This Wednesday, November 4th, several University of Minnesota academic departments are partnering with the anti-Israel organization Teachers Against Occupation to bring anti-Israel activist Omar Barghouti to campus to speak in favor of boycotting all Israeli academic institutions. Omar Barghouti is the founder of the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Click here for the event’s flyer.
While the event is billed as a “debate and open discussion,” the only speaker is (to say the least) extremely one-sided. I encourage you to attend and to bring a real debate and discussion to the University of Minnesota’s event.
Here is some food for thought, and a bit of context regarding Barghouti’s organization, the anti-Semitism inherent in the international call for boycotting Israeli academic institutions, and the criticism of this boycott from academic institutions.
- This controversial and fringe political event is officially sponsored and thus has been given a stamp of approval by the University of Minnesota Departments of Asian Languages and Literatures, Cultural Studies and Comparative Literatures, Geography, and the Institute for Global Studies.
- Barghouti’s organization, PCABI, advocates a boycott of every single Israeli academic and cultural institution, regardless of the entity’s actual support for current Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. Even an academic or cultural organization’s silence, or encouragement of discussion and debate on the challenges and complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict, does not remove it as a target of the boycott.
- PCABI advocates boycotting Israeli institutions in the following ways: “Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions; Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions; Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions; Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations; Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”
- PCABI’s strategy has been criticized by many academics in the United States and other parts of the Western World for endangering freedom of speech and expression, and threatening one of the most likely places (universities) where opportunities for political discussions and innovations can take place.
- If Israel’s institutions are responsible for the nation’s political decision-making, why not hold the University of Minnesota, or Macalester College responsible for our continued military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan? What criteria makes a private or public academic institution an arm of the state responsible for all of its initiatives and offensives?
- Barghouti characterizes Israel as an apartheid state and a colonial oppressor, has said that “accepting Israel as a “Jewish state” on our land is impossible,” describes Israel as fascist and is well-regarded in certain circles for his article “Spirit of Auschwitz” comparing the Israelis to the Nazis in their treatment of Palestinians.
- While Barghouti is leading the international call to boycott Israeli academic institutions, he himself is studying for his PhD at Tel Aviv University. Although there is a campaign to persuade Tel Aviv University to expel Barghouti for his efforts to do it harm, the University refuses to do so since it does not discriminate against students for their political beliefs or commitments.
- This boycott – and other boycotts of Israeli goods popularized by similar organizations in recent years – are not unique in Jewish history. In the Middle Ages, Jews in many parts of Europe were excluded from guilds and professions like ironmongers, shoemakers, tailors, barbers, butchers, and rag dealers. Jews were the victims of discriminatory taxes, were not allowed to own land; and later were economically marginalized by being forced into ghettos. In Germany and other parts of Europe in the buildup to the Holocaust, Jews were barred from most economic and social community life by policies like the Nuremberg Laws which deprived Jews of citizenship and restricted their ability to marry and associate with non-Jews. Is there really a difference between Barghouti’s categorical boycott of all the academic and cultural institutions of the world’s only Jewish nation and the preceding history of economic oppression and anti-Semitism?
What do you think? Please add your thoughts to the comments.
(Photo: Thomas Marthinsen)