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Boycott Calls Against Israel
On-Campus Israeli Apartheid Week and the Boycott Calls to Scientists

14.02.18

Editorial Note

Activities for the upcoming Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) have been announced recently and a number of universities are participating.
 
Leading In the U.K is SOAS University of London, where the IAW is organized by the SOAS Palestine Society. In the University of Leeds it is organized by the University of Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group (PSG) and in the University of Sussex in Brighton it is organized by the Sussex Friends of Palestine Society.  In Finland, IAW is hosted by the ICAHD Finland and Students for Justice in Palestine Helsinki, to recall, ICAHD was founded by Jeff Halper, formerly a lecturer at Ben Gurion University.  In South Africa, the newly elected IAW National Spokesperson is Justin de Swardt, a student of Law and English at the University of Pretoria.   In Canada, the Toronto Students for Justice in Palestine is hosting a Volunteer Orientation for Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 which is mandatory for all volunteers. 

To abolish accusations of antisemitism, Sussex Friends of Palestine Society added a note to their invitation, "Just to clarify... The British Government has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. That definition attests that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour, is antisemitic. Using the language ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is an attempt to delegitimise and demonise Israel by comparing it to Apartheid South Africa. That comparison by dint of the IHRA definition is...antisemitic. (No need for thanks!) Oh and I nearly forget, the IHRA definition was also voted on and passed with a huge majority by.....the Labour Party! #JustSaying."

But some other developments are essentially positive.  The International Meeting for Science in Palestine was held at the University of Cambridge, U.K in January, a first international gathering to help building ties between the Palestinian and the international scientific community. The goal is to implement programs and long term visions to strengthen the growth of science in Palestine.  The conference focused on issues such as the current status of science in Palestine and the opportunities for international scientists to get involved. Panels debated the "Organisation of the Palestinian Advanced Physics School and other schools"; "Mentorship program and online resources on opportunities in academia" and "Outreach and communication. Video, audio and social media", among others.

The conference is part of a new trend among younger Palestinians who try to focus on building up their community through science and technology.  This imperative became more urgent given that Israel was recently declared one of the top technologically innovative countries in the world.  

However, old thinking still pervades Palestinian BDS activists who offered a panel to discuss the "challenges of doing science under the occupation".  

The Electronic Intifadaa key BDS advocate, commented on the conference under the heading "Why scientists should boycott Israel," that "The meeting was quite effective in disproving the idea that we can talk about science (or anything) in Palestine without mentioning the occupation... Inevitably, one of the issues discussed in this meeting was the academic boycott of Israel and the (non)neutrality of science. Scientists for Palestine has not taken an official position on the academic boycott." The article argued that when you ask a scientist about Palestine "you will hear that the issue is 'too complicated,' and possibly some orientalist trope about Arabs, Islam or both." 

The article noted that the scientific community prefers not to promote boycotts and build bridges instead. "But this assumes that decades of settler-colonial occupation, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses can be boiled down to an issue of different peoples not talking to each other. Of course, what is being built are not bridges, but little bubbles where everything seems harmonious as long as you don’t look outside the bubble.  The key word here is normalization. Israel’s current existence as a settler-colonial, apartheid state to which international law is not being applied, relies heavily on its projection of itself as a modern, hi-tech, Western-style liberal democracy. Prestigious conferences and joint scientific ventures, either in the name of advancing science or building bridges, all contribute to cementing this narrative.  Boycotts can be extremely effective, and the panicked Israeli reaction to the BDS movement is a testament to that."  Urging the scientist community to boycott Israel, the article ended with a plea that the "idea of helping science in Palestine is just a charitable exercise, rooted in a Western-savior mentality," so "the scientific community needs to understand that it has a role to play, and boycotts have proven effective." It would be interesting to see if the new initiative to engage Palestinians in scientific collaborations with the global community would be able to resist pressure to boycott Israel.

No doubt the Palestinians would gain a lot from the development of science in their society. Had they stopped blaming Israel for every aspect of their lives, they would have thrived scientifically and financiallyThe purpose of BDS is to keep the Palestinians poor and uneducated, a permanent exhibit of the "evils of the Zionist enemy."





Reclaiming Identity: From Local to Global
 SOAS University of London, Thornhaugh Street, London, United Kingdom

 
TIME Tue Feb 20 2018 at 07:00 pm to 08:30 pm 

Created by
SOAS Palestine Society
Reclaiming Identity: From Local to Global 
This event is part of the activities SOAS will be holding during Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 : 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1552301698221148/

___________________________________________________________

Join us for a thought-provoking conversation with two of Palestine's most loved artists and cultural icons!
We will talk about culture, identity, and youth! 

**Walaa Sbeit**
Co-founder, percussionist, and vocalist of 47SOUL, an Electro Arabic Dabke (Shamstep) band.

**Tamer Nafar**
Actor, rapper, and leader of DAM, the first hip-hop Palestinian group.

ROOM: DLT, SOAS


You may also like the following events from SOAS Palestine Society:

 
 
TIME Fri Mar 02 2018 at 05:30 pm to 07:00 pm 
 
EVENT DETAILS 
CONFERENCE: LAW AND COLONIALISM IN PALESTINE 
This event is part of the activities SOAS will be holding during Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 : 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1552301698221148/

_______________________________________________

Conference: Law and Colonialism in Palestine 

**Dr. Mazen Masri**
“Colonial logic: Israeli constitutional law”
Dr. Mazen Masri is Senior Lecturer in law at the City Law School, City University London. His book, The Dynamics of Exclusionary Constitutionalism: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Peter Birks Book Prize for Outstanding Legal Scholarship.

Synopsis: 
Israel is viewed by many as a settler-colonial state: where the state acts as the tool of a settler society in conflict with an indigenous population. The focus of this talk will be on the relationship between settler colonialism and the law: how settler colonialism shapes the development of Israeli constitutional law, and how law, in turn, operates to give effect to the logic of settler colonialism in the form of establishing and reinforcing the settler nation and dissolving the native population. 

_______________________________________________

**Dr. Nimer Sultany**
“Jurisprudence of the Occupation”
Dr. Nimer Sultany is a Senior Lecturer in Public Law at SOAS. His book “Law and Revolution: Legitimacy and Constitutionalism After the Arab Spring” was published by Oxford University Press.

Synopsis:
This talk focuses on the role of the Israeli legal system in advancing the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It argues that colonial law need not exclude the colonized in order to subordinate them, and ‘activist’ courts can advance the effect of subordination no less than ‘passive’ courts. The Israeli Supreme Court in particular is often presented as an integral part of the "Israeli democracy" narrative because it upholds the "rule of law" and limits state action. Yet, through "oppression-blind" jurisprudence, the court has advanced and legitimated the colonization of Palestine. Unlike pro-Israeli arguments, the Israeli court’s role is neither novel nor unique or benevolent.

SWLT (Senate House . - Wolfson Lecture Theatre), SOAS


You may also like the following events from SOAS Palestine Society:



Book Launch: “Young Palestinians Speak: Living Under Occupation"  
This event is part of the activities SOAS will be holding during Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 : 
https://www.facebook.com/events/1552301698221148/

___________________________________________________________

The authors will discuss the background to the project, explain how the interviews with the young people were conducted, and more particularly, how these young people clearly articulated what it is like living in their occupied country. They will also talk about how the book was received as they took it to the places and people who had given them so much support.

**Anthony Robinson** is a full-time writer and a former teacher. The main focus of his writing is to give a voice to the voiceless, particularly children. 

**Annemarie Young** is a writer and series editor of non-fiction for older children and fiction for young readers. Their belief in the power of books drove their first joint non-fiction project, the widely acclaimed and award-winning Refugee Diaries. 

Chair: **Seyed Ali Alavi**, SOAS


—Raja Shehadeh, author of the Orwell Prize-Winning Palestinian Walks
“This book is unique…Many books have been written about Palestine but few from the perspective of young adults. None have been so bold as to attempt letting young Palestinian adults tell their own story….Different aspects of the occupation are covered, helping the reader form a comprehensive picture of the situation that Palestinians under occupation have to endure…”


B104, SOAS
Registration required: soasapartheidweek2018@gmail.com


You may also like the following events from SOAS Palestine Society:



 
FEB19

Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 at SOAS

Public   
 · Hosted by SOAS Palestine Society


Details
The 14th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week of actions will take place at SOAS between February 19th and March 1st 2018. Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seek to raise awareness of Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Inspired by the popular resistance across historic Palestine and struggles worldwide, IAW actions have taken place in more than 200 cities across the world. JOIN US! 

Remember: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor". - Desmond Tutu 

________________________________________________________________

Inaugural Talk

**Dr. Noura Erakat**
“Palestine: law, resistance and solidarity in the Trump moment”
Dr. Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney, Assistant Professor at George Mason University and a co-founding editor of Jadaliyya. 

**Professor Ilan Pappé**
“Settler colonialism and ongoing Nakba in Palestine - prospects for justice” 
Professor Ilan Pappé is a Professor of History and Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies, Exeter University.

Special Guest: **Remi Kanazi**
Palestinian-American performance poet, writer and organizer based in New York City. 
Chair: **Dr. Rafeef Ziadah**, SOAS.

Monday 19th February, 7 PM
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS

Students only - £2 donation - Registration required: soasapartheidweek2018@gmail.com -Doors open 6:30 PM
================================================================


Leeds PSG hosts Remi Kanazi: free event in Leeds

BY   
LEEDS PSC9
  
    
Kanazi is the author of the newly released collection of poetry ‘Before the Next Bomb Drops: Rising Up from Brooklyn to Palestine’. He is also the author of ‘Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine’, and the editor of ‘Poets for Palestine’.
The performance will be held from 5pm – 6.30pm and is free.
Remi’s performance is part of a UK tour as part of Israeli Apartheid Week. Visit War on Want’s website for more information about this week.
Date: 20th February
Time: 5.00pm-6.30pm
Place: University of Leeds, Room TBC
Cost: Free
See the Facebok page for more information.



================================================================



 
University of Sussex, Brighton
19. February 2018 - 9:00
 

Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 at Sussex | University of Sussex | Monday, 19. February 2018

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an international series of events that seek to raise awareness of Israel’s apartheid system over the Palestinian people and to build support for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Join us for our events at Sussex

Monday 19th February - Room TBA - 6pm-8pm
BDS Movement: What is it? How do we win? 
Join us for a workshop on the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. Find out more about it, and become part of our campaign team for the upcoming Students' Union Referendum on renewing support for the BDS Movement. 
Event link: 

Wednesday 21st February - Room 76 - 6pm doors
Remi Kanazi + Guests! 
Remi Kanazi is a world renowned poet, writer and organiser based in New York. We are thrilled to announce that he will performing an intimate gig at Sussex as part of Israeli Apartheid Week! 
FREE Ticket Link here: 
Event link: 


Friday 23rd February - ROOM TBA - 6pm-8pm
"From Balfour to Banksy" Film Screening + Producers Q+A
For our last event for Israeli Apartheid Week 2018, we're showing the newly released film "From Balfour to Banksy: Visions and Divisions in Palestine" with the Director Martin Buckley to answer questions. 
Event link: 
(In solidarity with UCU members taking strike action, this event will be held in Brighton, so as not to use university facilities)
Comments
  • Just to clarify... The British Government has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. That definition attests that denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, by claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour, is antisemitic. Using the language ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ is an attempt to delegitimise and demonise Israel by comparing it to Apartheid South Africa. That comparison by dint of the IHRA definition is...antisemitic. (No need for thanks!) Oh and I nearly forget, the IHRA definition was also voted on and passed with a huge majority by.....the Labour Party! #JustSaying
 

===========================================================================

FEB19

IAW 2018: BDS Movement: What is it? How do we win?

Public   
  •  
19 February at 18:00–20:00 UTC
Details
In the spring of this year, the Students' Union will hold a referendum asking students if they want want to renew their support for the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. BDS aims to apply pressure on Israel until it ceases its violations of Palestinian human rights and respects international law by: 

1) Ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab land, and dismantle the Apartheid wall. 
2) End its system of institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people that amounts to the crime of Apartheid, recognising the full human rights of Palestinians. 
3) Respecting, promoting and allowing Palestinian refugees, and their descendants the right of return.

Join us for a workshop, which will include a brief introduction to the BDS Movement, and will go over how to get involved with referendum campaigning. 

No previous knowledge needed!

THIS EVENT IS PART OF IAW 2018 @ SUSSEX! Main event here:https://www.facebook.com/
events/3424950528979
========================================================


ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK: REFUGEES, RACISM,
POLITICS: ISRAEL, FINLAND AND THE EU, HELSINKI

Date and time 
03/13/2018 
0:00
event Location 
Andorra / Dubrovnik

Tuesday 13.3. showcases Andorra's journalist David Sheen's documentary films about African refugees. David Sheen is here to tell you about it.After that, there is a debate on refugees and racism in the Dubrovnik Lounge in Israel, Finland and the EU. Included are David Sheen, Wael Omar , Researcher Ena Bodström, and Human Rights Activist Mohammad Javid . The debate is led by Lotfi El Salah .
Organized by. ICAHD Finland, Students for Justice in Palestine Helsinki and Peace Corps
=======================================================================



Rauhanpuolustajat
 
ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK: ACTIVISM AND ACADEMIA:ACADEMIC BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL AND BEYOND, HELSINKI
Date and time 
03/12/2018 
18:00 - 19:30
event Location 
Think Corner

israel_boikottinappiAs part of the Israeli Apartheid Week program in Finland will be held on Monday, 12 March. panel discussion Activism and Academia: Academic Boycott of Israel and beyond Israel's academic boycott and activism in the Academy more generally. 
Speech delivered by Professor Hannu Juusola from University of Helsinki, Researcher Wal Omar Birzeit University at West Bank, Professor Juha Suoranta from University of Tampere and Researcher Saara Särmä .
Saara Särmä is known for example. All Male Panel and Juha Suoranta among others. another as a journalist in the Fighting Research book.
Organized by. ICAHD Finland and Students for Justice in Palestine Helsinki

 
The Finnish Peace Committee is a politically and religiously non-committed NGO founded in 1949. Its goal is to promote peace, disarmament, tolerance, human rights and global equality. Operation  is based on humanitarian, anti-war ideals that emphasize international common responsibility. The Finnish Peace Commission sees social justice and unpolluted environment as important factors for the security of the citizens. The Finnish Peace Commission sees that Finland should stay out of military alliances, and it is against membership in NATO as well as against militarization of European Union. The Finnish Peace Committee works to make the goals of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe better known.
Activities
The Finnish Peace Committee aims to reach its goals by organizing various events and activities, both by itself and in co-operation with other Finnish peace-promoting societies as well as other NGOs. The  Finnish Peace Committee has about 2500 members. The most important information channel of the association is the Magazine "Pro Peace", a cultural / opinion / news magazine that comes out six times a year with a wide distribution. The association also participates in the public discussion on social issues by publishing literature and arranging public discussion events. Finnish Peace Committee aims to influence the Finnish foreign and defense policy and other social policies. The goal is to increase the appreciation of the work for peace.
International Co-operation
The Finnish Peace Committee takes part in the activities of several international organizations and networks. It is a member of the International Peace Bureau, an international Alliance of about 170 peace societies, founded in 1892, which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The Finnish Peace Committee also keeps in touch with the World Peace Council.
==============================================================================


Toronto Students for Justice in Palestine (TSJP)'s photo. 
  • FEB27

    Volunteer Orientation for Israeli Apartheid Week 2018 #IAWatUTSC

     
  • 27 February at 16:00–18:00 EST
  • University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC)1265 Military Trail, Toronto, Ontario M1C 1A4
 
Details
We are hosting a Volunteer Orientation on February 27 from 4-6pm for all those who would like to help out with the Israeli Apartheid Week the following week. This is a MANDATORY orientation for everyone who is volunteering.

WHEN: This is a DROP-IN MEETING that will run from 4:00 - 6:00PM! 

Refreshments and food will be provided. You may arrive and leave any time at your convenience but please make sure to stay long enough to sign-in and sign-up for all the volunteer activities and join the working group.

WHERE: (TBD)

(If you'd like to request accessibility accommodations or have any questions/concerns please let us know at tsjpalestine@gmail.com)
============================================================
Meet this year’s #IsraeliApartheidWeek National Spokesperson Justin de Swardt.
Justin de Swardt (20), who has been involved in human rights work since the age of 15, is studying Law and English at the University of Pretoria. Justin has bad taste in movies and books but is a committed activist - including in 2014 publicly challenging, as an Afrikaans speaking person, Steve Hofmeyer’s “racial venom”. We look forward to Justin representing this year’s #IsraeliApartheidWeek campaign!


 

==========================================================================
 
 




International Meeting for Science in Palestine

Welcome to the page of the International Meeting for Science in Palestine, to be held in Cambridge, U.K., from January 5th through 7th, 2018.
This will be our first international gathering to discuss how to implement concrete programs and long term visions to strengthen the growth of science in Palestine and help build ties between the Palestinian and international scientific communities. The target audience is a mix of Palestinian academics and students, and of international scientists committed to advancing these goals.
The poster of the meeting can be downloaded here (pdf).
It will contain talks and strategy sessions on:
  • Current status of science in Palestine.
  • Challenges of doing science under the occupation.
  • Opportunities for international scientists to get involved.
Feel free to contact us for more information.

Program:

The program is available here. Most of the meeting was streamed live on Facebook, and the videos are available here.

Application:

The application deadline has now passed (December 15th 2017) and registration is closed. Participants are expected to make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. Feel free to contact us if you need more information.

Organising committee:

Dr. Nabil Iqbal,  Durham University,
Dr. M.C. David Marsh, University of Cambridge,
Dr. Mario Martone, UT Austin,
Dr. Madalena Lemos, DESY,
Dr. Andy O’Bannon, University of Southampton,
Dr. Kate Shaw, ICTP and ATLAS.

Sponsored by

This workshop is supported by the University of Southampton through the EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship 2017 Global Challenge Research Fund, and by the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs of Cambridge University.
 





International Meeting for Science in Palestine

6 videos · Updated 
Videos of the International Meeting for Science in Palestine, held in Cambridge, U.K., from January 5th through 7th, 2018. 
    




http://www.scientists4palestine.com/programimsp/
 
International Meeting for Science in Palestine

Program
Scientists For Palestine General Meeting
Postdoc Centre at Eddington, University of Cambridge
January 5th-7th 2018
Most of the meeting was streamed live on Facebook, and the videos are available here.
FRIDAY 5th January
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Social dinner in the city centre.
SATURDAY 6th January
9.30 – 11.30 a.m.  
Opening  — David Marsh on behalf of Scientists for Palestine
“Challenges for developing science in Palestine”
Skype: Wafaa Khater, Birzeit University
Skype: Imad Barghouthi, Al Quds University
Skype: Adli Saleh, Arab-American University
Skype: Mazin Qumsiyeh, Bethlehem University
Skype: Suleiman Baraka, Islamic University, Gaza
Panel Discussion  — Panel chair: Mario Martone
Panel: Imad Barghouthi, Wafaa Khater, Mazin Qumsiyeh, Adli Saleh.
11.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m.  
Coffee Break
12.00 – 12.30 p.m.
Video showing – Science in the Gaza strip in Gaza
Mohammed Sabbah – “Being a scientist in Gaza: a personal perspective”
Said Alyacoubi – “The long journey Palestinians encounter to overcome travel restrictions and crossing points to get their opportunities abroad: Gazan students as an example”
Presentation – Education in the West Bank (Right2Education Birzeit)
12.30 – 1.30 p.m.  
Lunch break.
1.30   – 3.00 p.m.  
“The experience of Scientists for Palestine and other international efforts supporting science in Palestine”
Scientists for Palestine – Mario Martone
German – Palestinian Science Bridge – Ghaleb Natour
International Centre for Theoretical  Physics – Bobby Acharya, Viraf Mehta and Lukas Witkowski
Astronomy outreach in Palestine – Hannah Dalgleish
Science for the People – Ciaran Kohli-Lynch
Skype: Al Nayzak – Sarah Kuhail
3.00 – 3.30 p.m.
Coffee break.
3.30 – 4.15 p.m.
Panel discussion  —  Panel chair: David Marsh.
Panel: Michael Berry, Hannah Dalgleish, Ciaran Kohli-Lynch, Viraf Mehta, Ghaleb Natour, Jonathan Rosenhead.
4.30 – 5.00 p.m.
“Concrete activities for supporting science in Palestine”
Plenary introduction & open discussion
5.00 – 6.00 p.m.
Working session: “Getting down to work: practical ways to get involved”.
The goal of this session is to start the formation of active sub-committees, such as:
Organisation of the Palestinian Advanced Physics School and other schools
Mentorship program and online resources on opportunities in academia
Outreach and communication. Video, audio and social media.
Other topics …
6.30 – 8.00 p.m.  
Social dinner.
SUNDAY 7th JAN
9.30 – 10:40 a.m.
Research talks:
Andrea Fortier, University of Bern – The CHEOPS Mission
Karolin Hijazi, University of Aberdeen –  Oral disease prevention in UNRWA refugee camps
Zayneb al-Shalalfeh, University of East Anglia – Water Security and International Development
Mathias Beck, University of Geneva – SELLIMA – a SatellitE consteLLatIon to Monitor stArs and exoplanets
10.40 – 11.10 a.m.
Coffee Break.
11.10 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
Continuation of research talks:
Osaid Alser, Queen Mary University of London – Epidemiology in Gaza Strip & West Bank.
Richard Hopper, AMS Sensors UK – Infrared sensing. The use of infrared sensors for gas detection & other applications
Andy O’Bannon, University of Southampton – A c-theorem for two-dimensional boundaries
Aldric Brown, Dept of Mathematics, UCL – Metric projections onto finite dimensional subspaces of spaces of continuous functions – from Chebyshev to the present
12.30 – 1.00 p.m.
Closing.



Why scientists should boycott Israel

The International Meeting for Science in Palestine, organized recently in Cambridge, United Kingdom, by Scientists for Palestine, was dedicated to exposing the reality in Palestine when it comes to higher education and research, as well as stepping up efforts to help develop science in Palestine.
The meeting was quite effective in disproving the idea that we can talk about science (or anything) in Palestine without mentioning the occupation.
The testimonies from Palestinian participants, both in person and remotely, painted a clear picture of the impact of the occupation on education and scientific research. From checkpoints stifling movement, to student dormitory raids, to arbitrary university closures, it is clear that the occupation is the main obstacle to the development of science in Palestinian institutions.
The situation is even worse in the besieged Gaza Strip, where there are only a few hours of electricity per day and it is near impossible to import anything, let alone equipment for scientific research.
Students from Gaza also told tales of their agony waiting for months for an opening of the Rafah crossing in order to pursue education opportunities abroad, or of losing those opportunities altogether.
Inevitably, one of the issues discussed in this meeting was the academic boycott of Israel and the (non)neutrality of science.
Scientists for Palestine has not taken an official position on the academic boycott. It is likely that, due to the recent crackdown of the Israeli government on individuals affiliated to any groups supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights, a public position on the matter could undermine efforts to organize activities in Palestine.
(Note: the case for a boycott and the arguments surrounding it are brilliantly explained here.)

Rejecting normalization

The scientific community, particularly in the hard sciences, prides itself on not taking any shortcuts in the quest to uncover the deepest mysteries of the universe.
Ask any theoretical physicist about pion decay and they will gladly explain how a quantum anomaly is what enables the main decay process into two photons.
But ask them about Palestine and chances are you will hear that the issue is “too complicated,” and possibly some orientalist trope about Arabs, Islam or both.
But even those who are informed beyond the mainstream narrative may be reluctant to take a position or endorse the boycott. The world of scientific research is one of ruthless competition and exploitation, especially at the lower levels, and very few are willing to jeopardize their careers and funding opportunities by taking a stand on Palestine. The example needs to come at an institutional level or from those with job security.
We are told that the scientific community, instead of promoting boycotts, should be building bridges and the rest will follow.
But this assumes that decades of settler-colonial occupation, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses can be boiled down to an issue of different peoples not talking to each other. Of course, what is being built are not bridges, but little bubbles where everything seems harmonious as long as you don’t look outside the bubble.
The key word here is normalization. Israel’s current existence as a settler-colonial, apartheid state to which international law is not being applied, relies heavily on its projection of itself as a modern, hi-tech, Western-style liberal democracy.
Prestigious conferences and joint scientific ventures, either in the name of advancing science or building bridges, all contribute to cementing this narrative.
Boycotts can be extremely effective, and the panicked Israeli reaction to the BDS movement is a testament to that.
A boycott campaign upsets the very foundations of the polished image Israel wants to project and forces people who would otherwise not be so inclined to look behind the curtain and uncover the grisly reality of ethnic cleansing, regular bombings and endless human rights violations.

New and improved apartheid

It’s not that long since the academic boycott against apartheid South Africa (which ran alongside cultural and sporting boycotts).
The United Nations even passed resolutions supporting it. I have no doubt that many people who today question or oppose an academic boycott of Israel would have happily embraced the boycott of South Africa.
Yet the Israeli version of apartheid is not in the least put in the shade by its South African predecessor.
Israel enjoys the unconditional support of the world’s leading superpower – which eventually dropped even its support of South Africa – and a potent lobby that reaches congresses, parliaments and editorial boards alike.
It would have been absurd to suggest that what was needed in South Africa was scientific collaboration involving apartheid and bantustan institutions. Replace South Africa with Israel and the bantustans – the nominally independent Black-ruled “homelands” set up by the apartheid regime – with the (bantustan-like) occupied territories, and it remains absurd.
The point is that science, like any other human activity, is not neutral, regardless of whether one is conscious of it or not. And if scientists wish to stand in solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts, then they ought to hear their opinion on the matter, which is overwhelmingly in favor of the academic boycott and against any collaboration involving Israeli institutions. Otherwise any idea of helping science in Palestine is just a charitable exercise, rooted in a Western-savior mentality.
At the end of the day boycotts, be they purely academic or wide-ranging like BDS, will not alone bring about justice and freedom for the Palestinians. The key role will be played by the Palestinian people.
But the scientific community needs to understand that it has a role to play, and boycotts have proven effective in fighting apartheid, in both its South African and Israeli incarnations, and the normalization that is crucial to its existence.
Ricardo Vaz is a writer and editor at Investig’Action.



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