10 Reasons for an Academic Boycott of Israel
June 23, 2013 § 6 Comments
My article for the “10 Reasons for a Cultural Boycott of Israel” campaign has prompted requests for a similar article about the academic boycott. So without further ado: 10 reasons for an academic boycott of Israel.
- Israel systematically destroys the education opportunities in the territories under its occupation by military means: From demolishing universities, schools and kindergartens; through the apartheid wall and checkpoints, separating children and teachers from the schools; to the arrests of students and professors; to the stopping of school supplies from entering Gaza and the bombing of its infrastructures.
- Academic institutions are not separate from the economic realities they exist in. Academia is- as any other institution- unfortunately, powered by money.
- Academia in Israel is subsidized by the state (as it should be), and as such dependent upon it and susceptible to its policies.
- This subsidy doesn’t make college education realistically affordable for all citizens of Israel. A recent report indicates that only 11% of the Palestinian population of Israel is accepted to college, and cites the main hurdle as economic. Although Palestinian citizens of Israel are a quarter of the college-age population, they comprise only 8% of the students attending Israeli universities. In 2009 half of this quarter- about 5,400 – chose to study abroad, mainly in neighboring Jordan, because of the difficulties they faced in Israel.
- While discrimination is practiced against Palestinian students, ex-military personnel are simultaneously favored. Further straining not only the economic gaps, but also the militarizing phenomena in Israel, in which one type of citizen is “acceptable” and the other is a “security threat”.
- These policies of discrimination within the university are directly linked with the Israeli government policies of ethnic cleansing: “Far-right leaders have suggested in the past that the Arab minority can be encouraged to emigrate by restricting access to higher education. Benny Elon, a former cabinet minister, notoriously summed up the policy as: “I will close the universities to you, I will make your lives difficult, until you want to leave.”” (The ministers are referring to the population which Israel refers to as “Israeli Arabs”-it’s own citizens.)
- All universities in Israel and many private academic institutions have some form of “security studies”, in which occupation-army uniform-clad students and “professors” exchange ideas about how to more efficiently kill and control the Palestinian population.
- While there’s also room for significant criticism of the regime in Israel’s academia, it is the allowance of this criticism that is used as a fig leaf by the institutions and the state for a pretense of democracy, as if they are not themselves condoning, promoting, and developing the weapons, policies, and moral justifications to the apartheid military regime, while themselves practicing discrimination.
- While criticism exists in the academy, it’s speakers pay heavy personal and professional prices, once they’ve “gone too far” in the eyes of the academy. Usually calling for boycott is this imaginary red line. Meanwhile the Ministry of Hasbara commissions academics to speak favorably about Israel abroad. (also furthering the divide between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” citizens.)
- Non-participation in oppressive systems is fueled by information sharing. The key to any grassroots movement is education on the issues. When the BDS movement asks that academic institutions be boycotted, the only way to achieve participation is explain why. Thus BDS further’s freedom of speech in the Israeli academy and abroad.
Security studies in Israel’s universities and colleges: