Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Israel needs sanctions, not appeasement, says boycott group"

"Israel needs sanctions, not appeasement, says boycott group"

22-07-2008 London, (BRICUP):

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The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), the main organisation in the UK promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel, condemned the academic initiative announced by Gordon Brown in yesterday’s Knesset speech as “abject hypocrisy”.

BRICUP called on British academics to refuse the “blood money” promised for Israeli-British collaboration through the Britain-Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) which Brown announced will provide grants for joint scientific research and exchanges between Israel and Britain.

BRICUP notes that Brown had nothing to say about the systematic sabotage of Palestinian centres of learning and research by the Israeli separation wall, by military incursions and checkpoints, and by the detention of tutors and students. Mr. Brown spoke of peace and collaborative endeavour; he turned his eyes away from the cultural and educational deprivation, imposed as a matter of policy, on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and from the Palestinians discriminated against in education and research inside Israel itself. This Brown-Olmert initiative attempts to draw a veil over that reality. It is shameful that the representatives of a British Government should take such a selective view of historical oppressions.

“It is abject hypocrisy for Brown to praise Israeli achievements in the face of ‘war, terror, violence, threats, intimidation and insecurity’” said Sue Blackwell, a BRICUP activist at Birmingham University. “Why did he have nothing to say about Palestinian achievements in the face of decades of ethnic cleansing, illegal occupation, political detentions and assassinations of civilians, an illegal apartheid wall through the West Bank and the siege of Gaza? He has completely swallowed the Zionist narrative in his grovelings to Olmert: a case of one failing Prime Minister trying to prop up another.”

“The University and College Union has not even voted for a boycott" said Tom Hickey, a lecturer at the University of Brighton, UK, and mover of the recent motion on links with Israeli institutions at the UCU Congress. “We have merely suggested that members reflect on their moral consciences, and ask themselves whether they can, with equanimity, continue links with Israeli institutions that are complicit in the attempted extirpation of the Palestinian people, and the colonisation of the West Bank. But clearly we have hit a raw nerve, to judge from the hysteria in both governments. BRICUP sees this as a mark of its achievement. We have drawn national and international attention to this barbarism, and we are receiving an increasingly sympathetic response from our Israeli colleagues.”

BRICUP is less than impressed by Brown’s frequent references in his speech to his Christian background, as the son of a Minister of the Church who had learned Hebrew. “He had the chutzpah to quote the prophet Amos, who never failed to speak truth to power about social injustice” said Professor Jonathan Rosenhead. “Brown has never managed to speak truth to power about anything, unlike Archbishop Desmond Tutu who has called Israel’s siege of Gaza an ‘abomination’.”

In his speech, Brown drew attention to Israeli achievements in medicine, academia, the arts, sport, music, science and technology. BRICUP is currently campaigning for boycotts of Israel in each of these spheres. It does so because of the complicity of Israeli universities and colleges, and of its medical and cultural establishment, in the barbaric occupation of the Occupied Territories. The Israeli Medical Association is in the dock for failing to investigate the participation by some of its members in the torture of Palestinian detainees. Appearances by the Israeli football team have been picketed because Israel has repeatedly prevented the Palestinian team from travelling inside the area or overseas, and has destroyed Palestinian football pitches. Musicians, artists and writers intending to appear in Israel are being urged to treat Tel Aviv like Sun City in the days of South African apartheid.

The partnership initiative announced yesterday is clearly a response to the decision of the University and College Union (UCU) in the UK, and other teaching and scholarly organisations internationally, to reflect on the appropriateness of continued contact with Israeli institutions in these circumstances. This was made clear by the comment by Bill Rammell, a British education Minister. It is remarkable that an invitation to ethical reflection by a small but influential educational trade union should provoke such an exorbitant reaction. BRICUP takes the UK and Israeli governments' reaction as testimony both to the sensitivity of the question and to the effectiveness of the debate about boycott and sanctions.

BRICUP urges British and Israeli academics of conscience not to participate in the academic collaborations touted by the Prime Minister. “Much of the finance for these partnerships is clearly coming from parts of the private and voluntary sectors that are allied to Israel, irrespective of its actions or policies as a state” said Mike Cushman of the London School of Economics, and a member of BRICUP. “But whatever the source, we are urging our colleagues not to touch any of this funding with a bargepole: it is blood money and they should recognise it as such.”

"As a Palestinian and an academic, I am horrified at Gordon Brown's insouciance in the face of ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian academic freedom, in the Occupied Territories and in Israel itself" said Dr Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian doctor and BRICUP member from Exeter University. "He is either ignorant of or indifferent to the facts. Israel needs sanctions, not appeasement."