Academic journal article The Geographical Review

No Space for Apartheid: Toward an Academic Boycott of Israel among Geographers

Academic journal article The Geographical Review

No Space for Apartheid: Toward an Academic Boycott of Israel among Geographers

Article excerpt

I resent having to write this essay. I resent that there are still some geographers (more than a few, in fact) who refuse to listen to the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. I resent that there is still a debate about whether we should engage in and advocate for BDS. The only BDS debates we should be having are how best to use these tactics and how best to connect this movement with other liberation struggles around the world.

But, alas, although things are beginning to change, there is still too much silence among geographers and geographical institutions on the matter of the academic boycott. I am therefore writing this essay to reiterate an eleven-year-old call for an academic boycott of Israel and thus, to hopefully shed light on some of the reasons I believe my fellow geographers should join the boycott.

THE PALESTINIAN CALL FOR BDS

Israel ethnically cleansed about 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 (Pappe, 2006). Israel has occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza since 1967. (1) In addition to periodic military assaults on the people and infrastructure of this territory, Israeli occupation forces also exercise total control over the movement of Palestinians between Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, and to a large extent, within these territories as well. The Israeli state continues to remove Palestinians from Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza (Strickland 2013; Al-Sahli 2014; B'Tselem 2014; B'Tselem 2015). An Israeli- and Egyptian-imposed blockade prevents Palestinians from leaving Gaza, and thousands of Palestinian lives have been lost during three Israeli wars over the past six years. And despite UN Resolution 194, which grants Palestinians the right of return, Israel has allowed virtually no refugees to return to their homeland. Moreover, there are more than fifty Israeli laws that discriminate against Palestinians within Israel based on their ethnicity (Adalah 2015).

Against this backdrop of inequality, bloodshed, and institutionalized racism, Palestinian civil society has called upon the international community to engage in boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in order to put political and economic pressure on Israel until Palestinians have their full slate of human rights.

Israeli universities have been deeply embedded in the Israeli state's efforts to attack, invade, ethnically cleanse, and occupy Palestine (Keller 2009; Dawson and Mullen 2015). And as Lisa Taraki writes, "[generally, there have never been any protests by professional and academic associations of physicists, physicians, geographers, mathematicians, political scientists, architects, and others in Israel regarding the moral and professional implications of collaboration with the [Israeli] army" (2015, 27).

Palestinian academics and intellectuals have therefore called upon the international community to boycott Israeli academic institutions as a key part of the broader BDS movement. As the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) stated in 2024,

PACBI urges academics, academic associations/unions, and academic--as well as other--institutions around the world, where possible and as relevant, to boycott and/or work towards the cancellation or annulment of events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israeli academic institutions or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global academy, whitewash Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian rights, or violate the BDS guidelines. (PACBI 2014)

Importantly, the call is to boycott Israeli academic institutions, not individuals. As many liberal opponents of the academic boycott often point out, there are, in fact, several Israeli academics who do important, fantastic work in solidarity with Palestine. They should not be the targets or victims of an academic boycott--and they are not. PACBI is clear: the boycott should be levied against Israeli academic institutions, not individuals. …

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