Dear Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Keith Wailoo, Dr. Katharine Park, Dr. Carl June and Dr. Steven Rosenberg,
We write on behalf of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to urge you to reject the Dan David Prize, awarded by the Dan David Foundation and located at Tel Aviv University (TAU) in Israel. Even as it might seem an honor to receive this award, to accept it is to normalize 72 years of Israeli dispossession, occupation and colonization targeting the Palestinian people. With its focus on public health, this year’s award carries particularly cruel ironies, given that Israel’s practices of Apartheid extend to the “vaccine apartheid” imposed on Palestinians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acceptance of this prize legitimizes Israel’s widely condemned policy of denying COVID-19 vaccines to over 5 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. As the occupier of these Palestinian lands, Israel has the legal responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide necessary mechanisms to “combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics.” Instead, Israel is actively blocking the delivery of vaccines to Palestinians under occupation. Meanwhile, it is engaging in “vaccine diplomacy” with states that have supported its international attacks on Palestinian rights, including Hungary and the Czech Republic. Israel is providing extra doses to these states while Palestinians face soaring COVID-19 rates and renewed lockdowns.
All of this comes as the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced on March 3rd, 2021 that it will open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Palestine. The ICC probe is moving forward thanks to the dedicated work of Palestinian victims of Israeli war crimes and their legal team. It also comes despite threats and even sanctions imposed upon the Court and its staff members by Israel and the United States. In addition, Israel is facing widespread international criticism for its denial of COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians under occupation–from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders/Medicines Sans Frontiers, and even from the Israeli press such as Haaretz.
Accepting the Dan David Prize is also a direct repudiation of the call of Palestinian academics, cultural workers and civil society for the international academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The call for academic boycott, far from a curtailment of academic freedom, has come because Israeli academic institutions are directly complicit in Israel’s human rights violations. For example, Tel Aviv University provides fee waivers and scholarships for Israeli occupation soldiers. Further, TAU has participated in dozens of joint technological projects with the Israeli army and its campus is built on the site of a demolished Palestinian village, Sheikh Muwannis, whose inhabitants were forcibly expelled in 1948 and denied their right to return ever since.
Dr. Fauci: acceptance of the Dan David Prize is a slap in the face to any commitment to public health that respects the suffering and rights of all, especially the most marginalized. Public health, colonialism and apartheid are fundamentally incompatible. If you believe that all people have the right to protection from COVID-19, we urge you to decline this award.
Drs. June and Rosenberg: scientific breakthroughs to protect health and save lives must be equally available to all. However, Palestinian scientists face severe obstacles that inhibit scientific education and development in occupied Palestine. Palestinian academics face imprisonment; are subjected to the daily barriers imposed by military occupation; and Israel’s siege on Gaza denies scientists access both to essential materials and to communication with Palestinian and international colleagues.
Dr. Wailoo: your scholarship focuses on race, science and equity in health, as well as the social implications and politics of disease and medicine. In particular, your 2014 book Pain: A Political History argues for attention to the ways that race informs the dismissal and minimization of pain and social suffering, an issue that directly speaks to the denial of vaccinations to Palestinians. Acceptance of the Dan David award would not only contradict the themes of your research, it would undermine your credibility as a public health scholar
Dr. Park: your research examines the social and cultural contexts of science and medicine, and the context here is clear: Israel has dispossessed Palestinians from their land for over 72 years and routinely carries out extrajudicial executions, home demolitions, land confiscations, arbitrary imprisonment and a devastating siege on Gaza. This is the reality that the Dan David Prize attempts to whitewash.
In 2016, historian Prof. Catherine Hall rejected the Dan David Prize, despite the fact that prior recipients chose to ignore the violence of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We urge you to join her in declining the 2021 Dan David Prize. To do so is to take a principled stand for justice, one that accords with the ethics and politics of the work that you all do. For public health to have meaning, it must not exclude those who are most vulnerable. We urge you to stand on the right side of history. There is no honor in apartheid and colonialism.
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel