[this piece was written in the context of the 2014-2016 campaign]
Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is a group of concerned scholars, part of the growing global movement calling for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel. The boycott movement seeks to end Israel’s widespread, systematic, and longstanding violations of the rights of the Palestinian people whether in exile, under occupation, or consigned to secondclass citizenship. The academic boycott is particularly concerned with Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ right to education and academic freedom, as well as with the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in these systemic injustices.
We are campaigning for the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to endorse and adopt the academic boycott. This boycott would require the AAA as an organization not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions. The boycott would not prevent individual Israeli scholars from participating in AAA activities, nor would it impose any requirements or restrictions on AAA members’ individual relations with Israeli scholars or institutions.
Over 1,100 anthropologists have already pledged to boycott Israeli academic institutions in their individual capacities. For individual scholars, the boycott covers collaboration on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions; teaching or attending conferences and other events at such institutions; and publishing in academic journals based in Israel. Through their actions, individual anthropologists can show the AAA that the academic boycott is not only a matter of ethical and political urgency, but is also feasible and indeed already occurring in practice, albeit without the visibility and impact that an organizational boycott would entail.
This document provides advice to help anthropologists implement the boycott in their individual capacities. It includes general principles and suggestions for dealing with specific questions and draws on July 2014 guidelines issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). The advice contained here is only for individuals who choose to respect the boycott; any future boycott adopted by the AAA as an organization would not govern members’ conduct and would therefore not incorporate this material.
This document does not cover every eventuality. Instead, it aims to provide a useful framework to help scholars make informed, practical decisions for themselves in implementing the boycott. In this light, we are inspired by the AAA’s Principles of Professional Responsibility, which “address general circumstances, priorities and relationships, and also provide helpful specific examples, that should be considered in anthropological work and ethical decisionmaking. The individual anthropologist must be willing to make carefully considered ethical choices and be prepared to make clear the assumptions, facts and considerations on which those choices are based.”
The academic boycott is an act of protest against the systematic dispossession, occupation, and discrimination experienced by the Palestinian people at the hands of the state of Israel, including and especially violations of the rights to education and of academic freedom. For scholars with ties to the United States, the boycott is also an important way to oppose Washington’s unconditional military, financial, and political support for Israel. Finally, the boycott is an expression of solidarity with our Palestinian colleagues, who have called upon us to help secure their basic academic and educational rights.
Israel enjoys close relationships with the United States and many countries in Europe, including academic ties. As scholars, we are in a position to disrupt those relationships as a means of signaling to the Israeli and the US governments that their actions are not legitimate and that we refuse to carry on “business as usual” under these circumstances.
At the same time, the boycott is designed to allow flexibility and to enable coresistance activities that support colleagues located in Israeli institutions who work strenuously to oppose the state’s actions. In all cases, we hope scholars are able to make informed judgments about how best to balance the goal of denying legitimacy to Israeli institutions against the need for individual flexibility.
In facing any situation not covered by this document, it is best to keep in mind the overall goal of protesting Israel’s illegal actions and pressuring Israeli institutions, while maintaining some flexibility to support allies on the ground. We encourage scholars to treat the following as a guide and supplement to the PACBI guidelines and AAA Principles of Professional Responsibility as they apply the boycott in their own professional lives.
Who Can Participate in the Boycott?
Any scholar can join the academic boycott, although this document is written with anthropologists in mind.
This boycott does not call for Israeli citizens or Palestinians living under Israeli rule to participate.
To Whom Does the Boycott Apply?
The boycott applies to the Israeli state and to Israeli academic institutions such as universities, colleges, research institutes, scholarly associations, think tanks, publications, and publishing
houses, unless they have (1) recognized the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people under international law and (2) moved to end any complicity with the violation of these rights.
In cases of doubt as to whether an institution is covered by the boycott, scholars should use their best judgment as to how best to further the goals of the boycott as outlined by Palestinian civil society. They may also consult with PACBI for further advice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals may also wish to extend the boycott to nonIsraeli institutions and events that are explicitly committed to supporting the state of Israel and its policies.
To Whom Does the Boycott Not Apply?
The boycott does not apply to Israeli scholars acting in their individual capacity. Mere affiliation of an Israeli scholar to an Israeli academic institution is not grounds for boycotting them. Similarly, the fact that an Israeli academic receives funds from his or her government or institution in support of academic activities, such as attendance at international conferences, is not itself grounds for boycotting them.
Collaboration with individual Israeli scholars on projects receiving funding from the state of Israel or Israeli academic institutions is generally covered by the boycott. Such collaborations, however, are not covered by the boycott if the official funding goes only to the Israeli participants and if the project does not legitimize Israeli institutions by publicly acknowledging or thanking them for the support.
Public Declaration of Boycott Actions
The boycott is an act of protest. Accordingly, we suggest that any refusal to participate in an activity due to the boycott be declared publicly if possible, along with the reasons for declining. “Silently” boycotting by citing reasons unrelated to the boycott or giving no reasons at all is far less effective in contributing to the goal of putting public pressure on Israeli academic institutions. Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions is happy to host such declaration on its website, which can be sent to email@example.com.
There are some circumstances where scholars may not be able to make such public declarations. People who are at risk of retribution if they publicly declare their support for the boycott should carefully assess their situation, especially if they fear being denied entry into Palestine/Israel and need to travel there for work, family, or other reasons. Likewise, students and those in precarious employment situations may also wish to carefully weigh the consequences of public declarations.
Scope of the Boycott
Academic events sponsored by Israel or Israeli academic institutions including conferences, symposia, workshops, and book and museum exhibits should be boycotted, whether taking place inside Israel/Palestine or abroad.
Scholars invited to participate in boycottable events should consider instead speaking at any nearby alternative venues as a means to draw attention to the boycott and to further collaboration with allies who are actively working to end Israel’s injustices. For more information on determining whether an alternative venue is compatible with the boycott, see “To Whom Does the Boycott Apply?” above.
Academic appointments and other affiliations with Israeli institutions are covered by the boycott and should therefore be declined. This includes research and teaching appointments at universities and colleges, enrollment in educational programs (whether degreegranting or not), and membership in Israeli scholarly associations.
Honors, Prizes, and Awards
Honors, prizes, and awards conferred by Israel and Israeli academic institutions should be declined.
Publishing with Israeli academic journals, presses, or other publications is covered by the boycott, as are publications issued under the aegis of the state of Israel or Israeli academic institutions. The boycott also precludes serving on the editorial board or staff of such publications, or participating as an external reviewer or commenter.
The boycott does not prevent Israeli authors from publishing in nonIsraeli publications.
The boycott covers the receipt of funding from the state of Israel and Israeli academic institutions. In addition, academic projects, events, and activities that receive funding from Israel or Israeli academic institutions should be boycotted. For collaborations with individual Israeli scholars who receive state or institutional funding, see “To Whom Does the Boycott Not Apply?” above.
Academic service work for Israeli institutions is generally covered by the boycott. Accordingly, scholars who are asked to sit on PhD committees, or act as external examiners or reviewers for dissertations, theses, or departments should consider the BDS guidelines and weigh their recommendations before agreeing to such requests.
Writing letters for admission, hiring, promotion, or tenure that are addressed to Israeli institutions should also be weighed in light of of the BDS guidelines. Individual scholars who wish to write such letters for students or colleagues are advised not to address those letters to Israeli institutions (so as not to legitimize them) and instead to use a dossier service such as Interfolio.
Informal mentoring or advising of scholars at Israeli institutions is not covered by the boycott, nor is writing reference letters for jobs or fellowships at nonIsraeli institutions.
Conducting research in Israel/Palestine in itself is not covered by the boycott. If carrying out research at Israeli facilities such as archives does not entail official affiliation with those facilities (e.g. in the form of a visiting position), then the activity is not subject to boycott.
If research requires permission from the state of Israel or Israeli academic institutions, then seeking such permission is generally compatible with the boycott as long as the boycott is not violated in any other way. For example, if a precondition for a research license is agreeing to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions or participate in Israeli academic conferences, then scholars should boycott.
Note that under international legal principles, Israel should refrain from conducting archaeological excavations in occupied territories, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Accordingly, seeking licenses from Israel for any excavations in the territories occupied in 1967 is covered by the boycott.