Over 40 staff members at the University of Sydney in Australia have vowed to avoid collaborating with Israeli academic institutions and their leaders, in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The pledge, signed by professors and research fellows, calls on Israel to comply with “international law and elementary principles of human rights,” including by recognizing the “right of return” of Palestinians to territories they claim in Israel. Critics argue that allowing such an influx of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Israeli Independence War and their millions of descendants into Israel would effectively turn it into a Palestinian state.
Nick Riemer, a senior lecturer in English and linguistics at the University of Sydney, toldThe Australian that the campaign was spurred following recent riots at the Israel-Gaza border that have resulted in the death of over 30 Palestinians, according to figures from the Gaza Health Ministry.
The protests — which have been backed by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip — similarly call on Israel to accept the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. The Israeli military has accused some demonstrators of approaching the Gaza border fence with firebombs, rocks, and assault rifles, and maintainsthat many of the fatalities were affiliated with terrorist groups including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Palestinian factions argue that the protests have been largely peaceful and the protesters unarmed.
“The fact that, that can be tolerated by the international community is one of the things that necessitates boycott actions by civil society, and the academic boycott is part of that,” Riemer said.
He claimed that some individuals at the University of Melbourne were talking about launching a similar initiative. “It would be highly desirable if this went national,” he said.
But others have condemned the group, which does not appear to participate in an academic boycott of any other nation.
“It seems that every time Israel is attacked and forced to defend itself, certain academics at Sydney University take it upon themselves to criticise not the terrorist group Hamas, responsible for the problem, but reiterate their longstanding, destructive demands for boycotts of Israel,” Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, told The Australian.
“If these few academics who it is claimed have signed the pledge were really concerned for Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, they would be condemning the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.”