The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel thanks Prof. Homi Bhabha for his principled decision to withdraw from participation in the Israel Sociological Society (ISS) conference, where he had been invited to deliver the keynote address. As he noted in his withdrawal statement, “I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it.”
Regardless of the positions they take on Israeli policy, Israel’s academic associations are structurally complicit in the ongoing occupation and colonization of Palestine and its apartheid regime and are therefore subject to the Palestinian and global call for academic boycott, a critical part of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. By withdrawing from participation at the ISS conference, Prof. Bhabha is taking an important stand and refusing to allow his name to be used to promote and normalize Israeli academia.
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Prof. Bhabha’s statement:
I received an invitation several months ago, from my colleague and friend Lev Grinberg, to speak by Zoom at the Israeli Sociological Society Conference . Lev, the President of the ISS, has a steadfast record of opposition to the Israeli State’s discrimination against Palestinians and Arab Israelis, amongst other minorities. During Lev’s tenure, the ISS published a declaration in June 2020 committing itself “to reflect, expose and criticize the violence of security forces and the police against individuals and disadvantaged groups, due to their skin color or precarious civil status as often happens in the case of Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews, foreign workers and asylum seekers.” The ISS has also explicitly argued for “Palestinian lives matter” in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
To further this discussion Lev and his colleagues invited me to talk about my recent work on the “Governance of the Unprepared” where I argue that ethno-nationalist populist leaders like Trump, Netanyahu, Erdogan, Modi, Bolsonaro, and Orban, amongst others, employ an affectively charged political discourse of degradation to polarize populations and racialize social relations. They keep their citizens and residents in states of anxious “unpreparedness” and fearful indeterminacy to restrict their political agency, while expediently executing policies of oppression, inequity, indignity and the quelling of dissent. The pandemic, which has been woefully, and at times intentionally, mismanaged by these very leaders has been deployed to further majoritarian agendas to the detriment of migrants, minorities and political dissidents.
I have withdrawn from the ISS conference because I have decided that it is not only what you say that matters, but also when and where you say it. Diplomatic maneuvers between Israel, the US and the UAE, in the past weeks, are amongst several cynical arrangements being put in place to silence and subvert the Palestinian cause, and more significantly, to expunge the Palestinian people from a radical reconfiguration of the balance of power and profit in the region. Dealt out of the process from the very start, the Palestinian people are pawns in the post-pandemic politics of three ethno-nationalist authoritarians. In these circumstances I made my decision. None of this diminishes my respect for scholars who fight for what is right and just, and who invited me in a spirit of good faith and collegiality.
Homi K. Bhabha
photo credit: jeanbaptisteparis/Hidro – Wikimedia Commons