Academic boycott against Israeli universities grows every day

An academic and cultural boycott launched by a Palestinian advocacy group against Israeli universities is growing by the day, according to an official.

The Palestine and Arab World Coordinator of the Palestine Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Nada Hussein, evaluated the reasons and impacts of the academic boycott against Israeli universities.

Hussein stated that PACBI, which is part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestinians (BDS) movement, started its activities in 2004.

“The academic and cultural boycott campaign aims to prevent Israel from covering up its ongoing violations and crimes against Palestinians by exploiting art, culture, academia and sports,” she stressed.

“The campaign specifically targets complicit Israeli institutions,” she said.

Pointing out that the effective solidarity in Palestine’s freedom and justice struggle is on the radical rise globally since the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the official stated that thousands of scientists and corporations have demonstrated unique academic solidarity since October 7, 2023.

She recalled the “Genocide Case,” which was opened by South Africa against Tel Aviv at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for committing genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians.

“The boycott has become not only a moral obligation but also an obligation for all signatories to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to impose a military embargo against Israel, as well a s international isolation in academia, culture, arts and sports,” she added.

Mentioning that academic groups worldwide give their support to the boycott by sending open letters, petitions and calls, Hussein said that they also press for a cease-fire, the opening of border crossings, the delivery of aid to the people of Gaza, and action to lift the blockade.

Cutting ties with Israel

“The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University (RMIT) in Australia has announced the end of its contract with Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems,” she said.

The official further noted: “This decision comes after more than a year of a pressure campaign against the institute based on a call by the Palestinian Federation of University Professors and Employees Trade Unions (PFUUPE).”

“PFUUPE represents 6,000 Palestinian university faculty and staff working in more than 12 higher education institutions,” she indicated.

Hussien stated that four Norwegian universities have recently terminated their relations with Israeli universities.

OsloMet University in Oslo has frozen its exchange agreements with the University of Haifa in Israel and has also decided not to sign a cooperation agreement with any Israeli university in the future.

She said that the University of Bergen and the Bergen School of Architecture in Norway terminated two cooperation agreements with Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts due to its ties with the Israeli occupation army and its role in the design of military uniforms and equipment.

She emphasized that the University of Southeast Norway (USN) in Norway also terminated its cooperation agreements with the University of Haifa and Hadassah Academic College in Israel.

“The university depended its decision on Israel’s aggression against Gaza, the tragic humanitarian situation of its residents, and Israel’s ignoring of genocide prevention rulings at the ICJ,” she said.

“A university spokesperson said the move sends a message that ‘Israeli aggression is unacceptable.”

‘Israeli universities are part of a system of settler colonialism’

Calling on the academic community to boycott Israeli universities as an integral part of the settler colonialism and apartheid system, Hussien said: “Tel Aviv University developed the Dahiya Doctrine, named about the southern region of Lebanon, which is associated with the excessive use of force by the Israeli army against the civilian population and infrastructure.”

“Technion University, in cooperation with Elbit, one of Israel’s largest arms companies, implemented the apartheid wall and surveillance technology,” she pointed out, adding: “Ben-Gurion University houses the Institute for Internal Security, which develops Israeli military technology and cooperates with the army.”

Hussien underlined that Israeli universities are complicit in the crimes committed against the Palestinian people, as they play a fundamental role in developing Israel’s military and security knowledge.

“Ariel University was established in the illegal Israeli settlement called Ariel, which was built on land belonging to Palestinian families for generations in the occupied West Bank,” she decried.

“The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, also built on Palestinian land, launched educational programs designed to facilitate the lives of soldiers of the Israeli occupation army and members of the Israeli intelligence service,” the coordinator added.

Intentional targeting of Palestinian students, academics

Hussien further underlined that all forms of boycott complement each other, noting that comprehensive international isolation can be implemented by putting pressure on Israel in all sectors and levels.

She pointed out that Israel’s violent and deliberate attacks on education in Palestine have been ongoing since 1948, mentioning that schools and universities in Palestine have been closed for long periods and that Israeli forces have systematically deprived students and academics of their right to education, as well as their right to life, by deliberately targeting them and arresting, injuring or killing them.

Emphasizing the cultural genocide in Gaza and the systematic destruction of the education sector, Hussien said: “Bombs have destroyed 70% of universities and schools in Gaza.”

“There have also been targeted terrorist attacks against students and academics in the 1948 territories, including the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem,” she criticized.

Israel has launched a deadly military offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas attack, which Tel Aviv said killed less than 1,200 people.

At least 30,035 Palestinians have since been killed, and 70,457 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Israel has also imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, leaving its population, particularly residents of northern Gaza, on the verge of starvation.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine. In comparison, 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel is accused of genocide by the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.