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Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki | The Guardian | 20 April 2005
The statements against the proposed academic boycott of Israeli universities (Letters, April 19) miss the clear analogy between Israel's apartheid system and South Africa's. Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has recently drawn similarities between the two, calling for boycotts against Israel. In South Africa's case, the UN established a regime of sanctions that eventually ended apartheid. Academics, athletes, artists and business people were all subject to boycott then, and British academics and intellectuals played a distinguished role in those campaigns.
The anti-apartheid sanctions were mainly triggered by the advisory opinion of the international court of justice in 1971, which denounced South Africa's illegal occupation of Namibia. When the ICJ issued a similar advisory opinion in July 2004 condemning Israel's colonial wall and occupation regime, Palestinians, Arabs and progressives hoped people of conscience the world over would adopt similar punitive measures against Israel to bring about its compliance with international law. The recent decision by the World Council of Churches to "give serious consideration to economic measures" against Israel to bring an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories is most inspiring in this regard.
Israeli academic institutions are all implicated in their state's racist and colonial policies by providing the practical and ideological support necessary for the maintenance of the occupation. For example, they provide consultancy services to the military and security establishment and sponsor research that justifies ethnic cleansing, extra-judicial killings, racial segregation and land expropriation. No Israeli university body has publicly censured academics producing racist work under the guise of scholarship.
Some well-meaning academics have suggested that joint Palestinian-Israeli academic activities can somehow make peace more attainable. But joint projects are not apolitical - they deliberately disregard the context of colonial oppression and deceptively imply the possibility of achieving peace and reconciliation without addressing the root causes of conflict. The only joint projects that ought to be encouraged are those that contribute to resisting injustice. The Palestinian call for boycott targets Israeli academic institutions, not individuals. It remains a morally and politically sound, non-violent and justified response to Israel's unrelenting colonial oppression.
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Bir Zeit