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PACBI-Open Letter to the Bergen University Community: Boycott the Israeli Academy!

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PACBI | 25 January 2010

Open Letter to the Bergen University Community: Boycott the Israeli Academy!

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has been very heartened by media reports that the university community at the University of Bergen (UiB) has begun an open discussion of the academic boycott of Israel.  We applaud the student initiators of the debate, and commend the courageous views expressed by Rector Sigmund Grønmo, who not only has defended the autonomy of the academy and its right to have an open debate of the subject, but who has also stated that university staff are free to decide which international partners they choose to cooperate with or shun, including the freedom to practice an academic boycott.

We urge the university community to take the debate to the next level, towards a call for the implementation of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, due to their decades-old complicity in perpetuating Israels occupation, colonization and unique apartheid system. We are reminded of the courageous stance of Norwegian academics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University College Sør-Trøndelag (HiST) last November when they proposed a motion to boycott Israeli universities.  That was a historic step in the direction of applying effective pressure on Israel and holding it accountable for its colonial and apartheid policies that violate international law and fundamental human rights. We are encouraged to see that Bergen students and academics are adding to the momentum of the boycott movement in Norway in their expression of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

We urge you to declare that Israeli universities cannot be considered normal partners in the pursuit of academic endeavors, so long as they continue to collude in the perpetration of human rights violations and, in some cases, war crimes[1].  Indeed, self-respecting academics around the world are increasingly coming to the realization that Israeli universities are part and parcel of the structures of domination and oppression of the Palestinian people and thus must be shunned.

The Israeli academy has played a direct and indirect role in promoting, justifying, developing or supporting the states racist policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law. More concretely, there is ample evidence to show that Israeli universities and research institutes are major partners of the military-political establishment in Israel, including in the development of lethal weaponry for the Israeli army.[2]  It should be noted that this is the same army that executed the relentless and bloody war against the Palestinians in occupied Gaza in December 2008 and early January 2009.

Israels war of aggression on Gaza, which left over 1,440 Palestinians dead, of whom 431 were children, and 5380 injured, aggravated the ongoing, illegal, crippling Israeli siege of Gaza which has shattered all spheres of life, prompting the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Richard Falk, to describe it as a prelude to genocide. The UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, headed by the highly respected South African judge, Richard Goldstone, found Israel guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, as did major international human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Goldstone report concluded that Israels war on Gaza was designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.[3]

The impunity of Israel must be challenged.  Academic and cultural boycotts are effective, non-violent measures available to world civil society to indicate its support for human rights and international law and intolerance of oppression.  They are also a crucial means to pressure Israel to cease its campaign of ethnic cleansing and colonial control over the Palestinian people. The 2004 PACBI call for boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions,[4] like the Palestinian civil societys widely endorsed call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in 2005,[5] is based on the same moral principle embodied in the international civil society campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa: that people of conscience must take a stand against oppression and use all the means of civil resistance available to bring it to an end.

We urge the academic community at the University of Bergen to join the growing global movement for justice for the Palestinian people.


Posted on 25-01-2010

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