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Solidarity with Palestinian Academia and the struggle against the Occupation

Our team works to develop in a responsible and ethical way ties and solidarity relations with individual Palestinian academics and academic institutions. We advance solidarity work among other things by turning the spotlight on Israeli academy complicity and collusion with the occupation, militarization, and the repression of Palestinian academia. We protest violations of academic freedoms, as well as of Palestinian basic rights and freedoms.

The joint international campaign launched in 2016 by University of Kadoorie in Tul Karem, Palestine, and Academia for Equality demanded the removal of military forces from campus territories, where there was an active shooting range. The campaign successfully drew international support, and ended when the military announced it will no longer hold trainings in the shooting range. This was a rare opportunity to lay the ground for solidarity work of Israeli academics with academics from Palestine after decades during which such ties were virtually cut off. During the campaign and in its aftermath we struggled with various questions such as how can we avoid “normalizing” relations yet not give up on hands-on solidarity work? Should we use our capacity as Israeli citizens to exert pressure on the IDF and Israeli authorities in general and is this the only possible course of action? Are we capable of acting as equals in the framework of a joint initiative despite operating under conditions of extreme inequality?

Our goal is to strengthen ties with Palestinian academia in the Occupied Territories. We work with the realization that we can be most effective in engendering visibility for and drawing a public reaction to the denial of the right of education both in Israel and world-wide. Our ambition is to continue to develop new means of defending academic freedom as we direct our gaze inwards, to our own institutional complicity, exposing Israeli academy involvement in the policy of repression and in the occupation at large. This led us to create a database “Complicit Academy” that documents repression of dissent, institutionalized racism against Palestinian students and faculty, collusion with the settlement project, military research and development, and institutional participation in “hasbara” operations abroad. It also tracks repression and resistance in the Palestinian academy, and international academic institutions’ collaboration with and critique of their Israeli peers. The database is meant to provide us, academics in Israel and worldwide, better tools to understand the relation between the institutions where we work and teach, and the political realities on the ground for the purpose of changing these realities within and outside academia.

As part of our anti-occupation activities, we also struggle against the militarization of Israeli academia. As soon as the details of the tender won by Hebrew University of Jerusalem to host the IDF intelligence unit "Havatzalot" were made public, we mounted public and international pressure on the university not to yield to the demands of the IDF to build a military base on campus where the soldiers will be housed, and not to allow interventions in academic content and considerations. We believe that if the plan is executed and becomes a normalized reality this would have severe implication on the entire higher education system in Israel. Our position paper (Hebrew) details our principled objection to the loss of academic autonomy, on the basis of considerations foreign to academic standards and principles.

Our activities hence go well beyond signing letters and petitions. For instance, in our social media campaigns we also highlight the achievements of Palestinian academia, despite the harsh repression. We initiate public events such as a conference prompted by the international Kadoorie campaign at Haifa University “Kadoorie University - from Mandate to the Occupation”. During this event, panels discussed the unique history of this institution, its relation and relevance to Israeli society, and its current predicament under the occupation. At another event held at SOAS in London in June 2018, we introduced the “complicit academy” database and discussed with students and activists relevant issues. Such public events allow us to bring the question of academic complicity and responsibility to the fore and to reach out to academics and activists who are similarly concerned with Israel Palestine in the academic context. In addition to that, since its inception, Academia for Equality, because of its non-institutional grassroots formation and independence, is able to host academics and experts from Palestine, the Palestinian diaspora and experts from around the world who wish not to violate BDS guidelines yet are willing to address audiences in Israel.

We would like to extend an open invitation to colleagues from Palestine, the Palestinian diaspora, and from around the world to get in touch with us and consider us as potential hosts for talks and lectures.

Head team: Anat Matar, contact:

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