing the occupied territories to giant open-air laboratories in order to test weapons, surveillance and biometric technology, develop crowd control and cyber warfare, and even study a so-called “Arab mentality”. The recent massacre of nonviolent protesters in Gaza, including shootings of medical personnel and even young children, underscores the need for international pressure to stop to the carnage.

In the words of Nobel Peace prize laureate Desmond Tutu, “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” [10]

All forms of international intervention thus far have failed to move Israel to comply with international law and to end its brutal repression of the Palestinian people. We ask for your help to bring this intolerable situation to an end.


David Klein, (contact: david.klein@csun.edu)
Professor of Mathematics
California State University Northridge
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Ahmed Abbes, Mathematician,
Research Director at the CNRS, Paris
Liaison to USACBI from the Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine (AURDIP)

Richard Falk
Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University
Research Professor, Global Studies, UC Santa Barbara
Former Special Rapporteur, UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights in Occupied Palestine

Cynthia Franklin
Professor, Department of English
University of Hawai’i
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Terri Ginsberg
The American University in Cairo
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Charlotte Kates
International Coordinator
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
Organizing Collective, USACBI

John King
NYU Associate Adjunct Professor/SPS
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Michael Letwin, Labor for Palestine;
Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325
Organizing Collective, USACBI

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Sunaina Maira
Professor, Asian American Studies, UC Davis
Co-Director, Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Bill V. Mullen
Professor of American Studies
Affiliated Faculty Global Studies, Purdue University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Andrew Ross
Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis
New York University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

C. Heike Schotten
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts Boston

Organizing Collective, USACBI


[1] BDS Freedom Justice Equality, https://bdsmovement.net/academic-boycott, PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel, https://bdsmovement.net/pacbi/academic-boycott-guidelines

[2] “Top Scientist Joins BDS Movement Stephen Hawking Confirms He Is Boycotting Israeli Conference,”  Haaretz, May 08, 2013 https://www.haaretz.com/hawking-confirms-israel-boycott-1.5241535

[3] “Don’t boycott Israel’s scientists,” Nature417, 1 (2 May 2002) doi:10.1038/417001a

[4]Journal Of Academic Freedom, Vol. 4 (2013) https://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/journal-academic-freedom/volume-4

[5] “Israeli attacks on Al Quds University give new meaning to ‘academic freedom’,” Kamilah Moore, Mondoweiss,  November 17, 2014  http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/israeli-university-academic/

[6] “Israel-Gaza conflict: University hit as Palestinians endure more than 200 strikes in 24 hours, Lizzie Dearden,” The Independent, 2 August 2014

[7] History of Birzeit University, Birzeit University website: www.Birzeit.edu
“Birzeit University rises up against Israel’s arrests,” Mariam Barghouti, Aljazeera, 11 January 2016

[8] “Suffocating the Gaza Strip under Israeli Blockade,” Amnesty International report, January 2010; “Gaza crisis: a closer look at Israeli strikes on UNRWA schools,” Raya Jalabi, Tom McCarthy and Nadja Popovich, Guardian UK, 8 August 2014
“Israeli attack on Gaza damaged 75 kindergartens and day-care centers,” Mondoweiss, September 22, 2014 http://mondoweiss.net/2014/09/israeli-damaged-kindergartens

[9] “SECOND CLASS: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools, Human Rights Watch, 2001 https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/

[10]  “Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing,”Times Live, Archbishop Desmond Tutu , 26 September 2010   http://www.timeslive.co.za/world/2010/09/26/israeli-ties-a-chance-to-do-the-right-thing

Comments are closed.