PRESS RELEASE – APRIL 2002
From: John Docker and Ghassan Hage
To: The Australian Academic Community
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As of noon on Friday, 5 April, 2002, more than 120 university academics and researchers from across Europe had signed an open letter, presented for publication in The Guardian, calling for a moratorium on all future cultural and research links with Israel at European or national levels until such time as the Israeli government abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians along the lines of the recent Saudi peace plan.
This open letter was quickly followed by a similar open letter in the US.
Some Israeli academics protested, arguing that there are Israeli academics who actively oppose Israeli state policy and actions. In addition, some projects funded by the European Community involve cooperation between European, Israeli, Palestinian, Arab and North African academics; a freezing of cultural and research links between Europe and Israel would hinder interaction and dialogue.
We, John Docker and Ghassan Hage, take these objections seriously. We still believe, however, that academics and intellectuals in Australia should act on their outrage at Israel's state terrorism. We therefore propose the following letter of protest along the lines of the European and American letters, but modified both by the force of the objections of the anti-government Israeli academics and Australia's own specific situation.
CALL FOR AUSTRALIAN BOYCOTT OF RESEARCH AND CULTURAL LINKS WITH ISRAEL
Despite widespread international condemnation for its policy of violent repression against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders. It is clear that while the Palestinians are rightly requested to reign in their extremists, the Israelis have elected their extremists to power. The slow, dehumanising and relentless colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza that has been continuing unabated in recent years has now taken an ugly murderous turn of immense proportions. How long are we, the citizens of a Western democracy, going to accept the silence of our government in the face of the current rampage of the Israeli army in the West Bank? How long are we going to look passively at the Israeli crimes of war perpetrated daily and systematically, not as something anomalous, but as a matter of national policy? In the face of our government's unwillingness or inability to act, civil society must step in to exert pressure against the continuation of this savagely anachronistic act of colonisation. In a globalised world, our passivity as citizens of the world in the face of such inhumanity will stain all of us.
Academics and intellectuals as always can play an important role in fostering the growth of such a non-violent movement within civil society. It is in this spirit that we call for a boycott of research and cultural links with Israel. We urge our colleagues not to attend conferences in Israel; to pressure our universities to suspend any existing exchange or linkage arrangements; and to refuse to distribute scholarship and academic position information. We note that while some academics and intellectuals in Israel oppose the government and some also are involved in cooperative Israeli/Palestinian research projects, the vast majority have either supported the current Israeli Army onslaught on the Palestinians, or failed to voice any significant protest against it. The boycott we propose will inevitably also adversely affect those who don't deserve it, and we regret that this has to happen. We ask our Israeli colleagues and friends to bear with us in solidarity. They know as well as we do that what they will endure because of these boycotts is minimal compared to what the Palestinian people and their academics continue to endure. As with boycotts against apartheid South Africa, urgent international action is now required to stop the massacres perpetrated against the Palestinian people.