Boycott call continues to divide 3

June 29, 2007

Had Frances Raday and the Israeli Association for Feminist and Gender Studies wanted to show "solidarity" with the Institute of Women's Studies and the "suffering" Palestinian women to whom they allude, they might have done something more useful than publish an "open" letter in the British press (Letters, June 15).

By showing that not all Israeli academics support all forms of Israeli aggression against Palestinians, Raday clearly hoped to dissuade UK academics from supporting the Palestinian boycott of Israeli academic organisations.

From the letter, one would suppose that "both sides" were engaged in the destructive military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This is a 40-year occupation, illegal under international law, that has caused incalculable loss of Palestinian life, land and livelihood and curtailed Palestinians' rights in every realm, not only education.

Raday's letter gives the impression that Israel's only crime has been withholding Palestinian funds and failing to "provide educational opportunity and academic freedom".

This is not the case. Raday has previously written that to boycott Israeli universities would reflect the view that "Israel is a colonialist, if not an apartheid state, which systematically and gratuitously violates the human rights of Palestinians both in the territories and in Israel". These words, in fact, quite accurately reflect our daily reality as Palestinians struggling to survive under a brutal military occupation.

Nor are Israeli universities known for "encouraging research and exchange of information and ideas" in order to find ways of "rectifying" the situation.

For these reasons, the Institute of Women's Studies applauds the vote taken by the University and College Union to debate the boycott.

Institute of Women's Studies
Birzeit University, occupied Palestine

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