USACBI letter calls on scientists to reject settlement university conference, support academic boycott of Israel

The following letter was sent to the invited participants of “Inflation, Alternatives and Gravitational Waves,” a conference taking place at Ariel University, a settler university constructed in an illegal settlement in the West Bank of occupied Palestine, from September 3-6, 2018. 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 Invited Participants of the Conference, Inflation, Alternatives and Gravitational Waves, at Ariel University, Israel, 3rd -6th September 2018

August 2018

Dear Professor;

We write as representative members of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USABCI) to urge you not to participate in the forthcoming conference, Inflation, Alternatives and Gravitational Waves, to be held at Ariel University in September 2018. Instead we ask 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].

The choice of Ariel University, located on Palestinian land in the West Bank, as the site of an international conference is particularly egregious.  The recent incorporation of Ariel University into Israel’s Higher Education Council is broadly seen as a “covert but tangible first step towards annexation” of the West Bank [3].

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 [4].  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 [5].  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 [6].

The University of Gaza has been bombed multiple times [7]. 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 [8]. Israel has destroyed or damaged hundreds of Palestinian schools, even kindergartens [9].

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 [10].

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.” [11]

Israel continues to violate international law with its increasingly racist policies. The recent passage of the Basic Law, “Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People,” now part of Israel’s constitution, institutionalizes apartheid in Israel.  According to the new law, the state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people “in which it exercises its natural, cultural, religious and historical right for self-determination” a right that is “exclusive to the Jewish people.” Palestinians are denied equal rights both in practice and in law [12].

We ask for your support to bring this intolerable situation to an end.


David Klein, (contact:
Professor of Mathematics
California State University Northridge
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Nada Elia, PhD
Fairhaven College
Western Washington University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Richard Falk
Professor of International Law, Emeritus
Princeton University
Former Special Rapporteur, UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights in Occupied Palestine

Cynthia Franklin
Professor 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
Associate Adjunct Professor
School of Professional Studies, New York University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Michael Letwin
Labor for Palestine; Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW 2325 (NYC)
Organizing Collective, USACBI

Adam Miyashiro
Assistant Professor of Medieval Literature
Stockton University
Organizing Collective, USACBI

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

David Palumbo-Liu
Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor
Stanford University
Organizing Collective, USACBI


[1] BDS Freedom Justice Equality,, PACBI Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel,

 [2] “Top Scientist Joins BDS Movement Stephen Hawking Confirms He Is Boycotting Israeli Conference,”  Haaretz, May 08, 2013

[3] “US smooths Israel’s path to annexing West Bank,” Jonathan Cook,  Mondoweiss March 19, 2018

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

[5]Journal Of Academic Freedom, Vol. 4 (2013)

[6] “Israeli attacks on Al Quds University give new meaning to ‘academic freedom’,” Kamilah Moore, Mondoweiss,  November 17, 2014

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

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

[9] “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

[10] “SECOND CLASS: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools, Human Rights Watch, 2001

[11]  “Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing,”Times Live, Archbishop Desmond Tutu , 26 September 2010

[12] “‘We the Jewish People’— A deep look into Israel’s new law,” Eyal Benvenisti and Doreen Lustig, Just Security, July 24, 2018

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