Note from the editors: Many of our readers have probably encountered Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) initiatives through the Western European and North American academic associations of which we are a part. We would like to bring to your attention one such initiative addressed specifically to those of you who are members of the American Historical Association that calls for an end to collaboration with Israeli academic institutions as a principled response to this summer’s attack on Gaza and the destruction of Islamic University’s Oral History Center.
For those less familiar with the BDS campaign, it was launched in 2005 (http://www.bdsmovement.net/call) as a consolidation of several already existing initiatives by Palestinian student groups, trade unions, peasant organizations, feminist collectives, human rights initiatives, political prisoner groups. It was inspired by similar campaigns launched by the South African anti-apartheid liberation movement in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. There is an official BDS website (http://www.bdsmovement.net) dealing with the overall effort and related campaigns like PACBI (http://www.pacbi.org), which deals more specifically with cultural and academic boycotts. BDS is thus a call from Palestine for international solidarity in a context where the international community has repeatedly shown itself unwilling to enforce international law and UN resolutions with respect to Palestine/Israel. Any initiative of this nature should be approved by the BDS National Committee or PACBI in order to ensure that the demands are a consistent expression of solidarity.
There are other fake BDS campaigns that come from either right-wing Islamist or right-wing neo-Nazi organizations, or that are thinly veiled anti-Semitic campaigns or that simply fall into conspiratorial thinking. Most of these don’t originate from Palestine or Palestinian civil society, but from groups pursuing alternate agendas to which Palestinians are only incidental. Here we can list a number of websites that call for people to ‘boycott Israel’ by listing every consumer product and brand under the sun and suggesting that all of these are somehow connected to Israel. Similarly, we can list campaigns that call for the boycott of all individual Israeli academics or cultural acts, while the actual BDS campaign only calls for the severing of institutional links or boycotting Israeli state-sponsored cultural events, i.e. part of the ‘Brand Israel’ campaign, which has been promoted by Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There is also the added dimension for Eastern European leftists of considering the following: (1) a history of anti-semitic boycotts in Europe in the 1930s organized by neo-Nazi organizations and their local collaborators; and (2) on-going far-right professions of ‘support’ and ‘solidarity’ with Palestinians by far-right parties such as the Hungarian Jobbik against the so-called ‘ZOG’ that apparently runs not only Israel but also controls all governments. There are also deeper histories of anti-semitism that reach back to different Christian denominations in the region – Catholicism, Orthodoxy, etc. – and related histories of anti-semitic pogroms.
What’s important to recognize is that the actual Palestinian BDS campaign has consistently been sensitive to these nuances as the campaign is rooted in traditions of universal human rights, emancipation and liberation. The campaign has consistently condemned all forms of racism, including anti-semitism. This is why it’s important that any solidarity initiative clearly aligns itself with it, as the proposed AHA resolution does, rather than non-Palestinian initiatives that may serve questionable agendas or slide into anti-semitism.
Petition to the American Historical Association RE: Gaza, Islamic University’s Oral History Center (deadline 31 October 2014)
As members of the American Historical Association, we feel an urgent need to take a principled stand in response to the attack on Gaza, calling on like-minded colleagues to join us and sign this petition (below). Please identify your name, affiliation, email, and city/state.
Considering that the American History Association (AHA) is dedicated to the “preservation of historical documents and artifacts… [and] the broadening of historical knowledge among the general public; and the pursuit of kindred activities in the interest of history”;
Taking into account the AHA’s statement approved on January 07, 2007 in which the AHA declares it “should stand ready if political or commercial concerns threaten the professional administration of an archive, historical society or other institution that has custody of sources”;
Recognizing that historical records concerning the expulsion of the Palestinian population from what is now Israel and the territories occupied in 1967 is predominately preserved as oral history at the Islamic University in Gaza;
Acknowledging that the Israeli Defense Forces admitted on August 2, 2014, to attacking the Islamic University in Gaza, where the Oral History Center is housed;
Cognizant of the Oral History Association’s (OHA) resolution condemning the actions of the State of Israel and implementing measures which express the OHA’s condemnation of threats to Palestinian historical records;
Be it hereby resolved that the AHA condemns the threats of the State of Israel against Palestinian researchers and the preservation of their archival collections at the Oral History Center; and Calls on members of the AHA to:
1) End collaboration with Israeli academic institutions by refusing to teach at, attend conferences, speak at, or attend other events hosted by Israeli academic institutions;
2) Abstain from publishing work in academic journals based in Israel;
3) Refuse to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions or persons acting as representatives of such institutions;
and Establishes that the AHA will maintain its boycott of Israeli institutions until such time as Israel:
1) Withdraws from the territories occupied in 1967 and dismantles the settlements and the walls;
2) Recognizes the fundamental rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and grants them full equality and political inclusion;
3) Recognizes the Palestinian right of return in accordance with established principles of international law, including those under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
To sign the petition, follow this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/embeddedform?formkey=dG5fTWpSN1dKVHhkaC11SDlSeW9aTnc6MA
The deadline for collecting signatures is October 31, 2014.