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Statement of Position:Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees

Written by admin  •  Wednesday, 19.01.2011, 13:18
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[Concerning the University of Johannesburg’s Relations with Ben Gurion University]

Occupied Palestine, 19 January 2011

The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) wishes to reiterate its firm opposition to any bilateral or multilateral relationships between Palestinian and Israeli academic institutions. In reference to the decision by the University of Johannesburg Senate in September 2010 to review the University’s Memorandum of Understanding with Ben-Gurion University, and particularly regarding the condition of partnering with a Palestinian university, PFUUPE, representing Palestinian academics at virtually all Palestinian universities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip stands firmly behind the position of the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE) rejecting cooperation with Israeli universities.  The CHE, representing all higher education institutions and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE), has rejected, since the early 1990s, any form of cooperation by Palestinian institutions of higher education with Israeli academic institutions until the Israeli occupation ends.[1] This position was reiterated again with particular reference to the Memorandum of Understanding between Ben-Gurion and Johannesburg Universities during one of its meetings  in October 2010. Members of the CHE reaffirmed their rejection to any form of cooperation with Israeli universities, be it direct cooperation, or through third parties.

PFUUPE fully endorses the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fulfils its obligations under international law [2] and, as part of it, the Call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).[3] Within the framework of this non-violent form of resistance to the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinians, the boycott must be applied to Israeli institutions, including all universities that are complicit in the state’s violations of international law and human rights until they end their direct and indirect collusion in the state’s colonial and apartheid policies.[4]

It is widely acknowledged and well documented now that Israeli academic institutions are deeply embedded in the system of oppression and domination practiced by the Israeli state.  Israeli universities and research institutions cooperate closely with the security-military establishment through research and teaching activities. They have never dissociated themselves from – let alone condemned — the occupation regime, despite the more than four decades of the systematic stifling of Palestinian education, even when the Israeli occupation shut down Palestinian universities and schools for long periods – reaching four years in the case of Birzeit University. Israeli universities have also never condemned the entrenched and institutionalized system of discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel within the Israeli polity, society and even the academy.

As was the case in the South African struggle against apartheid, and in light of the multifaceted oppression Israel exercises against the Palestinian people, we believe that the most effective form of solidarity with Palestinian academics and institutions of higher education is direct civil action aimed at bringing an end to the Israeli occupation and regime of apartheid in Palestine.  Isolating Israel in the international arena through various forms of boycott and sanctions, and thus forcing it to obey international law and respect Palestinian rights, is one of the most important and morally sound strategies open to the international academy.  As a first, urgent step, PFUUPE expects and urges international academic institutions to at least end all cooperation with complicit Israeli institutions.

We hence salute the University of Johannesburg faculty who have challenged the current relationship with Ben-Gurion University. We also salute the more than 250 South African academics who signed a petition calling for severing ties with Israeli universities, [5] and we particularly appreciate the moral leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who wrote: ‘South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.” It can never be business as usual.’ [6]

Finally, on behalf of Palestinian academics, we urge our South African colleagues to support our struggle for justice and peace through severing all links with Israeli universities until Israel fulfills its obligations under international law. We hope that South Africans, in particular, can appreciate the urgency of fulfilling this moral obligation to end injustice and achieve freedom and equality for all.

Dr. Amjad Barham

President, Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees

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