The following is excerpted from a statement issued in response to a March 12 call to action by Birzeit University in Palestine.
The Organizing Collective of the American Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) Writes in Support of Birzeit University’s Call to Action “To Defend the Palestinian People’s Right to Education , without coercion, intervention and political persecution”. We invite you to join us in responding to their call to “Work with us to break the siege that these regulations impose on Birzeit and other Palestinian universities. Accept our invitation to teach and learn in Palestine. Help us to exercise our fundamental right to education and to preserve the institutional autonomy that we have built over the decades despite all the obstacles.
We express our strong opposition to Israel’s most recent attempt to restrict Palestinian educational rights and to undermine the freedom and autonomy of Palestinian academic institutions. Scheduled to come into force in May 2022, the “Procedure for the Entry and Stay of Foreigners in the Judea and Samaria Region” grants the Israeli military absolute authority to select professors, university researchers and international students who can be admitted to teach or study in Palestinian universities.
Under this law, Israeli authorities will be able to determine which fields of study are permitted and which qualifications are acceptable. In addition, it obliges applicants to submit to an Israeli investigation at the diplomatic missions of the countries of origin. Finally, it sets a limit on the number of foreign teachers and students (respectively 100 and 150 per year) and limits the duration of employment to five non-consecutive years, effectively refusing to hire and promote teachers, and with immediate effects for current teachers. and students who do not hold a residence permit. This includes many Palestinians, who will lose their jobs, their access to education and their right to live in their homeland.
The new directive would also end all student exchanges. In short, it is an all-out assault on Palestinian academic freedom and collaborative intellectual exchange. In the words of Birzeit University, this “puts Palestinian universities under siege and deprives them of basic control over their academic decisions”.
This legal move is not simply a violation of academic freedoms internationally recognized as fundamental to the soul of the academic enterprise. It also represents an alarming escalation in the long-running campaign to isolate Palestinian universities from the outside world and thereby shape the future of Palestinian higher education. . . .
With little confidence in Israel as the occupying power to meet its obligations under international law, we call on American universities, scholars, students and workers to join the boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions. Even as Western powers have discovered a new zeal for boycotts and sanctions against Russia’s military occupation of Ukraine, BDS actions on behalf of Palestine are still vilified and criminalized in those same countries.
We denounce this hypocrisy and maintain that support for BDS is a crucial and urgent strategy to support Palestinians resisting the conditions of siege, apartheid, colonization and occupation. In response to Israel’s 2017 amendment to its Entry Law, which effectively prohibits entry to foreign nationals based on their political expression, USACBI has encouraged US academic institutions to suspend study programs abroad in Israel. Laws that deny access to these programs to groups and certain members of the student body violate non-discrimination policies on most US campuses.
This new law is an additional restriction on access, effectively prohibiting certain professors and students from working, lecturing, researching or studying at Palestinian institutions.
We continue to urge American academic institutions to end their study abroad programs in Israel until the Israeli state: 1) repeals the new “foreign entry and residency procedure” ; 2) end its entry restrictions based on political discourse and Palestinian heritage; and 3) adopt policies granting exchange visas and work permits to Palestinian universities on the same basis as Israeli universities.
We condemn Israel’s continued efforts to limit Palestinian access to education and academic freedom as a tenet of its ongoing settler-colonial project and join our Palestinian colleagues in affirming the right to education in dignity and autonomy as indigenous peoples. We also urge students and faculty in the United States to teach and study in Palestine and to support Palestinians who are fighting not only to overturn this latest repressive law, but also for a free Palestine from the river to the sea.