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Academic Boycott

Academic Boycott

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“It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. [Ben Gurion University] is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.” — Desmond Tututalking shortly before the University of Johannesburg cut its ties with Ben Gurion University.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was one of the founding entities in 2005 of the Palestinian Civil Society BDS Campaign and remains a key part of the Palestinian-led, global BDS movement.

PACBI was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israelissued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.

In July 2004, the Campaign issued a statement of principles, or what became known as the PACBI Call, addressed to colleagues in the international community urging them to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem; removes all its colonies in those lands; agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and dismantles its system of apartheid. PACBI has consistently advocated a boycott of institutions, not individuals. This statement was met with widespread support, and has to date been endorsed by more than sixty Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network in the West Bank. The campaign has also established an advisory committee comprised of well-known public figures and intellectuals.

The Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel is inspired by the historic role played by people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals who have shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott.

During the past few years, and in response to the PACBI Call and the wider BDS Call, various initiatives for divestment from or boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions have been issued by students, academics and intellectuals in Europe, the United States, South Africa, Canada, India, Pakistan, Australia, Latin America, and elsewhere. These calls recognize that Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to the Israeli occupation and apartheid or at the very least have been complicit through their silence. Still, the PACBI-inspired calls for boycott consistently target institutions, not individuals, steering clearly away from political tests or other McCarthyist measures.

In April 2002, British academics issued a call for a moratorium on European research and academic collaboration with Israeli institutions. In France, an appeal to the European Union not to renew its 1995 Association Agreement with Israel was issued by the University of Paris-VI (Pierre-et-Marie-Curie) in December 2002 and was endorsed by several other French universities. Similar calls were published in Italy and Australia, while in the United States, student and faculty groups at several universities including New York University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton launched divestment from Israel campaigns. Today, divestment from Israel has spread across tens of campuses in North America, while PACBI-affiliated academic and cultural boycott campaigns have reached many countries around the world.

Implementing Academic Boycott

The PACBI Call states:

“We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:


  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
  4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
  5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”

Academic Boycott Guidelines

After years of activism, networking and intellectual development of the campaign, PACBI issued its Guidelines for the International Academic Boycott of Israel in 2009 and revised them slightly in 2010. The following excerpts introduce the logic of the Guidelines.

Before discussing the various categories of academic activities that fall under the boycott call, and as a general overriding rule, it is important to stress that all Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations. Accordingly, these institutions, all their activities, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted. Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these complicit institutions should be boycotted, by the same token. Mere institutional affiliation to the Israeli academy is therefore not a sufficient condition for applying the boycott.

An increasing number of Palestinian civil society institutions are no longer willing to host international academics and cultural workers who insist on visiting or working with boycottable Israeli institutions, thereby violating the Palestinian boycott. Hosting those who cross our boycott “picket lines,” many Palestinian organizations now recognize, can only undermine the boycott by presenting a false symmetry” or “balance” between the colonial oppressor and the colonized.

Although visits to the occupied Palestinian territory by international supporters and advocates of Palestinian rights have always been viewed by Palestinians as a source of encouragement and inspiration, PACBI and many Palestinian institutions believe that solidarity also entails respecting the boycott guidelines.

Based on the above, PACBI urges academics, academics’ associations/unions and academic institutions around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects that promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinians rights, or violate the boycott.

Boycotting Israeli academic and cultural institutions is an urgently needed form of pressure against Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace.

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