On February 20th 2014, 138 Irish academics (now 221) signed a pledge, organised by Academics for Palestine, to support an Academic Boycott of Israel until Palestinian rights are respected. The pledge reads as follows:
“In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for an institutional academic boycott of Israel, we pledge not to engage in any professional association with Israeli academic, research and state institutions and with those representing these institutions, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
The signatories come from a wide range of disciplines and include many well-known names, such as Seamus Deane, Ailbhe Smyth, Luke Gibbons, Ronit Lentin, Joe Cleary, Kieran Allen, Kathleen Lynch, Tadhg Foley, Terrence McDonough and Helena Sheehan. At least one of the signatories has previously withdrawn from an EU-funded project because of Israeli involvement.
Note: If you are an academic based in Ireland and would like to sign the pledge, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian doctor of medicine, scholar and lecturer at the University of Exeter, emphasised that the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) does not target Israeli individuals but institutions. Far from being a threat to academic freedom, she says BDS affirms its importance for Palestinians: “Israel’s well-documented repression of Palestinian academic life and victimisation of Palestinian teachers and students is a scandal to be denounced by all those who claim to care about academic freedom”.
Dr Conor McCarthy, lecturer in English in NUI Maynooth and a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, welcomed the initiative, saying that “the recent endorsement of the boycott campaign by the 5,000-member American Studies Association in the US, along with positive moves by the Modern Language Association and the controversy over Scarlett Johansson, showed that BDS is now very much part of a mainstream international debate”.
In April 2013, the Teachers Union of Ireland, which represents lecturers at institutes of technology across the State, became one of the first academic unions in the world to endorse the boycott.
According to Prof. Haim Bresheeth, an Israeli film-maker and scholar, “the US, EU and other states have protected Israel and financed its occupation ever since 1967, making it impossible to resolve the conflict through the UN or international diplomatic channels. It puts a special responsibility on international civil society, and BDS is its main tool to resolve the conflict in a just and peaceful way.”