Monday, June 4, 2007
By Steven Rose
(The writer is secretary of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine)
"......Entirely suppressed in this harrumphing has been any thought about why Palestinian university teachers and their union, as well as all the NGOs in the Occupied Territories, have called for a boycott. Academic freedom, it appears, applies to Israelis but not Palestinians, whose universities have been arbitrarily closed, Bir Zeit for a full four years. Students and teachers have been killed or imprisoned. Attendance at university is made hazardous or impossible by the everyday imposition of checkpoints. Research is blocked by Israeli refusal to allow books or equipment to be imported.
Even within Israel itself, some universities sit on illegally expropriated land, Arab student unions are not recognised and there are increasing covert restrictions on Arab-Israelis (20 per cent of the population) entering university at all. No Israeli academic trade union or professional association has expressed solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues a few kilometres away across the wall, though the boycott call may finally encourage them to do so.
When challenged, Israelis cite examples of collaboration with Palestinians: bridges, not borders. Fine, but because Palestinian academics from Gaza or the West bank are not permitted to enter pre-1967 Israel, how real can such collaborations be? If academic freedom means anything, it must be indivisible. And what are Palestinians to make of the uncensured insistence by senior Israeli academics that their family size constitutes a demographic threat to the Jewish state?......"