Shalom Life | October 08, 2014

Yale, Harvard, Columbia Anthropologists Sign Boycott Israel Letter

360 faculty members of universities from around the world have endorsed an academic boycott of Israel

By: Daniel Koren

Published: October 6th, 2014 in News » World

As the debate surrounding the BDS (Boycott, Divest & Sanction) movement against the State of Israel continues to intensify, some 360 noted anthropologist from around the world have signed a letter that encourages such a boycott.

Signatories of the statement, posted on Oct. 1st onto jadaliyya.com, include 13 academic faculty members from City University of New York, 13 from Columbia, 9 from Harvard and 8 from Yale.

The statement was originally posted with just 231 signatories:

We, the undersigned anthropologists, are circulating this petition to voice our opposition to the ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, including the Israeli military occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem, and to boycott Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations.

The recent military assault on the Gaza Strip by Israel is only the latest reminder that the world’s governments and mainstream media do not hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. As a community of scholars who study problems of power, oppression, and cultural hegemony, we have a moral responsibility to speak out and demand accountability from Israel and our own governments. Acting in solidarity with Palestinian civil society continues a disciplinary tradition of support for anticolonial and human rights struggles, itself an important departure from anthropology’s historical complicity with colonialism. As laid out in the American Anthropological Association (AAA)’s 1999 Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights, “Anthropology as a profession is committed to the promotion and protection of the right of people and peoples everywhere to the full realization of their humanity…When any culture or society denies or permits the denial of such opportunity to any of its own members or others, the AAA has an ethical responsibility to protest and oppose such deprivation.”

Israel has maintained an illegal siege on the Gaza Strip for seven years, severely restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Palestinians are also being dispossessed of their lands and livelihoods throughout the West Bank, where Israel’s separation barrier curtails Palestinian freedom of movement and education. These and other ongoing violations will continue unless people around the world act where their governments have failed.

As employees in institutions of higher learning, we have a particular responsibility to oppose Israel’s widespread and systematic violations of the right to higher education of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. In recent months, Israeli forces have raided Al Quds University in Jerusalem, the Arab American University in Jenin, and Birzeit University near Ramallah. In this summer’s assault, Israeli aerial bombardment destroyed much of the Islamic University of Gaza. More generally, the Israeli state discriminates against Palestinian students in Israeli universities and it isolates Palestinian academia by, among other tactics, preventing foreign academics from visiting Palestinian institutions in Gaza and the West Bank. We are also alarmed by the long history of confiscations of Palestinian archives and the destruction of libraries and research centers.

Read the rest of the statement here.

While many academic institutions have also encouraged such a boycott of Israel, reports indicate that such initiatives often ostracize Jewish students at university campuses. A recent incident regarding the Student Senate President at Ohio University, for example, saw her demanding a boycott of Israel by staging a blood bucket challenge.

Days later, in a bid to outline why boycotting Israeli academic institutions are unjust, several Jewish students were arrested at Ohio U for voicing their opinions at a Student Senate meeting.

Meanwhile, Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida looked at the effects of boycotting Israeli businesses and institutions, and found that it is most harmful for Palestinian employees. “Whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers – for reasons having to do with salaries and other rights,” Al-Hayat Al-Jadida stated.

There is currently an anti-BDS petition circulating online that we encourage you to sign if you are a faculty member, alum, or student at any university.

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