Academic Boycott of Israel

BDS: Hebrew U conference dealt two blows

  Written by Campaign to Boycott the Oral History Conference at Hebrew University of Jerusalem
 Hebrew University as seen from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan/Photo: WikimediaHebrew University as seen from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan/Photo: Wikimedia

We are pleased to announce that the planned June 2014 “International Oral History Conference” being organized by Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been rendered a double blow with the withdrawal of their two international keynote speakers: Alessandro Portelli (Italy) and Mary Marshall Clark (USA).  The university’s claim to be hosting the “first international oral history conference” was unfounded when they made it; it is even less true now.

We welcome the principled stand that Portelli and Clark have now taken, thereby denying Hebrew University the opportunity to use their names to cover up its deep complicity in violations of international law and human rights.

We continue to call on other international oral history practitioners and scholars from all disciplines to refuse to participate in a conference at an institution that is complicit in Israel’s flagrant and persistent infringement of Palestinian human and political rights.

The initial campaign launched four months ago by Palestinian, Israeli, North American and British oral historians — among other academics — has now been endorsed by almost 400 academics – one-third of whom are oral historians – from 27 countries in Europe, South Africa, Asia and Oceana, as well as North and South America.[1] We thank all those international scholars and professionals who, by adding their names to the public letter/boycott call, are endorsing the 2004 Call of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). This calls not only for the boycott of academic and cultural institutions involved in Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid but also to “refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions.

While all Israeli universities are deeply involved in Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is particularly noteworthy.[2]

The land on which some of its Mount Scopus campus buildings and facilities were expanded was acquired as a result of Israel’s 1968 illegal confiscation of 3345 dunums of Palestinian land, land which is deemed occupied territory under international law.

It maintains close ties to the Israeli military industry, which is accused of war crimes against Palestinian civilians; provides special privileges to Israeli soldiers and security personnel; and collaborates with the Israeli army in training officers and recruits.[3]

It discriminates against Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel bynot providing  teaching services to the residents of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in contrast to those provided to Jewish groups; and not offering any courses in Arabic.

It denies freedom of speech and protest to its few Palestinian students as evidenced by the prohibition of a commemoration event during the 2008-2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip during which approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed; at the same time, offering special consideration and benefits to students who participated in that invasion

The staff from the Hebrew University take part in the supervision and promotion committees of students and staff at Ariel University, which was established on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank

It does not recognize degrees awarded by the Palestinian Al-Quds University in Jerusalem while those awarded by the Ariel University in an illegal colony are recognized.

The call to boycott the “international” oral history conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is part of the growing international tide to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. From Capetown to Catalunya, Sydney to San Paolo and London to Lahore, faculty and students are challenging their institutions to honor the Palestinian call for a non-violent response to Israeli apartheid and colonialism.  Even in the US, as Alex Lubin has noted, what Edward Said dubbed “America’s last taboo” was broken, as senior scholars and youthful students vigorously debated an academic boycott resolution at the American Studies Association conference – the outcome of which is still being determined.[4]

We call on oral historians and related professionals and activists around the world to follow now in the footsteps of Alesssandro Portelli and Mary Marshall Clark by refusing to be a party to sanitizing the reputation of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and to covering up its close association with Israeli occupation and settler-colonialism.

To sign on to the public letter/boycott call, email:

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