Dear Friends at the American Studies Association.
We at Boycott from Within are a group of political activists, academics and workers based in Israel who have joined the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against complicit Israeli institutions. We did not arrive at this position lightly. After decades of struggle for the rights of Palestinian we have come to the conclusion that international pressure needs to be applied to Israel to make it halt its policies of systematic dispossession of Palestinians. To take only one example of this process, the Israeli government very recently decided to raze a Bedouin village and build a Jewish village in its place1. This is regular practice even without a government decision, last month the Israeli army destroyed the small village of Kha'let Mak'hul2.
Such acts are widely condemned but there are virtually no condemnations by Israeli institutions including in particular Israeli universities. On the contrary, the annual reports of Israeli universities highlight their service to the military and weapons industry. A 2009 report by the Israeli based Alternative Information Center details the complicity of virtually every Israeli academic institution in supporting the occupation3
The call for various forms pressure on Israeli academic institutions is gaining support even inside Israel. When the military commander promoted the college at the settlement of Ariel to the rank of university Israeli academics signed a petition against recognizing the college as a university4. When the EU proposed regulations that restrict funding to Israeli universities which fund projects on occupied land hundreds of Israeli academics signed a petition in support of the EU restrictions.5. Unfortunately this dissent is not able to change the structural connection of academic institutions with the military. Furthermore, the right wing ascent in Israeli politics is accompanied by a systematic assault on dissent in Israeli universities which has made such expressions of dissent much more rare than they were even 10 years ago.
In addition to their cooperation with the army, Israeli universities serve an additional important role in perpetuating the occupation. The main effort of Israeli diplomacy has been to 're-brand Israel' as a pluralistic westernized country. Much like South Africa under apartheid, the Israeli government is hoping to distract attention from its war crimes and institutional discrimination (in the words of the state department 2012 human rights report report6) by focusing attention on cultural and academic achievements. The universities and faculty members who volunteer to perform such service for the state are subverting the humanist quality of intellectual work in the worst way.
We call on the American Studies Association to join other academics and artists and answer the call by Palestinian and refuse to cooperate with complicit Israeli institutions.
Boycott from Within.