Letter from Birzeit University’s Union of Professors and Employees

Birzeit University’s Union of Professors and Employees
21 March 2011

The South African Moment to Stand Against Israeli Apartheid!

On behalf of Birzeit University’s professors and employees, we wish to express our support to the call made by the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) academics, staff and students to urge the administration to terminate its relation with Ben-Gurion University. The fact that the petition received an overwhelming support from over 400 prominent South African Academics, from more than 18 South African institutions and attracted prominent supporters from all over the world, is a strong signal to the UJ administration that boycotting and terminating UJ’s relationship with the Ben Gurion University is a step in the right direction.

Birzeit University’s Union of Professors and Employees endorses the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel as a mean to end the occupation and the enforcement of international law and rejects any bilateral or multilateral cooperation with Israeli academic institutions.

The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli occupation has continued to receive increasing support, particularly following the Gaza War. The international support to the Palestinian boycott movement grows and this support has its roots in the categorical imperative based on the notion that “the inhumanity imposed on others destroys the humanity in me”.

The call for boycott derives its strength from South Africa’s international campaign that successfully ended the illusion that a white upper class could rule the vast majority of the population with brute force. The South African resistance movement managed to gain anti-racist alliances and led the UN to declare Apartheid as a crime against humanity. Nonetheless, after the collapse of the South African apartheid regime, Israel remains the last state among the U.N. member states with an apartheid regime. Today, the Bantustans and homelands are located in the remaining areas of historic Palestine.

According to a study of the South African Human Science Research Council (HRSC), apartheid practices are deeply rooted in the Israeli political system and racism is institutionalized through laws and governmental decisions. The apartheid state uses its legal system to create racist segregation amongst citizens. Thus, the HRSC report affirms that Israel is practicing both racism and apartheid and the report provides evidence that Israel’s practice of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over others, makes the Israeli state responsible for the crime of apartheid.

On the other hand, different studies and reports have proven that Israeli universities, including the Ben Gurion University (BGU), have strong, purposeful and open institutional ties with the Israeli military. BGU thus is accused of delivering fundamental strategic support to the Israeli Occupation Army, which serves to maintain and expand the Israeli occupation policy. By supporting the military, BGU backs deadly attacks against the Palestinian civilian population, the maintenance and defense of the segregation wall, the expansion of illegal settlements and the extended network of checkpoints – all of which inflict severe human rights violations upon the Palestinian population.

Several reports, including the fact finding mission report commissioned on the University of Johannesburg’s relationship with Israel’s Ben Gurion University, illustrate the complex involvement of BGU in the Israeli occupation policy. The computerization of surveillance of the occupied territories contributed to the advancement of corresponding research at Israeli universities as well as the utilization of this research by the army. Israeli universities, including BGU, played a key role in maintaining the Israeli occupation. Hence, boycotting Israeli academic institutions as a form of civil resistance to the oppression and injustice of the Israeli occupation, can send a strong message to Israel, that it cannot continue with its atrocities against the Palestinian population and it will not be granted any kind of support and recognition from the international academic community, unless it complies with obligations under international law and ends its discriminatory practices and the belated colonial reality in the occupied Palestinian territory.

We would like to remind the UJ administration, that the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli institutions is not directed against people, neither individuals nor collective groups. Much like in South Africa, we aim to prevent an apartheid government from committing crimes against humanity and from taking racist measures against the population. The boycott campaign is spearheaded by mindful individuals who demand human dignity, justice and freedom for all. The appeal to boycott, in its emergence and development, signifies a reaction to exemplary experiences of injustice. The motivating notion behind this appeal is to grant a person human dignity, justice and self-assertion as a principled individual in his or her basic legal and social relationships. Israel however, attempts to halt what cannot be halted. Using every trick in the book, it attempts to introduce delaying moments where they have neither a place nor an effect.

South African history taught us how suffering and oppression can be combated with civil means. We urge the University of Johannesburg’s Senate to support the boycott appeal and to send a message against all manifestations of inhumanity that people are exposed to in Palestine.