See below for a letter sent by Academics for Palestine to Chaplains in Trinity College Dublin regarding the upcoming “staff peace pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine” which is an exercise in ‘normalisation’, that aims to create a false equivalency between the occupier and occupied, whitewashing the Israeli occupation and depicting it as a ‘conflict’ between two warring nations.
TO: Peter Sexton, S. J.
Alan O’Sullivan OP
Rev. Julian Hamilton
Academics for Palestine is a group of academics working in Irish institutes of higher education north and south committed to supporting Palestinian universities, academics and students and to upholding the academic boycott of Israel, as requested by Palestinian civil society organizations. It has come to our knowledge that you plan to organize a staff peace pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine and we would like to ask you to reconsider your plans for the reasons elaborated below:
- The position of Palestinian Christians : Kairos, a group of Christian Palestinians who monitor the suffering of Palestine’s 50,000 Christians in the occupied Palestinian territory (3,000 in Gaza) under the Israeli occupation. Kairos describes the conditions of Christians in Palestine derived from living with the Israeli-built ‘separation wall’ that has turned Palestinian towns and villages into prisons, and with the siege of Gaza that keeps its population in dire need and separate from other Palestinians. The Palestinian reality, according to Kairos, means that Israeli settlers ravage Palestinian land in the name of God and in the name of force, controlling natural resources, including water and agricultural land, depriving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians of their livelihood. It also means daily humiliation caused by military checkpoints and the bureaucracy of the occupation, the deprivation of religious freedom and the prevention of access to holy places for both Christian and Muslim Palestinians, including barring clergy from entering Jerusalem.
- The fallacy of the ‘peace process’, which does not ensure justice for Palestinian people under Israel’s occupation. The absence of any vision or spark of hope for peace and freedom pushes many young Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, to emigrate
- Palestinian civil society objection to all projects of normalization which whitewash the Israeli occupation and depict it as a ‘conflict’ between two warring nations. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) defines normalization “as the participation in any project, initiative or activity, in Palestine or internationally, that aims to bring together Palestinians (and/or Arabs) and Israelis (people or institutions) without placing as its goal resistance to and exposure of the Israeli occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression against the Palestinian people.” This is the definition endorsed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee (BNC)
- And finally, the collaboration by Israeli academic institutions with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and with Israel’s armament and security industries and the collaboration of Irish academic institutions in Israel’s arms trade and thus its war and occupation, as detailed in Academics for Palestine’s brochure.
We would ask you to reconsider your plans for a ‘peace pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine’ and to uphold the academic boycott of Israel and support Palestinian Christians in their struggle against the Israeli occupation. Instead we would like to suggest you contact Kairos who is running projects of responsible tourism to the Holy Land. We look forward to hearing from you.
Academics for Palestine
This weekend Queen’s University Belfast is holding a joint event with the Faculty of Law in Haifa University, an institution that, according to its website, has “a unique partnership with the Israel Defence Forces whereby the IDF’s future leadership and the decision-makers of tomorrow study in our prestigious Havatzalot project for select members of the Intelligence Corps, in our Naval Officers course, and in the University’s National Security Studies Centre. We are training senior IDF officers in modern social science and strategic thinking.”
Academics for Palestine (AFP) maintain that the event, entitled ‘The role of law schools in conducting research in divided societies’ serves the Israeli narrative that ‘both sides’ are to blame for the colonisation and occupation of Palestine, creating an illusion of parity while obscuring the realty for the Palestinians living under occupation and governed by Israel’s military laws in what is one of the longest-running occupations in the world.
Below is the letter we sent to the Head of the School of Law, Dr. Robin Hickey, protesting the collaboration.
TO: Dr Robin Hickey, Head of School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast.
Cc: Vice Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston; Professor Christopher McCrudden; Professor Sally Wheeler; Professor Hastings Donnan
11 November 2016
Dear Dr. Hickey
Academics for Palestine is a group of academics and educators working in Irish institutions of higher education, north and south, committed to positively supporting Palestinian universities, academics and students who are enduring the systematic destruction of their educational endeavours under Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and on-going colonization of Palestinian lands in contravention of international law.
We are writing to protest the event hosted by you this weekend and the proposed partnership between the School of Law, QUB and that of Haifa University. We draw your attention to the international call for the academic boycott of Israel as a legal and non-violent means of ending Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid against the Palestinian people, a regime in which Haifa University plays a key, well-documented role.
Through this weekend’s event ‘The role of law schools in conducting research in divided societies’ you are giving a platform to academics who represent the views of the occupier and colonizer (where are the Palestinian voice and experience in this event?). The title alone is biased: the concept of ‘divided societies’ is fallacious in relation to Israel, a settler colonial state built on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population and maintained through apartheid laws. As a legal scholar you surely are aware of this and of the international law implications. In hosting this event you are complicit in facilitating propaganda that serves to promote Israel’s narrative of a ‘divided society’ where resistance to the regime is equated with terrorism. Your event obscures the realty for the Palestinians living under occupation and governed by Israel’s military laws in what is currently the longest occupation in the world. The International Committee of the Red Cross’s report The Judicial Arm of the Occupation: Israeli Military Courts in the Occupied Territories finds the Israeli military legal system invades civilian domains and states that ‘This domination by the army seems to be even more dangerous because it appears to be under the guise of the rule of law.”
While all Israeli Universities are involved in the military activities of the state – from developing weapons to devising techniques of ‘advanced interrogation’ i.e. torture, Haifa University stands out in a number of ways detailed below. Indeed, its Rector proudly describes it as an “academic home for the security forces”:
Military Intelligence and Security
On its website Haifa University boasts ‘We have a unique partnership with the Israel Defence Forces whereby the IDF’s future leadership and the decision-makers of tomorrow study in our prestigious Havatzalot project for select members of the Intelligence Corps, in our Naval Officers course, and in the University’s National Security Studies Centre. We are training senior IDF officers in modern social science and strategic thinking.’
Through the Havatzalot Programme of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Haifa University participates in the education of an elite group of Military Intelligence Officers. In 2014 the tactics used by intelligence services in the Palestinian Territories were exposed by whistle-blowers: ‘The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed.’ Appointee of Prime Minister Netanyahu, head of the infamous Shin Bet, Israel National Security Agency, Nadav Argaman, received his education at the National Security College of Haifa University. The Shin Bet is implicated in numerous abuses of human rights and international law including torture, and its work underpins Israel’s system of Administrative Detention criticized by the UN. In April 2016 Israel was holding 13 children under administrative detention. Approximately 700 Palestinian children from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army.
Demography and Occupation
Haifa University is directly involved in determining Israel’s policies of occupation, and holds conferences and projects on the ‘demographic problem’ posed by its Palestinian citizens. One of Israel’s leading demographers, Haifa University professor of Geo-strategy Arnon Soffer, who conceived the separation (Apartheid) wall, was the head of the IDF College for National Security, taught at the Police Training College for many years, and has supported upholding Israel’s ‘demographic balance’ to ensure a Jewish majority through policies of ethnic cleansing, population transfer and the prevention of Palestinian refugee return. Though retired, Soffer continues to teach security officials at Haifa University, including students from the National Defence College, Tactical Command College, the Havatzalot Programme of the Intelligence Corps, and the Trainee Course of the Israel police.
In 2004 Soffer said about Gaza: ‘When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful… So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day’.
Another Haifa University academic, Prof David Bukay, investigated by the Attorney-General for racial incitement, was defended by the University’s rector for publications that promote theories about ‘the Arab character’.
Discrimination against Palestinians within the University
Haifa University privileges student-soldiers and gives extra credits, grants and additional exam dates to serving reservists, thereby discriminating against its Palestinian students who do not serve in the military. In contrast, Haifa University boasts the highest rate of ‘Arab’ students in Israeli Universities – 14.4% at BA level – well below the percentage of Palestinian citizens in Israel (20.7%). The low rate of participation cannot be explained by a lack of Palestinian commitment to education: in the occupied territory 25.8% of the population between 18-24 are enrolled in higher education – one of the highest in the Middle East.
Academics for Palestine supports the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which has denounced the complicity of Israel’s academic institutions not only in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza, but also in justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and in providing moral justification for occupation and siege as well as extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians. 217 Irish academics have signed the pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions in response to the request by Palestinian civil society organizations. We enclose our information booklet for further information and consideration.
We strongly urge you to not to participate in any partnership with Haifa University and to respect the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel.
Academics for Palestine
Re: Minister of State John Halligan’s visit to Palestine-Israel and meeting with the Israeli Minister of Education Naftai Bennett
Dear Minister Halligan,
We write with regard to your trip to Palestine-Israel and, in particular, the disturbing report of your appointment to meet Israel’s Minister for Education Naftali Bennet. We call on you as a representative of the Irish people to honour our government’s commitment to human rights and international law by refraining from any co-operation or joint projects with Israel’s Ministry of Education for reasons we expound below.
As a group of academics and educators working in Irish institutions of higher education, north and south, we are committed to positively supporting Palestinian universities, staff and students who are enduring the systematic destruction of their educational endeavours under Israel’s regime of apartheid, occupation and on-going colonisation of Palestinian lands in contravention of international law.
Israel’s educational institutes play a key role in its crimes, in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.”
- Israeli higher education institutions collaborate with the occupation
Israel’s security forces are heavily dependent on innovatory technological developments that facilitate the occupation. Academic institutions including the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University, the Herzlia Interdisciplinary Centre, the Holon Institute and the Weizmann Institute conduct research and assist in manufacturing armaments and security equipment including drones, remote controlled D9 Bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, unmanned combat vehicles, electro-optics and robotic devises, all of which facilitate – through innovation and technology – the operation of the occupation and the exportation of armaments to the extent of $7 bn per annum (http://www.alternativenews.org/).
- Israeli universities support soldiers and discriminate against Palestinian academics and students
All Israeli universities support student-soldiers and give extra credits, grants and additional exam dates to serving reservists, and have special education programmes for serving soldiers, officers and veterans. Israeli academic institutions discriminate against Palestinians citizens who make 20.7% of the Israeli population: in 2011-12 only 1.4% of senior faculty in Israel’s academic institutions were Palestinians; Palestinian students make up 9.4% of BA students, 8% of MA students and 4% of PhD students. Israeli academic institutions have appointed several high-ranking former IDF and Security Agency (Shin Bet) officers to academic positions despite the conflict of interest (http://www.sikkuy.org.il/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/nohad_ali_hebrew1.pdf).
- Israel jeopardizes Palestinian education
According to National Students for Justice in Palestine (http://www.nationalsjp.org/education-under-occupation.html), Palestinian Universities have endured an acute degree of suffering under the Israeli occupation. The repression of academic life in the occupied Palestinian territories is part of a concentrated and systematic political effort of the Israeli government to attack the means of development of Palestinian society. Palestinian universities and schools are regularly closed by the Israeli military and students and academics have huge difficulties to reach their classes due to the separation wall and the many checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank. During the last Israeli attack of Gaza in 2014, the Islamic University was bombed as were many schools.
- Israel regularly detains Palestinian children
According to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem: ‘By the end of September 2016 414 Palestinian minors were held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including 13 administrative detainees. Another 7 Palestinian minors were held in Israel Prison Service facilities for being in Israel illegally. The IPS considers these minors – both detainees and prisoners – criminal offenders’ (www.btselem.org/statistics/minors_in_custody).
Academics for Palestine supports the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel (PACBI) which has denounced the complicity of Israel’s academic institutions not only in developing weapon systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza, but also in justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians, and in providing moral justification for occupation and siege as well as extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians (http://www.pacbi.org/). 217 Irish academics have signed the pledge to boycott Israeli academic institutions (https://academicsforpalestine.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-irish-academics-pledge-to-boycott-israel/) in response to the request by Palestinian civil society organizations.
Academics for Palestine believe that a meeting between the Irish Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation and the Israeli Minister for Education who heads an extreme right wing party and has expressed disturbing extremist and racist views, including statements against any possibility of a Palestinian state or a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, is at best ill advised. Treating Israel as a ‘normal’ state with whom Ireland can cooperate on innovation and education is anathema to our country’s avowed commitment to human rights and justice.
Enclosed is a pamphlet produced by Academics for Palestine for your further information and consideration.
Dr. Ronit Lentin
On Behalf of Academics for Palestine
On September 8th last, Academics for Palestine and our colleagues in the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign were honoured to host the amazing Palestinian academic, author and activist Ghada Karmi in Dublin. Taking time out of a conference in Trinity College Dublin, Ghada launched her latest book ‘Return: A Palestinian Memoir’ in Wynn’s Hotel to a large and rapt audience. Gahda was in conversation with well-known academic and journalist Harry Browne, who is also a member of AFP, and took questions from the audience.
Below we are pleased to link to an essay from Dr. Anaheed Al-Hardan, author of the new book Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities, taken from the Columbia University Press website. Dr. Al-Hardan launched her book at an event sponsored by Academics for Palestine in association with the Department of Sociology in Trinity College Dublin on Thursday 20th October 2016.
LISTEN: While she was in Ireland, Dr. Al-Hardan was also interviewed on Dublin South FM. You can listen to the full interview by clicking here (audio courtesy of DSFM).
The Catastrophes of Today and the Catastrophe of 1948 in Syria
Yarmouk Camp in Damascus is today unrecognizable even to those who knew the camp’s every alleyway and corner. The rubble, the ruins of bombed buildings, tired and hungry people, and haunted alleyways and streets are the painful remains of a shattered community. Yarmouk is not the only Palestinian locality in Syria, of course, but it was in many ways the Palestinians’ social, cultural, political, and even symbolic heart. It has therefore become emblematic of the catastrophe of the Palestinians in Syria whose communities may neither survive nor heal.
- Read the full essay on the Columbia University Press website here.
The launch of ‘Palestinians in Syria: Nakba Memories of Shattered Communities’ by acclaimed Palestinian sociologist Anaheed Al-Hardan.
Thursday, October 20th, 7pm, Ui Chadhain Theatre, Arts Block, Trinity College Dublin
Hosted by Academics for Palestine, in association with the Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin
One hundred thousand Palestinians fled to Syria after being expelled from Palestine upon the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Integrating into Syrian society over time, their experience stands in stark contrast to the plight of Palestinian refugees in other Arab countries, leading to different ways through which to understand the 1948 Nakba, or catastrophe, in their popular memory.
Conducting interviews with first-, second-, and third-generation members of Syria’s Palestinian community, Anaheed Al-Hardan follows the evolution of the Nakba—the central signifier of the Palestinian refugee past and present—in Arab intellectual discourses, Syria’s Palestinian politics, and the community’s memorialization. Al-Hardan’s sophisticated research sheds light on the enduring relevance of the Nakba among the communities it helped create, while challenging the nationalist and patriotic idea that memories of the Nakba are static and universally shared among Palestinians. Her study also critically tracks the Nakba’s changing meaning in light of Syria’s twenty-first-century civil war.
Anaheed Al-Hardan is an assistant professor of sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies at the American University of Beirut. She serves on the advisory board of the Palestinian Oral History Archive at AUB and is a policy member of al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network. Her book Palestinians in Syria has been shortlisted for the 2016 Middle East Monitor Palestine Book Awards. Her new research examines Arab decolonial theory within the context of south-south philosophies of liberation and decolonization