Palestinian universities under occupation

1 July 2015, via AURDIP [Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine]

[Download full report in pdf 138kb]

This Report was prepared by a delegation of 8 academics from 5 European countries representing the European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI) who visited seven Palestinian universities and academies in April 2015. The delegation is grateful to the many faculty members and administrators of those institutions who made the visit possible.

Summary of Findings

The delegation was unable to visit all of Palestine’s institutions of higher education, and in particular it was prevented from visiting Gaza’s universities by the Israeli blockade. However, it found a consistent pattern across all the universities that it visited, and by their systemic nature it is reasonable to assume that this pattern applies to all of them.

This pattern was of a coherent and multi-faceted policy of Israeli interference with the normal functioning of academic life. This interference inhibits free movement of staff and students; reduces academic effectiveness and productivity by the usurpation of staff time through mobility restrictions and imposed bureaucratic obstacles ; prevents effective collaboration and sharing of intellectual resources between Palestinian universities ; obstructs international visits to Palestinian universities ; substantially prevents the employment of teaching staff from abroad ; interrupts the supply of equipment, materials and books ; and subjects staff and students to repeated humiliations and indignity.

[Download full report in pdf 138kb]

III. Recommendations

The Recommendations which follow are addressed to academics and other concerned individuals ; academic institutions and trade unions ; human rights and other non-governmental organisations ; and indeed to civil society in general, across Europe and beyond.

Recommendation 1 : Assist the universities of Palestine by promoting exchanges, partnerships and visits

Palestinian universities are extremely isolated and constantly appeal for assistance to enable their faculty to travel and collaborate with counterparts abroad, for their students to study abroad, and to receive visiting faculty and exchange students. Actions of this kind will, however, unfortunately in no way discourage Israel from continuing and intensifying its policy of academic blockade. Therefore action is also required at other levels

Recommendation 2 : Pressure on European governments and the Commission of the European Union

These bodies need to accept their share of responsibility for the lamentable situation that the delegation observed, and take remedial steps to redress decades of discrimination. For many years the EU and individual European countries have treated Israel as a privileged partner while doing almost nothing to assist Palestine. The restrictive approach to issuing visas to Palestinian academic visitors, and where appropriate to their families as well, should be ended. Governments should make it a priority to make funds generously available to support academic partnerships and exchanges of faculty and students with Palestine.

Recommendation 3 : Apply direct pressure on Israel by supporting the boycott of Israeli universities.

It is regrettable that the recent historical record confirms that Western governments generally act on an issue of ethical importance only when civil society mobilizes in its support. Ending South Africa’s apartheid policy was one such issue on which civil society led and governments belatedly followed. Israel’s 48-year-long illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the subversion of Palestinian universities is a similar, albeit not identical, issue. As Palestinian university administrators and faculty repeatedly point out, Israeli universities have benefitted hugely from the largesse of Western governments without making the slightest effort to support their Palestinian counterparts or demonstrate solidarity with them. The only organized attempt to encourage solidarity among Israeli academics for their Palestinian counterparts proved to be a fiasco. In March 2008 a small group of prominent Israeli academics circulated a petition in support of the principle of unhindered access to higher education for Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. Their petition reads:

We, past and present members of academic staff of Israeli universities, express great concern regarding the ongoing deterioration of the system of higher education in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We protest against the policy of our government which is causing restrictions of freedom of movement, study and instruction, and we call upon the government to allow students and lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories, and to allow lecturers and students who hold foreign passports to teach and study without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas. To leave the situation as it is will cause serious harm to freedom of movement, study and instruction – harm to the foundation of academic freedom, to which we are committed.

Of the roughly 8,500 senior and junior faculty who received the email inviting them to sign the petition, a total of 407 – less than 5 per cent – agreed to do so. Indications are that even fewer Israeli academics would sign a similar petition today.

The boycott calls on supporters to refuse collaboration with Israeli universities, whether as visiting lecturers, researchers, examiners or referees. It is not aimed at individual Israeli academics or researchers whose freedom to travel, lecture and collaborate in research is unaffected. It therefore does not hinder dialogue or free speech. [14]

In Conclusion

Israelis are inordinately proud of their universities for their advanced work in science and technology, their Nobel prizes and world rankings. But Israelis cannot have it both ways: claiming membership in the democratic world while pursuing violent policies of ethnic cleansing and undermining Palestinian higher education. The authors of this Report are convinced that academic boycott is the most effective, non-violent way for Western civil society to confront Israelis with the need to choose.

To learn more about the academic boycott, contact a national affiliate of EPACBI:

- The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)

- Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine, France (AURDIP)

- Akademisk og Kulturell Boikott av Staten Israel, Norway (AKULBI)

- Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Sweden (PSABI)

- Belgian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BACBI)

- BDS academico por Palestina (bdspbai[at]gmail.com)


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