Sun 26-May-2024

The global boycott of Israeli academia … a heavy price for Israeli crimes in Gaza

Wednesday 17-April-2024


With the beginning of the Israeli genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, calls for comprehensive boycott of the occupation entity spread in all fields (economic, artistic, political, academic, etc.), which had a significant impact on Israeli relations in various aspects, notably the academic field.

The Palestinian National Committee for Boycott of Israel and the leadership of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) called for escalating participation in all popular events and campaigns in support of the citizens in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli concerns

A state of extreme concern about the academic boycott of Israel was expressed by the Israeli press, as this field began to face almost isolation – if not endangerment – in many countries around the world.

Writer Tani Goldstein, editor of the Zman Yisrael website, sees student protests in universities around the world as a rolling snowball that could lead to a comprehensive global academic boycott of Israel, noting that the boycott of Israeli academia has become a global phenomenon.

He pointed to the escalation of boycott calls in various Western universities, saying, “Since the beginning of the war, at least 8 universities in Canada, Brazil, Italy, Belgium, and Norway have imposed such boycotts, and protests have led to partial boycotts in other universities.”

He emphasized that Israeli academia is more concerned about canceling lecturers’ visits due to fear of student demonstrations and protests. For example, Dr. Moshe Ferri, an emergency assistance expert at the Tel Hai Academic College, was invited to participate in a conference in Melbourne, Australia, but upon arrival, he discovered that the invitation had been canceled due to student protests condemning the war on Gaza.

Based on information gathered by Goldstein, many researchers and lecturers in Israel warn that widespread academic boycott will cause serious harm to Israeli academia and indirectly to advanced technology, medicine, scientific research, and sciences that Israel considers advantages of power, dominance, and global superiority.

“Difficult” academic cooperation

The same concern was expressed by the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz, which said that Israel faces an unprecedented boycott, including in the academic field of Israeli universities and researchers.

Under the headline: “This is not the right time to invite lecturers from Israel… we face an unprecedented boycott,” Haaretz issued a report in its Monday edition, highlighting what it described as “academic boycott of universities around the world for lecturers, researchers, and Israeli universities.”

The Hebrew report quoted the statements of 60 Israeli researchers who had been subjected to boycott and expulsion from international research groups since the outbreak of the war on Gaza.

The newspaper highlighted the experience of Professor Glaud Hirschberger, a social psychologist at the Reichman University in Herzliya, who teaches the long-term effects of the Nazi Holocaust, who received an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a conference for a Norwegian organization dealing with collective trauma.

The newspaper continued that a series of emails sent to Hirschberger stated: “The conference organizing committee has decided to cancel your invitation, citing the need to avoid cooperation with representatives of participating countries in the ongoing fighting (the war on Gaza).”

Haaretz quoted Hirschberger’s comment, saying, “I have been active in the field of political psychology for many years, but I have never faced such a direct and stark response. I was rejected because I am Israeli.”

He added, “Israeli academia may enter a new situation regarding participation in conferences, fundraising for research, or publishing articles. We rely entirely on international relations, and cooperation with us will be more difficult.”

Tangible results

Regarding the results of the academic boycott calls against the occupation entity, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) showed signs of growing global interaction with the boycott in the last quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024. This interaction was reflected in a number of steps, the most prominent of which were that five Norwegian universities suspended cooperation agreements with Israeli universities, refusing to deal with them as usual while Israel commits the genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Faculty of Law Council at the University of Antwerp in Belgium unanimously decided to suspend the cooperation agreement with Bar Ilan University in Israel because of its open support for genocide.

The Student Council of the Faculty of Law at Harvard University issued a resolution calling on the administration and all institutions and organizations in the university community to withdraw investments from the Israeli colonial and genocidal apartheid system.

The Academic Council of the University of Turin in Italy decided not to participate in scientific research projects with Israeli institutions.

At the same time, the University of Girona in Catalonia committed to reviewing all its agreements with Israeli universities, and the Federal University of Sierra in Brazil canceled the “Brazil-Israel Innovation Challenge.” The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National University of Patagonia San Juan Bosco in Argentina voted to commit to the call of Birzeit University to boycott Israeli academic institutions complicit in oppression.

Similarly, the Association of Faculty Members at the University of Montreal, representing approximately 1,400 faculty members, unanimously voted in favor of boycotting Israeli universities, making it the first faculty association in Canada to take this step.

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