MARCH 2004

Concerning the denial of human and educational rights in palestine


Dear Colleague,

We have drafted the enclosed open letter in response to an urgent distress call from Palestinian academics concerning the continued denial of human and educational rights in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. The Israeli occupation through its associated checkpoints, curfews, and military assaults is having appalling consequences for academic staff and students alike. Palestinian academic freedom is being fatally constricted. Yet except for a handful - perhaps one in a hundred - of exceptionally brave colleagues, Israeli academics and their institutions have remained silent about, or sometimes have become accomplices in, this destructive process.

It was in response to this situation of escalating human rights abuses that, nearly two years ago, in Europe, North America and Australia, there were a number of initiatives, signed by many thousands of university teachers ranging from a call for a European moratorium on research collaboration to the French institutional boycott of Israeli universities and the US divestment campaign. Opponents to these calls argued that the way forward was for increased Israeli/Palestinian research collaboration, and a number of Israeli academics claimed that they were indeed doing this, often to the surprise of their supposed partners.* Meanwhile, senior Israeli academics have set up an ''anti-boycott forum'', declaring it to be an "attack on Israeli academic freedom".

We believe that it is important to engage in debate with those engaged in this counter-move, to ask them to make clear what they are doing to foster or protect Palestinian education and scholarship, and in so doing help bring the desperate plight of our Palestinian colleagues into public attention. This is the intention of the enclosed letter, to which we hope you will be prepared to add your signature.

We are currently circulating this letter widely. Once a sufficient number of academics have endorsed it, we will both send it to Professor Magidor as the head of the Israeli anti-boycott forum and endeavour to have it published in Israeli and international newspapers, and on a web site so that others can continue to add their names.

If you are willing to join us in signing the letter, please reply to Mona Baker ( including your e-mail, title (where appropriate)
and institutional affiliation (this is sought for identification purposes
only and does not commit the institution in any way).

Yours sincerely,Mona Baker

* see the editorial in Nature, 417, 2002, p207

An Open Letter to Professor Menachem Magidor and the members of Israel'sforum to combat the academic boycott:

Recent reports tell us that leading members of Israel's academic institutions are organizing to "fight the international boycott." We are told that Israeli academics are outraged at this "unwarranted attack on Israeli academic freedom."

In order that the issue of academic freedom may be discussed within a context free of hypocrisy we the undersigned, defenders of Palestinian academic freedom and supporters of the academic boycott against Israel, call for a response to the deterioration of Palestinian education as a consequence of Israeli policies from those leaders of Israel's universities who now organize to fight the boycott.

Academics worldwide should have an accurate picture of the situation that has long confronted Palestinian education. the Israeli government has set up a system of roadblocks and checkpoints that makes it difficult or impossible for Palestinian teachers and students to come and go to their universities, colleges, and other schools. Its policy of harassment, arrests, random shootings and assaults is carried out almost weekly by Israeli troops on Palestinian campuses. All of this takes place against the backdrop of an ongoing 37 year occupation and relentless attack on Palestinian civil society, thus disrupting the necessary framework for any successful educational structure. Such Israeli government policies negate Palestinian academic freedom.

Given the destructive nature of Israeli government action against Palestinian education and academic freedom, and your simultaneous expression of concern for Israeli academic freedom in the face of the boycott, we feel that it is only fair to ask the Israeli academic leadership where it stands on the issue of current Israeli policy as described above, and to share with us what Israeli academic institutions are doing to challenge the behavior of your government.

Finally, to help you do this we are prepared to join you and other parties in public debate of the academic boycott of your institutions at any time and in any neutral venue.