Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How to boycott Israel: updated guidelines for academics


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) recently updated its guidelines on how to apply the international academic boycott of Israel.

This comes at a crucial moment – in the wake of Israel’s latest spasm of horrifying destruction and mass killing in Gaza, and after a period of unprecedented growth in support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Calls for academic boycott will resonate more than ever particularly in light of Israel’s recent bomb attacks on university facilities in Gaza, its violent raids on universities in the West Bank and the financial and political support Israeli universities have themselves given to the carnage.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza are not going back to school on time as a direct consequence of the Israeli devastation, while in the West Bank young children face such violence as tear gas fired at them on their way to class.

The school year in Gaza was scheduled to begin on 23 August but has been postponed; Israeli attacks since 7 July killed more than 500 children and injured thousands. In total 220 schools were damaged, 22 of which were completely destroyed.

Children will not be able to go back to class until “war-damaged schools” are repaired and “unexploded ordnance” removed, the UN says.

When children do go back to class, learning will certainly be an even bigger challenge due to the fact that virtually the entire child population in Gaza is in need of psychosocial support due to the trauma of Israel’s 51-day bombardment.

Practical guidance

The updated PACBI guidelines are important for two reasons: they provide a practical reference that can be used to decide if a specific activity is boycottable and they can be used to debunk false claims made by opponents of the boycott, for example that the boycott stifles “academic freedom.”

A common false claim is that PACBI has called for a blanket boycott of Israeli individuals or even of Jewish individuals.

But, PACBI states: “Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, the BDS movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.”

A person’s activities are boycottable, however, when “an individual is representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to ‘rebrand’ itself.” more

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