The following letter calling on scholars and librarians within Middle East studies to boycott Israeli academic institutions was...
US Scholars’ Delegation Calls for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Five faculty from U.S. universities who recently completed a week-long visit to Occupied Palestine and Israel are calling on academic colleagues everywhere to support the United States Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
The professors, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University; Robin D. G. Kelley, University of California Los Angeles; Bill V. Mullen, Purdue University; Nikihl Pal Singh, New York University, and Neferti Tadiar, Barnard College/Columbia University met with Palestinian scholars, university administrators, citizens, activists, and officials in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Haifa. They also visited the 5,000 person Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem.
The USACBI delegates report witnessing numerous violations of Palestinian civil and legal rights; daily rituals of “subordination, humiliation, and suspicion” at the hands of the Israeli security state; continued expansion of settlements into Palestinian territories in violation of the so-called “peace process.”
The delegation also listened to testimony from four Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, refugees since 1948 who, in November 2008 and August 2009, were forcibly evicted from their homes in the dead of night by the Israeli military. Their houses were subsequently pillaged, taken over by settlers, and their belongings thrown out into the street.
The delegation learned through discussions with Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel that their lives are governed by a host of exceptional legal proscriptions and are subject to special scrutiny by the security services. Palestinian-Arabs who owned the vast majority of the land in pre-1948 Israel have seen that reduced to just 2.5%, even though they still comprise 20% of the Israeli population. The Israeli high court recently upheld a law denying Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel the right to live inside the post-1948 borders of Israel with Palestinian spouses from the West Bank, Gaza, or overseas.
In visits with university scholars and students, the delegation observed that Palestinian scholars and students are routinely denied academic freedom by the state of Israel. They noted that Israel has consistently closed Palestinian universities under security pretexts and restrictions on freedom of movement mean that it is often very difficult for students to attend universities; international and Palestinian scholars living abroad are denied visas for faculty appointments in the occupied territories. Furthermore, some 80 students from Birzeit University are held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, 10 of whom are currently being held without charge or trial. The delegation also reported that Israel thwarts Palestinian research capacities by restricting imports of equipment necessary for teaching basic science and engineering. It is all but impossible for Gaza students to attend West Bank universities, or for scholars from Ramallah, Gaza City, and East Jerusalem to meet in the same room.
A brief statement released by the delegation urges their academic colleagues to support USACBI and concludes: “We believe that the perpetuation of the international travesty of colonial occupation in a post-colonial world must be brought to an end. For it ultimately threatens the rights, dignity and security of everyone who believes in self-determination, equal justice and human rights.”
The USACBI campaign is inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and supports non-violent punitive measures against Israel until it abides by UN and international law. USACBI specifically calls for an end to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling of the existing Apartheid Wall; Israel’s recognition of the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respect, protection and promotion of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The campaign opposing ties between U.S. and Israeli universities that have generally been complicit, directly or indirectly, with upholding or defending Israeli occupation and state oppression and boycotting cultural institutions that whitewash Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. USACBI began in 2009 and currently has the support of nearly 600 American university professors, 200 cultural workers, and 44 organizations and associations.
The USACBI delegation will be speaking publicly about its visit to Palestine at academic forums throughout 2012. Individual members of the delegation are available for interviews with media representatives. They may be contacted at:
J. Kehaulani Kauanui: KauanuiUSACBI@hotmail.com
Robin D.G. Kelley: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill V. Mullen: email@example.com
Nikhil Pal Singh firstname.lastname@example.org
Neferti Tadiar: email@example.com
Sunaina Maira, Delegation Co-Organizer & USACBI Organizing Committee Member
Nada Elia, USACBI Organizing Committee Member
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is an Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology. She earned her PhD in History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 2000. Kauanui’s first book is Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2008). Kauanui is the producer and host of a public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” produced in the studios of WESU, Middletown, CT, and syndicated on nine Pacifica-affiliate stations – airing across ten U.S.-states. Kauanui is a co-founder of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and currently serves as an elected council member.
Robin D. G. Kelley is the Gary B. Nash Professor of American History at UCLA. His books include the prize-winning, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press, 2009); Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (University of North Carolina Press, 1990); Race Rebels: Culture Politics and the Black Working Class (The Free Press, 1994); Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Beacon Press, 1997); Three Strikes: Miners, Musicians, Salesgirls, and the Fighting Spirit of Labor’s Last Century, written collaboratively with Dana Frank and Howard Zinn (Beacon 2001); and Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination (Beacon Press, 2002). He also edited (with Earl Lewis), To Make Our World Anew: A History of African Americans (Oxford University Press, 2000), a Choice Outstanding Academic Title and a History Book Club Selection. His next book, Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times (Harvard University Press) will be released in February.
Bill V. Mullen is Professor of English and American Studies at Purdue. He is the author of Popular Fronts: Chicago and African American Cultural Politics, 1935-1945 and AfroOrientalism. He is co-editor with Fred Ho of Afro-Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections Between African Americans and Asian Americans. He is a co-founder of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University and a former Fulbright Scholar at Wuhan University in the People’s Republic of China. He is currently at work on a political biography of W.E.B. Du Bois, titled UnAmerican: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Century of World Revolution.
Nikhil Pal Singh is Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History and former Director of the Graduate Program in American Studies at New York University. Singh is the author of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2004), named the best book in civil rights history by the Organization of American Historians, and recipient of several other awards. He has published on topics ranging from liberalism and empire, to the pivotal place of race in US security discourse. The University of California Press recently published Climin’ Jacob’s Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell, a collection of the writings of the legendary African American civil rights activist. Singh is currently finishing a new book, Exceptional Empire: Race and War in US Globalism, forthcoming from Harvard University Press.
Neferti Tadiar is Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of Things Fall Away: Philippine Historical Experience and the Makings of Globalization (Duke University, 2009) and Fantasy-Production: Sexual Economies and Other Philippine Consequences for the New World Order (Hong Kong University Press/ Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2004). Among her recent publications are “If Not Mere Metaphor…Sexual Economies Revisited,” in “Sexual and Economic Justice, “ Special Issue of The Scholar and the Feminist Online, Issue 7.3 (Summer 2009) and “Empire,” in “Collective History: Thirty Years of Social Text,” a special issue of Social Text 100, Vol. 27, no. 3 (Fall 2009). She is currently working on a book-project (with Jonathan L. Beller) entitled Present Senses: Aesthetics, Affect, Asia in the Global, and beginning a new research project entitled Remaindered Life Between Empires : Becoming Human in a Time of War. She is currently co-editor of the journal Social Text.