As part of the widespread protests against the Israeli government’s plans to reform the judicial system and move Israel’s regime further towards a right-wing dictatorial system, and in specific response to the dismissal of the Minister for Defence by Prime Minister Netanyahu, the heads of Israel’s universities and research institutions decided to suspend classes indefinitely. The decision, according to Prof Daniel Haimovich of Ben Gurion University, was made because ‘we have only one nation, one state and one common future’. This demonstrates that the ‘democracy protests’ are about preserving the status quo of a Jewish state which purports to be a democratic state, but which in fact both discriminates against and excludes Palestinians – generally with the approval of the Supreme Court and the judicial system.
This response by Israel’s academic institutions joins mass protests by senior army officers, high tech industry workers, economists, academics, artists and many other middle class Israelis, and is likely to be followed by a general strike declared by the country’s largest trade union. However, the democracy these protesters are fighting for in impressive rallies throughout Israel, is in fact democracy for Jews only. Even if they were to be successful on their own terms, these demonstrations would not disrupt Israel’s apartheid regime or the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinians – a situation that the majority of the Israeli Jewish protesters remain blind to or actively supportive of. While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has now announced a temporary ‘pause’ in the judicial reforms, this has been accompanied by the formation of a new ‘national guard’ under the command of the far-right Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and settler violence and Israeli military incursions in the West Bank continue apace.
Academics for Palestine is aware of the role Israel’s institutions of higher education have played in colonising and occupying Palestine since the establishment of the state. In recent years academics working in Israeli universities and research institutes partook in developing the ‘battle proven’ weapons and security systems which Israel exports worldwide, and have provided special third level courses for military and security industries personnel on Israeli campuses. Only last week Tel Aviv University blocked Palestinian students from having an Arab book fair while at the same time holding a ‘democracy week’ in which very few Palestinian speakers were invited to speak.
Academics for Palestine continues to call for a boycott of Israeli universities and reiterates its full support for Palestinian academics and students living under Israel’s occupation and siege in the West Bank and in Gaza, and for Palestinian citizens of Israel.