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Tel Aviv University
Rachel Giora, Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University, calls for boycott against Israel


A message to BRICUP’s pre UCU Congress 2009 meeting from Rachel Giora,

Professor of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv


Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to express my support of your actions toward helping the boycott

movement become engulfing and effective. By responding to the Palestinian call

to boycott Israel, you emerged as the pioneers of the boycott movement against

Israel and I hope you will be able to witness its impact on redressing injustices

and on changing the face of the world.

Thanks to you, the boycott movement against Israel is now gaining force.

Examples abound: Dock workers in South Africa refused to offload a ship

carrying Israeli goods; Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of

Australia have also called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels

bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel ; a Turkish company refused to do

business with Israelis “with blood on their hands”; young individuals in France

cleared Israeli goods off a store’s shelve. The boycott movement is indeed biting.

Israeli goods are losing foreign markets: 21% of Israeli exporters report that

they are facing problems in selling Israeli goods because of an anti-Israel

boycott, mainly from the UK and Scandinavian countries.

That business is not as usual as can be gleaned from the EU decision to

freeze a planned upgrade of ties with Israel in order to pressure its government

to abide by the international commitments made towards the welfare of the

Palestinian people. “We expect a stop of all activities undermining our objective

of a two-state solution… citing the expansion of Israeli settlements in the

Palestinian territories … which is continuing on a daily basis.".

Israel is also facing cultural isolation: Israel’s sports teams have met with

hostile protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Israeli money donated to help

fund the 2009 film festival in Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) was

returned to the Israeli Embassy.

The Academic boycott started in Britain by you and people like you is

perhaps the most solid form of cultural boycott to-date, resonating in universities

and academic institutions all over the world: Cardiff University divested from

Israel; CUPE-Ontario's University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC)

encouraged members “to hold public forums to discuss an academic boycott of

Israeli academic institutions”; Quebec College Federation joined the BDS

campaign; Australian scholars called for a boycott of Israeli academic and

cultural institutions; US academics agitated for academic boycott of Israel..

But shouldn’t Israeli academic institutions be exempted, some wonder?

After all such institutions focus on academic research with no recourse to the

military or state politics. But in fact Israeli academia is no different from any

other Israeli institution and in many cases it plays an active if not a vital role in

supporting Israeli apartheid practices against the Palestinians. For example, “the

R&D [Research & Development] Directorate of the Israel Ministry of Defense is

currently funding 55 projects at TAU [Tel Aviv University]”; “Military R&D in

Israel would not exist without the universities. They carry out all the basic

scientific investigation, which is then developed either by defense industries or

the army”; “People are just not aware of how important university research is in

general and how much TAU contributes to Israel’s security in particular”; “In the

rough and tumble reality of the Middle East, Tel Aviv University is at the front

line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.”

Israeli universities run special programs for the military. Just recently, the

Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the Defense Ministry Bidding to establish

the Military Medical Program. Tel Aviv University runs an Executive Master's

Program in Diplomacy and Security at the social sciences faculty, to cite just a

few examples.

And in spite of the growing plight of their Palestinians colleagues,

universities’ senates and heads have never spoken up against the Israeli

occupation of the Palestinian territory or against the oppression of the

Palestinians; nor have they protested the destructive damage inflicted on

Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli military; nor have they shown any

concern for or solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues. And when given the

chance to protest “the policy of the Israeli government which is causing

restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and […] call upon

the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses

in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports

to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas”,

only very few (407 out of over 5000) faculty have chosen to sign this petition. Is

“academic freedom” only the prerogative of the powerful?

These are only shreds of evidence testifying to the complicity of Israeli

academic institutions in the state's apartheid policies against the Palestinians.

In light of Israel’s widely documented disregard for international laws

exercised in our area for so many years, culminating in two recent wars against

civilians in Lebanon and Gaza, it is left for us citizens of the world to attempt to

hold up a mirror to Israel’s real face in the hope that it will give it a chance to

choose justice and peace over occupation.

The growing numbers of Israelis who are now supporting cultural and

academic boycotts will rejoice in your achievements.

I wish you luck with your conference and actions.

In solidarity,

Rachel Giora


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