For those who have been observing the ‘peace process’ of late, the claim that Israel has been taking “courageous actions toward ending the occupation” rings hollow. Whilst the media regales us with tales of settler angst at the prospect of being ‘ethnically cleansed’ from Gaza, Israel has speeded up the building of the wall in the West Bank, has launched a ferocious campaign against Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem, has authorised the building of thousands of new homes in the West Bank settlements, and has kept West Bank and Gaza residents under appalling conditions, with extremely limited rights of movement. Even after the unilateral Gaza withdrawal takes place, Gazans will have no control over their own borders, and two new walls are being built – one along the Philadelphi Corridor and one on the Israeli side of Gaza. It smacks of more of the Oslo process, where under the pretence of a “very generous offer”, Israel doubled the number of dwellings in settlements in the West Bank.
Within academic circles, the targetted boycott has raised much debate, and concern that the principle of ‘academic freedom’ will be damaged by the boycott. Thus, a group of UK academics have called an emergency meeting of the AUT in an endeavour to overturn the motions voted in at the AUT conference.(2)
As the debate rages on, the position of the occupied is all but forgotten – and whilst Dershowitz even goes so far as to insist that “leading Palestinian academics do not support” the boycott, closer examination of his claims in that regard, reveal that he is quoting an unnamed source at the Al-Quds University, and that is not the dominant view at that university, according to the results of a Questionnaire on Joint Projects with Israeli Academic Institutions, undertaken by the Union of Al-Quds University Teachers and Employees earlier this year.(3)
In reality, the call for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions came from Palestinian academics (4), and that call should now be seriously considered by their counterparts throughout the world.
This undermines another of the arguments doing the rounds – “Why not boycott other academies because of their state’s involvement in human rights abuses” – the answer being that there have not been requests from other occupied or oppressed peoples for an academic boycott of their oppressor’s institutions, and that to attempt to instigate a boycott without a call from the victims of oppression smacks of cultural imperialism. Furthermore, failure to sanction any other academy does not invalidate the reasons for boycotting Haifa University (for its campaign of vilification against Dr. Ilan Pappe and a mature student Teddy Katz) and Bar Ilan University (for its links with a college in Ariel settlement, deep inside the West Bank.)
Ariel Sharon’s response to the boycott against Bar Ilan reaffirms the urgent need for a boycott of Israel, and completely undermines Dershowitz’s claims of “courageous actions toward ending the occupation”. Haaretz (5) reports that the College of Judea and Samaria, (the settlement college where Bar Ilan was providing accreditation) will be accorded university status.
“Vice Premier Shimon Peres called on fellow Labor ministers to vote against an Ariel university, saying it contradicts a government decision to give priority to developing the Galilee and the Negev.
"Establishing this university is an eyebrow-raising mistake," Peres said.
In response, Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed surprise at Labor's objection, saying that a university in Ariel is important for demonstrating that the Ariel bloc will forever remain a part of Israel.”
And there we have it, there are no courageous steps to end the occupation, there is no desire on the part of Sharon to consider giving up all the settlements in order to facilitate the establishment of a viable, contiguous state on 1967 borders.
It is time to give the rights of Palestinians as much discussion as the rights of Israelis are accorded. To overturn this limited boycott would be a travesty of justice.
1) http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/cambridge/2005/04/310010.html originally posted at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1114568597620&p=1006953079865