[News] More than 500 anthropologists back academic boycott of Israel

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 6 11:18:51 EDT 2014

  More than 500 anthropologists back academic boycott of Israel

Submitted by Sarah Irving on Mon, 10/06/2014

More than 500 anthropologists 
<http://anthroboycott.wordpress.com/signatories/> from around the world 
have signed a new call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

According to a statement <http://anthroboycott.wordpress.com/> issued on 
1 October, the scholars call upon Israel to:

    End its siege of Gaza, its occupation and colonization of all Arab
    lands occupied in June 1967, and dismantle the settlements and the

    Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of
    Israel and the stateless Negev Bedouins to full equality; and

    Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to
    return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The initial list of signatories featured more than 250 names, including 
academics from Australia, Canada, China, Holland, India, Lebanon, 
Palestine, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the United States. Colleagues from 
Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Chile, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, 
Kuwait, Portugal, Qatar, Mexico, the Philippines and South Africa, among 
others, have added their support.

"The recent military assault on the Gaza Strip by Israel is only the 
latest reminder that the world's governments and mainstream media do not 
hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law," the 
statement notes, offering a rationale for civil society action.

Amongst the signatories are major names in the anthropology field, 
including Professors Jean and John Comaroff of Harvard University, 
Professors Lila Abu-Lughod and Michael Taussig of Columbia University, 
Talal Asad of CUNY and Sherry Ortner and Susan Slymovics of UCLA.

The list also includes a number of specialists on Palestine itself, 
including Nadia Abu El Haj of Barnard College, Glenn Bowman of the 
University of Kent, Julie Peteet of the University of Louisville and 
Rosemary Sayigh, probably one of the best-known writers and scholars on 
Palestine since the 1970s.

Organizers also noted, however, that, "In addition, 46 scholars have 
elected to sign this statement anonymously" and that at least forty of 
these were untenured academics, post-doctoral fellows or graduate 
students. This seems to suggest that academic staff without the 
protection of tenure still feel that they may face harassment or 
discrimination if they speak up for Palestinian rights.

The group of anthropologists joins a number of US academic associations, 
including the American Studies Association 
the African Literature Association 
the Association for Asian American Studies 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/nora/bds-roundup-us-scholars-group-unanimously-passes-boycott-israeli-institutions> and 
the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association 
<http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/major-indigenous-studies-group-endorses-israel-boycott> in 
supporting the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic 

In doing so, the anthropologists pledge "not to collaborate on projects 
and events hosted or funded by Israeli academic institutions, not to 
teach at or attend conferences or other events at such institutions, and 
not to publish in academic journals based in Israel." However, as with 
other boycott supporters, "They remain open to collaboration with 
individual scholars based in the Israeli academy."

     From colonialism to solidarity

In addition to their generic support for the call for an academic 
boycott, the announcement notes that anthropology as a discipline 
"specialize[s] in how power, oppression, and structural violence affect 
social life, and as witnesses to the State of Israel's multiple and 
egregious violations of international law that constitute an assault on 
Palestinian culture and society, they pledge to abide by their 
discipline's stated commitment to 'the promotion and protection of the 
right of people and people's everywhere to the full realization of their 

The statement also notes anthropology's history as a discipline which, 
having started out with close links to colonialism, has endeavored to 
become a means of supporting the self-determination and liberation of 
the peoples with whom it works.

"In responding to the Palestinian call," the statement continues, "we 
seek to practice what the [American Anthropological Association] calls 
an 'engaged anthropology' that is "committed to supporting social change 
efforts that arise from the interaction between community goals and 
anthropological research." Anthropological research has illuminated the 
destructive effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian society."

In addition to acknowledging the wide-ranging impacts of Israeli 
occupation and militarism on Palestinian people, the statement also 
notes the particular effects on higher education -- including recent 
raids on a number of Palestinian universities, among them Birzeit 
University <http://electronicintifada.net/tags/birzeit-university>, the 
Arab American University in Jenin and Al-Quds University 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/al-quds-university-0> in Jerusalem, 
and the destruction of large parts of the Islamic University of Gaza 

This is explicitly contrasted with the "unconditional support" pledged 
for the Israeli military by universities including Tel Aviv University, 
Hebrew University, Bar-Ilan University, Haifa Univerity, Ben-Gurion 
University and Technion.

The anthropologists' statement, whilst singling out the "intimate" 
connection between Israeli academia and militarism, also notes that 
anthropologists have taken strong ethical stances on other countries and 
organizations complicit in human rights abuses, including the South 
African apartheid regime, abusers of indigenous and minority rights in 
Chile, Brazil and Bulgaria, the brutal Pinochet regime in Chile and 
commercial boycotts including those of the Hilton Hotel chain and Coca-Cola.

The full statement and signatory list are at 
<http://anthroboycott.wordpress.com,>, as are contact details for those 
wishing to add their names 
the list.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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