Open Letter Campaign to Boycott Hebrew University
Assistant Professor Position in Communication and Journalism
(Cinema, Visual Culture, Media, and Discourse Studies)
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Communication and Journalism recently announced the opening of a tenure-track research and teaching position to begin July 2014. Applications are due September 30, 2013. In anticipation of this deadline, We, the Undersigned: Call for International Academics to Show Conscientious Respect for the Academic Boycott of Israel by Declining to Apply to Hebrew University Research and Teaching Positions.
Please add your signature to this Call by sending an email with your name, affiliation (if desired), and location to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This job announcement marks one of the first times an Israeli university has advertised a position in film/media, communication and cultural studies to scholars all over the world. It invites potential international hires to move to Israel, learn the language and culture, and in effect to cooperate with the academic normalization and whitewashing of Israel’s human and civil rights violations of its Palestinian citizens. This ostensible “openness” is presented even as scholars who have been hired by universities in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPts) frequently cannot take or maintain their jobs because they are denied entry and/or work permits. While all Israeli universities are complicit in the occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid, the Hebrew University is particularly noteworthy, as we explain below. This Call is issued in the spirit, and according to the guidelines, of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI):
“Inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as well as the long tradition of civil resistance against settler-colonialism in Palestine, the PACBI Call urges academics and cultural workers ‘to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.’ […]PACBI urges academics, academics’ associations/unions and academic institutions around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects that promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights, or violate the boycott.” (http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108)
Your actions have a direct impact on our joint struggle for a just peace in Palestine/Israel and on our solidarity with fellow Palestinian academics whose universities have been closed down, blockaded and even bombed by Israeli aircraft in the last three decades; universities which have been subjected to a lengthy and brutal Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. (A “Take Action” option is available at the bottom of this Call.)
HEBREW UNIVERSITY: COMPLICIT IN ILLEGAL OCCUPATION, DISCRIMINATION, AND TORTURE
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is complicit in the unilateral annexation by Israel of occupied East Jerusalem, the arbitrary application of Israeli domestic law to the oPts, and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel—all illegal acts under international law. On September 1, 1968, nearly one year after Israel militarily occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israeli authorities confiscated 3,345 dunums of Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, which was designated occupied territory under international law. Avraham Harman, President of the Hebrew University from 1968-1983, used this confiscated land to expand the university’s Mount Scopus campus. By relocating Israeli staff and students to work and live on occupied Palestinian land, Hebrew University directly contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention. These violations of international law have been repeatedly condemned by the international community, including by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 252 (21 May 1968).
The university is complicit in the unequal treatment of Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel. For instance, it does not provide teaching services to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in contrast to those provided to Jewish groups; no courses are offered in Arabic. Additionally, the Hebrew University has chosen to remain silent when the entire population of Gaza has been excluded from the possibility to enroll and study in the university by the Israeli government. Palestinian students from Gaza have a better chance of acceptance at a university in the U.S than Hebrew University.
The Hebrew University administration restricts the freedom of speech and protest of its few Palestinian students. For example, it had forbidden a commemoration event for the invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 in which about 1,400 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli forces.  On the other hand, the Hebrew University offered special considerations and benefits to students who participated in that invasion as soldiers.
In recent years, the Israeli media have highlighted the complicity of Hebrew University in Israeli settler-colonial practices in East Jerusalem, including the university’s direct involvement in training programs for the Israeli General Security Service (“Shin Bet”). Writing in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz in 2006, Israeli sociologist Hebrew University Professor Baruch Kimmerling revealed the university’s decision to offer a special fast-track degree program to members of the Shin Bet. For nearly fifty years, Shin Bet security service has used harsh interrogation methods, including the use of torture in extracting “confessions” from Palestinian political detainees, to consolidate Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and its occupation of the West Bank.
The Israeli Supreme Court banned physical torture in 1999, but according to the Israeli human rights group the Public Committee Against Torture, the Shin Bet has continued its torture practices. According to Prof. Kimmerling, not only were Shin Bet operatives encouraged to further their “professional careers” with government grants at the Hebrew University, but the Shin Bet itself was allowed to devise a course that most likely relates to the Shin Bet’s actual work among Palestinians under occupation. Further evidencing the Hebrew University’s collaboration with the Shin Bet, the former head of the Shin Bet, Carmi Gillon, currently serves as the university’s vice-president of external relations.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) aims to draw widespread critical attention to Israeli human rights and international law violations and consequently to pressure the state of Israel to comply with international law. Academic Boycott is a strategy and focus of the broader BDS movement to end the Israeli occupation, secure the Right of Return for Palestinians, and stop discrimination within Israeli society against non-Jewish citizens.
Opponents of Academic and Cultural Boycott frequently claim that BDS impinges upon free cultural expression and academic freedom and therefore stands in violation of cherished liberal values such as are stipulated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Yet, as a boycott aimed at curtailing human and civil rights abuses and violations, BDS is a legal strategy protected by international and U.S. domestic law. BDS organizations emphasize that Academic and Cultural Boycott targets Israeli institutions and persons who speak or perform on their behalf or in support of them (for example government officials and functionaries), and not individuals.
Learn more about the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel at http://www.pacbi.org/index.php. This campaign has developed strong followings in most European countries and is increasingly successful. Specific campaigns range from student union activism at university campuses in North America and Europe, to divestment efforts by teachers unions, to cultural boycott campaigns throughout the Arab world and in South Africa. More information about these successes is available from the British Committee for Universities in Palestine (BRICUP): http://www.bricup.org.uk.
Detailed answers to many more questions about the rationale, intent, and effectiveness of Academic and Cultural Boycott are available on the U.S. Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott (USACBI) website: http://www.usacbi.org/faqs/
1. Oppose Normalization: Foreign Academics Are Being Used to Lend Legitimacy to Israeli Occupation
“Academic institutions in particular are part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine, and as such are deeply implicated in maintaining the structures of domination and oppression over the Palestinian people. Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, is deeply implicated in supporting and perpetuating the status quo.” (http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108)
Academic Boycott interferes with the normalization of occupation perpetuated by Israeli institutions. When North American scholars agree to attend Israeli academic conferences as keynote speakers, participants, and in other roles (even if those conferences offer a degree of critique of Israeli policies and human rights abuses against Palestinians), their professional caché serves to further legitimize the occupation. Academics and academic occasions have become tools in a public relations campaign to improve the image and reputation of the Hebrew University in the West and to hide the fact that the university is still closely associated with Israeli annexation and “Separation/Apartheid Wall” policies—policies which were strongly condemned on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Among recent supporters of Academic Boycott who have refused to become hasbara (“public relations”) tools for normalizing occupation are Stephen Hawking, who withdrew from the annual Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem, headed this year by Israeli President Shimon Peres and attended by multiple international heads of state; and the Association of Asia American Studies (AAAS), whose general membership recently voted at their annual convention to support the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
2. Advocate Open, Justice-based Academic Discourse: Israeli Academia Curbs Open Discourse and Complies with Racist Israeli Law
“Not a single Israeli academic institution has petitioned the Israeli government to protect Palestinian rights to education or to cease interference with and destruction of Palestinian schools and colleges.” (http://www.usacbi.org/faqs/)
In March 2011, the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) passed a law that bans events commemorating the Palestinian Nakba. This “Nakba Bill” specifies state fines for local authorities and state-funded institutions (including Israeli universities) that organize events commemorating or debating the Palestinian “catastrophe” of 1948. Applying to the Hebrew University faculty position would in effect condone Israeli official and academic discourses that are aimed at erasing and/or ignoring the cultural memory and material presence of Palestinians, thus contributing to the prolongation of injustice and settler-colonial policies in East Jerusalem and Palestine/Israel.
Israeli academic discourse largely dismisses the Academic and Cultural Boycott and misrepresents the purpose and nature of the call. Some Israeli academics have contributed to spreading a culture of misinformation and false debate around Academic Boycott at international conferences and in North American journals. Propounding false claims about the legality, content, and intent of BDS, including sweeping and misdirected accusations of “anti-Semitism,” these Israeli academics and their supporters in the U.S. and Europe aim to distract attention for the core issues at stake in the boycott, namely Palestinian human and civil rights and Israeli violations of them. Support for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions expresses solidarity with a world-wide movement responding to the call from Palestinian society, respecting academic freedom and advocating conscientious, justice-based scholarship.
3. Express Solidarity With Palestinians and Contribute to Liberation, Return of Refugees, and Self-Determination
Palestinian academic and human rights are seriously and daily curtailed by the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and Israeli apartheid policies in the oPts. In view of this apartheid reality, Palestinian scholars in principle have refused to participate in conferences at Israeli institutions. Palestinian academics have been largely excluded from Israeli academic conferences, even those conferences organized around broad issues of human rights, combatting all forms of discrimination, and peace.
By declining this open position at Hebrew University, you join the diversity of voices of the global BDS movement by opposing the current normalizing trend in Israeli academia.
- Sign And Forward This Open Letter to show your support and solidarity. Qualified candidates for this position are especially encouraged to sign. Add your signature by sending an email with your name, affiliation (if desired), and location to email@example.com.
- Send A “Decline To Apply” Cover Letter To Hebrew U.: Qualified applicants are especially encouraged to consider sending a message to the Department of Communication and Journalism to let them know of your intent to decline to apply. This action is not meant to punish the university staff or professors who receive them. Rather, it aims to encourage Israeli academics and academic administrators to take seriously the call for Academic Boycott and to understand its content, purpose and strategies—perhaps even to support the boycott. Consider adding the following paragraph to your existing cover letter:
I hope you might find my profile of interest to the Hebrew University educational community. However, I must now inform you that I decline to apply to the position at Hebrew University. In fact, I am categorically opposed to applying to, interviewing for, or accepting any position at Hebrew University. I strongly oppose the Israeli occupation of historic Palestine and the human rights and international law violations it entails, including Hebrew University’s complicity in these violations. I urge you to start an open discussion of Academic and Cultural Boycott, as well as broader BDS, at the Hebrew University in order to better understand why I am declining to apply to this position and why I join the world-wide movement responding to this call from Palestinian civil society. The following links provide additional background on the intent and strategy of Academic and Cultural Boycott: http://www.pacbi.org/index.php, http://www.usacbi.org/faqs/, http://www.bricup.org.uk.
[Note: All footnotes are at the end of the document.]
U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ)
1. Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Film Studies, SOAS, University of London, UK
2. Dr. Samirah Alkassim, filmmaker and scholar, Washington, DC, USA
3. Dr. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York City, NY, USA
4. Prof. Deepa Kumar, Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers University, USA
5. Prof. Neepa Majumdar, English and Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh, USA
6. Prof. John Smith, filmmaker, School of Arts and Digital Industries, University of East London, UK
7. Sibel Taylor, doctoral candidate, Technology, Design & Environment, Oxford Brookes University, UK
8. Jeffrey Masko, doctoral candidate, State College Pennsylvania, Penn State University, USA
9. Dr. Colleen Jankovic, film and gender studies scholar, CA, USA
10. Daniel Carnie, graduate student, film studies, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
11. Elle Flanders, filmmaker and doctoral candidate, Visual Arts, York University, Toronto, Canada
12. Miranda Pennell, filmmaker & doctoral candidate, Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media, University of Westminster, London, UK
13. Barbara Hammer, filmmaker, The European Graduate School (Saas-fee, Switzerland), New York, NY, USA
14. Nader Abusumayah, Chicago Palestine Film Festival, Chicago, IL, USA
15. Prof. Robert Boyce, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
16. Prof. David E. Pegg, University of York, UK
17. Dr. C. J. Burns-Cox MD FRCP, Emeritus Consultant Physician, Frenchay Hospital, University of Bristol, England
18. Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, London School of Economics, UK
19. Dr. Fouzi El-Asmar, author, Washington, DC, USA
20. Prof. Cynthia Franklin, English, University of Hawai’i, USA
21. Ann Shirazi, New York City, USA
22. Jason Schulman, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Lehman College, City University of New York, USA
23. Terry Weber, New York, NY, USA
24. Prof. James C. Faris, Director Emeritus, University of Connecticut Program in Middle East Languages and Area Studies, USA
25. Dr. Naomi Foyle, poet and novelist, English and Creative Writing Department, Chichester University, UK
26. Dr. Sam Noumoff, McGill University (retired), Montreal, Canada
27. Noa Shaindlinger, doctoral candidate, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto, Canada
28. Dr. Clint Le Bruyns, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
29. Prof. Mona Baker, Division of Languages and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, UK
30. Smadar Carmon, Toronto, Canada
31. Dr. Claudia Chaufan, Associate Professor of Sociology and Health Policy, University of California-San Francisco, USA
32. Julian Field, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
33. Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name – Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism, Toronto, Canada
34. Dr. Denis G. Rancourt, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., former professor, University of Ottawa, Canada
35. Dr. Kamal Mattar, MSc, MD, FRCSC, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
36. Priscilla Read, Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester, NY, USA
37. Prof. David Klein, Department of Mathematics, California State University, Northridge, USA
38. Dr. Mary-Jo Nadeau, Ph.D. (Sociology), York University, Toronto, Canada
 The decision was published in the official Israeli Gazette (the Hebrew edition), number 1425. It was therefore “legalized” by Israel. This land, for the most part, was (still is) privately owned by Palestinians living in that area. A large part of the confiscated land was then given to the Hebrew University to expand its campus (mainly its dormitories). The Palestinian landowners refused to leave their lands and homes arguing that the confiscation order of 1968 was illegal. When the case was taken to the Jerusalem District Court in 1972 (file no. 1531/72), the court ruled in favor of the University and the state, deciding that the Palestinian families must evacuate their homes and be offered alternative housing. See also: http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/12/un-report-accuses-israel-of-pushing-palestinians-from-jerusalem-west-bank/
 Keller, Uri Yacobi (2009) The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin – The Academic Boycott of Israel and the Complicity of Israeli Academic Institutions in Occupation of Palestinian Territories. Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center. http://www.alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf