Sari Hanafi, a sociology professor at the American University of Beirut, has done an incredibly brave or stupid act (depending on your perspective) co-editing a book with Israeli academics. This is particularly perplexing considering that Hanafi has put his name to the Lebanese Campaign for the boycott of Zionism in solidarity with the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. This includes boycotting Israeli academics and their institutions, as the statement reads:
Specifically, we ask our colleagues worldwide to support the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel to comprehensively and consistently boycott and disinvest from all Israeli academic and cultural institutions, and to refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joining projects with Israeli institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.
The book is called The Power of Inclusive Exclusion and looks fascinating. The website details that the book is about:
The Power of Inclusive Exclusion analyzes the Israeli occupation as a rationalized system of political rule. With essays by leading Palestinian and Israeli scholars, a comprehensive chronology, photographs, and original documents, this groundbreaking book calls into question prevalent views of the occupation as a skewed form of brutal colonization, a type of Jewish apartheid, or an inevitable response to terrorism…. The Power of Inclusive Exclusion uncovers the structural logic that sustains and reproduces the occupation regime.
I imagine that Hanafi would take the argument that this project does not contribute to the continued occupation.
The Israeli co-editors of the book are Adi Ophir is Professor of Philosophy and Political Theory at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University and Michal Givoni is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University.
The move by Hanafi has caused a quite a stir at the AUB campus and a petition has been created against normalisation of relations.
To: AUB Community
The American University of Beirut is one of the most important educational institutions in the Middle East and a university in the heart of a city and community devastated repeatedly by Israeli military aggression. Historically, AUB has been a centre of intellectual resistance to Zionism’s colonial ambitions in the region.
As members of this academic community, we reject all forms of normalization of relations with Israeli institutions. We support moreover the call of Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel including the academic and cultural boycott as one of the few non-violent strategies to bring to an end Israeli military occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories.
We note regretfully that the name of the University has recently appeared in the volume The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories published by Zone Books (2009), under the auspices of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem and co-edited by the AUB sociologist Sari Hanafi. We note that beginning the first of March of the year 2010, Dr. Hanafi will be traveling in Europe with Dr. Adi Ophir of Tel Aviv University to promote their edited book at several universities including the London School of Economics, the University of Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies. The use of the name of the American University of Beirut lends institutional legitimacy and intellectual authority to these efforts in a manner that sets an alarming precedent. We expect that this association will be used abroad to signal that normal academic exchange between institutions in Lebanon and Israel is now an accepted practice, leaving a distinct impression that we have transcended the conflict and its root causes. It sends a message to our colleagues, our students, our public, and the world at large that there is no real issue between us and that we can enter into a normal relationship of academic collaboration.
Therefore, we the undersigned ask the American University of Beirut, its President and Board of Trustees, its Provost and Deans of the Faculties, to join with us in acknowledging that the University recognizes that normal academic exchange with Israeli academic institutions and their faculty is not an option open to AUB faculty and staff.
Recalling the 2006 Israeli bombing of schools and libraries in Lebanon, the bombing last year of the Islamic University in Gaza, and the much longer history of isolation and closures of the West Bank universities as part of the destruction of cultural and academic resources and leadership in Palestine, we call on the AUB administration to issue a statement clarifying the rules to be respected by its members with regard to collaborative work with Israeli academic institutions.