Creating people's geographies
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued an Open Letter on 29 October 2009 urging the Executive Committee of the International Geographical Union (IGU) to relocate its upcoming regional conference (July 2010) out of Israel . The IGU Executive rejected that demand .
A few months later, nearly 500 geographers, faculty, students, and people of conscience collectively petitioned the IGU to reconsider its position and to take immediate steps to relocate the regional conference outside Israel . The Open Letter emphasized the complicity of Israel’s academic establishment (and geography in particular) with the Israeli state’s colonial, discriminatory, and oppressive policies towards Palestinians. In addition it underlined the prevailing, and deeply disturbing role of Israeli universities in developing the very weapons and military doctrines used against Palestinians. Moreover the letter highlighted the tragic irony of geographers holding a conference about “Bridging Diversity in a Globalizing World” in a country built on urban destruction and gradual ethnic cleansing, a state which defines itself as an exclusively Jewish state, not a state of all its citizens, one that continues to violate human rights with total impunity and stands accused of war crimes for its latest war on the people of Gaza.
Among those who signed the call were associations representing hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli and international university teachers, students and employees such as the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, the Israeli Boycott campaign from within, the French Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine and the Canadian Coalition Faculty for Palestine. Moreover, scholars from more than 30 countries, including geographers such as David Harvey, Neil Smith, Derek Gregory, Erik Swyngedouw, Ghazi-Walid Falah, Richard Peet and Laura Pulido endorsed the call . The IGU did not reply to this call.
Today, a month after the massacre of 9 human rights activists in international waters aboard a flotilla carrying aid and supplies sailing to break the four-year closure of the Gaza Strip, we call once again upon the IGU to take a courageous and principled stand and to cancel the Tel Aviv conference. While the world looks at Gaza, Israel continues with the repression, imprisonment and expulsion of Palestinian political and human rights figures in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel. Moreover, house demolitions and expulsions intensify in East Jerusalem and the West Bank which are ever more fragmented and isolated as a result of the unrestrained colonial infrastructure and the Kafkaesque bureaucracy that encompass the tiniest details of Palestinian everyday lives. The IGU cannot remain passive in the face of the impunity with which the State of Israel continues to violate international law, with the disgraceful complicity of a majority of governments from the international community. Nor can it be accepted any longer that these criminal actions are presented and justified as a self-righteous battle saturated in a narrative of eternal victimhood.
We urge the IGU Executive and its members not to disregard the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and to join the growing international campaign led by scholars, intellectuals, trade unions, and other civil society organizations until Israel is held accountable for its violations and abides by international law.
We encouraged all geographers and people of conscience not to attend the Tel Aviv conference and to write letters of protest to the members of the IGU Executive. If it takes places, the Tel Aviv conference will only serve to whitewash Israel’s crimes.
Geographers for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Members of the IGU Executive Committee
Ronald F. Abler
Professor Woo-ik Yu
Professor Irasema Alcántara-Ayala
Professor Giuliano Bellezza
Professor Ruth Fincher
Professor Aharon Kellerman
Professor Vladimir Kolosov
Professor Markku Löytönen
Professor Michael Meadows
Academician Dahe Qin
Professor Dietrich Soyez
From the conference’s program I learn two things. One is that by the number of foreign lecturers, it doesn’t seem like the boycott is catching on. Secondly, the conference itself will be addressing some of the hot-button issues, including the separation barrier/fence/wall, probably with an unfavorable approach towards Israeli policy (that’s how I understand one of the lectures’ subtitle, “The Janus Face of Security”).
The ironic thing about the proposed boycott is that Israeli academics, especially in the social sciences, tend to be very critical of Israel. The people who would be hurt the most by a successful academic boycott would be the left, the Israelis most likely to work towards a just solution to the conflict.
Great to see israeli academics support the call of Palestinian civil society for BDS. Of course their state is trying to criminalise them.
Don’t get ahead of yourself. The vast majority of the 500 signatories do not support BDS, they defended the freedom of speech of those who do.
I don’t expect the bill against supporters of the boycott to become law. Most of the previous anti-liberal bills never came to fruition.
True. While I didn’t actually say they all supported BDS, I might have been clearer. Precision aside, I obviously support the number of israeli academics like Neve Gordon that do support BDS, and see this as a positive development.