USACBI was founded in 2009, in the midst of the Israeli war on Gaza, to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, including Palestinian scholars and students, in their struggle to end apartheid and occupation. USACBI is a national US-based campaign. It focuses on mobilizing support for the academic and cultural boycott, and on organizing US academics to end the collusion of the US academy with Israel”s military occupation and systemic anti-Palestinian racism. USACBI does so by inviting academics–scholars as well as students–to endorse the boycott as a first step toward showing public solidarity and building a national boycott movement, in tandem with the larger BDS movement. The campaign is inspired in large part by the movement opposing apartheid in South Africa through similar strategies of boycott, divestment, and sanctions.
USACBI”s academic boycott work is guided by principles established by the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) in 2004. Those principles hold that Israeli academic institutions are “a key part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of Israel”s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people.” The goal of the boycott is to end Israel”s occupation of Palestinian lands during and since 1967, end Israeli institutionalized racism inside the 1948 boundaries of Israel, and achieve the return of the Palestinian refugees to their lands and homes. USACBI”s academic boycott work is also in line with principles established by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education. These call for “non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities.”
It is important to note that USACBI adheres to PACBI guidelines in promoting the boycott of Israeli institutions, not individuals:
Israeli institutions are complicit, directly and indirectly, with the Israeli state”s ongoing illegal occupation, apartheid policies, and violations of international human rights law. Israeli academic institutions engage in racial discrimination and repression of Palestinian students and activities. Israel also systematically denies Palestinian academics and students freedom of movement, so that they are not able to freely travel for study, conferences, and research, even within Palestine. (See Reports and Resources.) The academic boycott is thus a challenge to the degraded academic freedom of Palestinians.In ending the lockdown on critical discussion about Palestine-Israel, this movement aims to enlarge academic freedom for all.
Israeli Universities play a significant role in the legitimization, as well as de-legitimization, of the key state and cultural institutions in Israel that are crucial to the normalization and extension of state violence and discrimination. By withholding complicity with these institutional projects, the academic boycott is a tool that academics can use to take a principled stance against occupation and apartheid. To this end, USACBI encourages “academics, academic associations/unions, and academic – as well as other – institutions around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israeli academic institutions or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel”s violations of international law and Palestinian rights, or violate the BDS guidelines.”
Members of USACBI have organized and participated in successful campaigns that led to the adoption of academic boycott resolutions by the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS), the American Studies Association (ASA), the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), and the Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA), among others. It has also helped in organizing around resolutions endorsed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa”s Ethnic Studies Department, and the United Auto Workers Local 2865, the University of California”s Student Workers Association.
USACBI works in solidarity with international academic boycott organizations. These include the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), AURDIP, the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI), Faculty for Palestine Canada, the Belgian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and the Lebanese Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel. USACBI also collaborates with Students for Justice in Palestine chapters and other student activists working on academic boycott and divestment campaigns. It has created a pamphlet to assist students in understanding and engaging in academic boycott organizing.
As well, Faculty for Justice in Palestine (FJP) chapters are emerging to support the work of USACBI and SJP chapters. Chapters have already been formed at UC Davis, University of Hawai’i Manoa, University of Florida, and Purdue University.