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PACBI-Honoring the Dishonorable: An Open Letter to the University Catolica de Murcia

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23 August 2013

Honoring the Dishonorable: An Open Letter to the University Catolica de Murcia

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), the University Teachers’ Association and the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) view with grave concern the University Catolica de Murica intention to honor Benjamin Netanyahu with an Honorary Doctorate. It is both cynical and hard to believe that a prestigious university like the University Catolica de Murica is honoring an Israeli prime minister whose record directly points to a series of war crimes. Such honors will immeasurably tarnish the image of the University Catolica de Murcia (UCAM). Those who have received this prestigious degree from your university will be tainted by being in the company of such a notorious personality.

Netanyahu is the prime minister of a state that practices the most pernicious form of colonialism and apartheid. The Israeli government subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination, and its actions are widely acknowledged as violations of international law. Honoring Netanyahu with a PhD degree would function as a whitewash of these practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual. In 2011/2012, Netanyahu ordered an onslaught of Gaza, where more than 150 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 34 children [1]. Palestinian human rights organizations have accused Israel of war crimes including the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.  

This attack is just the latest stage of Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians. Israel routinely violates Palestinians’ basic human rights in some of the following ways:

  • Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip live under a brutal and unlawful military occupation.  Israel restricts Palestinians’ freedom of movement and of speech; blocks access to lands, health care, and education; imprisons Palestinian leaders and human rights activists without charge or trial; and inflicts, on a daily basis, humiliation and violence at the more than 600 military checkpoints and roadblocks strangling the West Bank.  All the while, Israel continues to build its illegal wall on Palestinian land and to support the ever-expanding network of illegal, Jewish-only settlements that divide the West Bank into Bantustans.

  • Palestinian citizens of Israel face a growing system of Apartheid within Israel's borders, with laws and policies that deny them the rights that their Jewish counterparts enjoy.  These laws and policies affect education, land ownership, housing, employment, marriage, and all other aspects of people's daily lives. In many ways this system strikingly resembles Jim Crow and apartheid South Africa.

  • Since 1948, when Israel dispossessed more than 750,000 Palestinian people in order to form an exclusivist Jewish state, Israel has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally recognized right to return to their homes and their lands.  Israel also continues to expel people from their homes in Jerusalem and the Naqab (Negev).  Today, there are more than 7 million Palestinian refugees still struggling for their right to return to their homes, like all refugees around the world.

  • In Gaza, Palestinians have been subjected to a criminal and immoral siege since 2006.  As part of this siege, Israel has prevented not only various types of medicines, candles,  crayons, clothing, shoes, blankets, pasta, tea, coffee and chocolate, but also books from reaching the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the world’s largest open-air prison [2].
Could you possibly honor such a dishonorable prime minister with a clear conscience?
In the past few years and to salvage its deteriorating image, Israel has redoubled its effort to “brand” itself as an enlightened liberal democracy [3]. Honorary degrees play a unique role in this branding campaign [4], and by bestowing this on Israel’s prime minister, you are serving the Israeli government’s rebranding policy, and affirming its membership in the West’s privileged club of “cultured,” liberal democracies. And by doing so, you are turning a blind eye to Israel’s ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid, adding insult to the open wounds of injustice perpetrated on our people.
In response to Israel’s viciousness, in 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI issued a call for the boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid [5].  The BDS movement adopts a nonviolent, morally consistent strategy to hold Israel accountable to the same human rights standards as other nations. It is asking artists to heed the boycott call until “Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid." [6]

 We appeal to you once more, as the indigenous oppressed people, to respect our strategy of resistance and uphold the highest standard of respect for the human rights of the Palestinians.  Brave decisions need to be taken in support of Palestinians exactly like South Africa was supported long before it became fashionable to do so. Israeli war criminals should be boycotted, not rewarded.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)
The University Teachers’ Association

Posted on 23-08-2013

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