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The academic boycott of Israel supports human rights

Illustration courtesy of MCT

Illustration courtesy of MCT



The great civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were instrumental in dismantling the apartheid regime in South Africa.  The system of racist laws in South Africa collapsed by 1994, but the international crime of apartheid still continues in the state of Israel. Nelson Mandela, once famously said, “we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”  And Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu wrote in 2002:

“I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.”

The ideology behind anti-Arab racism in Israel is Zionism.  Zionism calls for a Jewish state and Israel defines Jewishness, in part, in genetic terms.  A person is legally Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, regardless of place of birth or religious belief.  Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been engaged in a program of ethnic cleansing, reminiscent of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the United States against Native Americans.  This includes expulsion of the Palestinian population, military occupation, and mass murder, all with U.S. financial and political support.  Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world.

As with Apartheid South Africa, Israel has a body of racist laws and policies that systematically discriminate against the indigenous population, including  segregated buses and roads, racist marriage laws, and laws that allow arrest and detention of Palestinians without charge.  TheCommunities Acceptance Law in Israel permits small, exclusively Jewish towns to reject applicants for residency on the on the basis of race. Freedom of movement, social services, and educational opportunities are severely restricted for non Jewish populations.  Impoverished African refugees have also been victimized.  The Israeli Prime Minister described African refugees in Israel as a “a concrete threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the country.” Their treatment in Israel, motivated by the ideology of racial purity, has been brutal.

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS, are non violent strategies that have been variously employed by Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Cesar Chavez. BDS actions on a global scale helped to bring an end to South African Apartheid, and now there is a growing BDS movement aimed at achieving justice for the Palestinian people.   In 2004, Desmond Tutu wrote:

“The end of apartheid stands as one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure — in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s. Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

In 2005 Palestinian civil society issued a call for BDS until Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.  The world responded.  Leaders of the BDS actions include Jews, Palestinians, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. One strand of the BDS strategy is the academic boycott of Israel.  The academic boycott does not violate academic freedoms of individual scholars. It targets Israeli academic institutions.  Israeli universities have been complicit in the apartheid system and are an integral part of it.

Physicist Stephen Hawking supported the boycott when he withdrew from a conference in Israel last year.  Nearly a thousand U.S. professors, including more than 30 from CSUN, have endorsed the mission statement of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).   Hundreds of artists, poets, musicians, and writers have also endorsed the mission statement. Ilan Pappe, a Jewish Israeli and professor of history, and author Barbara Ehrenreich, both invited speakers at CSUN, have endorsed.  Desmond Tutu and Ilan Pappe serve on the Board of Advisors of USACBI, along with other distinguished members.  Code Pink and the Green Party of the United States are among the more than 50 organizational endorsers.

Recently four U.S. academic associations voted to endorse the boycott of Israeli academic institutions: the Association for Asian American Studies, the Association for Humanist Sociology, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and most recently the American Studies Association or ASA.   The backlash from supporters of Israel has been strident, with accusations of anti-Semitism and steady streams of hate mail.

More than 150 University presidents have denounced the ASA resolution and the academic boycott, charging falsely that it restricts academic freedoms of individual scholars.   CSUN President Harrison posted a statement on her CSUN webpage endorsing CSU Chancellor White’s CSU web statement in which he said,

“The California State University denounces the resolution calling for an academic boycott of the higher education institutions in Israel, which was issued by the American Studies Association and has been supported by other organizations. Academic boycotts violate the basic tenets of higher education including academic freedom and scholarly dialog.”

Drs. Harrison and White make no mention of academic freedoms denied to Palestinians.  Those freedoms have been crushed repeatedly by Israel.  Palestinian students and scholars are denied academic freedom in countless ways.  Perhaps the starkest examples are the bombingsof half of the schools in Gaza, including eight kindergartens and the University of Gaza, by Israel in 2009.

Birzeit University, a leading Palestinian university, has been closed by Israel 15 times, with the longest closure lasting more than four years. Since 2003, at least 480 Birzeit University students have been held in Israeli prisons, many without charge.  Students have suffered travel restrictions and even torture.  Former president of Birzeit University, Dr. Hanna Nasir, in the course of his duties was handcuffed, blindfolded, and deported for 19 years by Israel. He was never charged with a crime or given an explanation, and was forced to serve as university president in exile.

If academic freedom is the real concern of Chancellor White and President Harrison, then surely they will find time to post statements on their webpages denouncing violations of academic freedom for Palestinians, rather than denouncing organizations that promote those civil rights.

David Klein is a professor of mathematics and the faculty advisor for CSUN Students for Justice in Palestine.  He is also a member of the Organizing Collective of USACBI. More information about BDS is available from his webpage: www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/boycott.html

David Klein

David Klein is a professor of mathematics and the faculty advisor for CSUN Students for Justice in Palestine. He is also a member of the Organizing Collective of USACBI. More information about BDS is available from his webpage: www.csun.edu/~vcmth00m/boycott.html

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  1. M2000 Mar 9, 2014

    Klein is nothing more than a by-product in believing the lies of Pallywood:


    All of their accusations staged…..

  2. Arman Gosparini Feb 28, 2014

    Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca. Non-muslims caught traveling through or within Mecca can be fined, deported or arrested.

    So, being an honest opinion columnist, your next article will be on Saudi Arabia being an apartheid state, right?

  3. VladLenin Feb 27, 2014

    Ben Shapiro of KRLA Talk Radio addresses BDS symposium at UCLA and calls it what it is – Anti-Semitism.


  4. voiceofreason Feb 26, 2014

    “[African] treatment in Israel, motivated by the ideology of racial purity, has been brutal.”

    The ideology of racial purity? Are you daft? Israeli society is nowhere near “racially pure” as roughly 52% of Israeli Jews are either Sephardic or Mizrahi (in simpler terms- not white). It’s astonishing that the author of this opinion piece is a professor on campus considering his gross misrepresentations of Israeli society.
    Stick to math, Professor Klein. Your attempts at characterizing foreign societies by discriminatory ideologies are elementary at best.

    1. Nadia Feb 28, 2014

      Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews are middle eastern. People from Europe and the Middle East are classified as white.

      A country who’s governmental policies are “nowhere near ‘racially pure'” would never think of:

      a) Forcing African Migrants to take infertility drugs upon entry:

      Nick Chile (New York Times bestselling author) wrote an article on this.

      b) Having racially segregated Kindergarden Schools:
      Lisa Goldman’s Article:

      Anti African Rally:


      This is racism against Africans. Non-europeans can be racist. Europeans can be racist.

      1. M2000 Feb 28, 2014

        And yet Africans are held as slaves in Islamic countries still, but I see no protests…..

        1. Ankur Patel Mar 6, 2014

          What kind of protest are you looking for? Human trafficking is a global problem that many activists, organizations, and governments are trying to address. The scope of the problem is huge, dealing with one injustice at a time is a calculated strategy. The Palestinians in America who fled from their homeland because of oppression are challenging the injustice most relevant and pertinent to them. Your argument suggesting these people should address other injustices is unproductive.

          1. M2000 Mar 6, 2014

            Really, you doubt that Islamic countries are horrible, but then ridicule Israel and the US only? Wow. Such hypocrisy. Palestinians are more miserable in Islamic countries in their camps than they are in Israel.

            Infighting, plenty of it goes on there….but no one from the likes of you protests it….

      2. Arman Gosparini Feb 28, 2014

        A) There is no evidence that the Israeli government forced migrants to take birth control injections before entering the country, only accusations and blurry ones at that. Also, its a birth control drug. Calling it an infertility drug implies that this is forced sterilization, which it isn’t.

        B) The article you posted admits that segregation is illegal in Israel. So, this district violated the law…and this invalidates the entire nation? You are holding that Israel to a standard you would hold no other country to.

        C) We have Neo-Nazi rallies from time to time in the United States. We don’t hold the entire nation responsible for the actions of a handful.

      3. voiceofreason Mar 4, 2014

        Mizrahi Jews are not strictly Middle Eastern. Jews from India are considered to be Mizrahi, but they are not classified as white.

        Do your homework instead of generalizing.

  5. M2000 Feb 26, 2014

    So the “academia” wants a boycott on apartheid states, would that include some other states that try to emulate themselves with “Palestine” like Kashmir? Where Islamic radicals are well known to attack Hindu temples?


    I see no real effort or real outrage of Islamic apartheid states…..

    1. Nadia Feb 28, 2014

      Deviating from the topic is a common defense tactic for those who do not have a logical counter-argument.

      1. M2000 Feb 28, 2014

        No, I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy of this boycott against Israel. I can name many countries that have mistreated their own minorities and yet there are no major protests against them. It’s because of people like you don’t care.

  6. M2000 Feb 26, 2014

    There are plenty of instances of Islamic countries where they repress their own people let alone their own minorities….what about the Christians in Syria? The Hindus, Buddhists and the lone Jew in Afghanistan? What about the Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in Pakistan?

    How about when Islamic radicals bomb Christian churches?

    There are no academic calls to boycott Islamic countries that harbor terrorism. Gee, I wonder why this is getting more attention. Is it because they’re funded by big oil?

    1. Nadia Feb 28, 2014

      Two wrongs dont make a right. Just because Saudi has its problems (which they do) doesnt mean its ok for Israel to mistreat the Palestinians.

      1. M2000 Feb 28, 2014

        So where are all the boycotts against Saudi Arabia? I see none.

      2. M2000 Feb 28, 2014

        The fact that your the side that screams “apartheid” ignoring that Israel waged many wars with the “Palestinians” bothers me you leave out those wars. Palestine is actually a Roman term that continued onto the days of the Ottoman Empire as a province.

        The fact that the leaders whether they are from Hamas or Fatah have had ample amount of time to rebuild their society, but instead they are often caught on video hoping to start another conflict with Israel.

        You simply define that as “apartheid”? Or better yet how they teach their own children to become future terrorists? One suggested that if the Palestinians loved their children, there would be peace.

  7. Shein Ariely Feb 25, 2014

    United world hypocrites’- who are you for real?- bellow is your mirror

    Compare between Palestine-Arabs+Iran and between Israel

    !!!!!!!!! PALESTINE !!!!!!

    You support the Palestinians that contribut to world culture the followings:

    1:Educational:-hate- Palestineschool’s curriculum and official TV channels
    promote mass hate teaching and preaching. Funded by western countries.

    2:Scientific:- death- How to improve the suicide belts to kill maximum civilians

    3: Cultural- demolish- :How to destroy archeological treasures dating 3000
    years ago of the Jewish independence and culture in Israeland get UNESCO blind eye and silence.

    4:Crimes against humanity- Hide among civilians, dressed civilian,
    commit terror against civilians, use of children for terror attacks and still
    get international immunity.
    Use of ambulances and international press symbol for terror activities.

    5:Nontolerance–Christian population dropped from about 140,000 in 1967 to 51,000

    !!!!! You don’t hear-don’t see -don’t speak and don’t act against the above !!!!
    **** **Boycott the defending Israel! ******

    !!!!! Arabs+ Iran status !!!!!!

    1:In Lebanon: By law Palestinians cannot work in over 50 professions.

    2:In Saud Arabia:
    Deny:Women equality-human rights-religious freedom-fund hate preaching and teaching of infidels worldwide

    3:In Iran:
    Gays are executed-Teachers of Bahai religion are hanged-husband can kill his
    adulterous wife without punishment-a woman is punishable by death.

    4:In Jordan:
    Punishing by death sailing land to Jew

    5:Christians in Arab states:
    *Christians now make up 5% of the population,down from 20% in the early 20th century mainly because emigration due ethnic,religious persecution and

    6:Millions flee away from Muslim countries.Not a single person immigrates to
    Muslim countries.

    7: Internet usage:
    Homemade bombs free guidelines used by terrorists worldwide.
    Hate indoctrination free articles and books of all non Muslim cultures.
    Masking Islamists agenda by laying to infidels in all languages- the truth
    Islamist over all agenda is published in Arabic and Iranian languages>

    !!!You don’t hear-don’t see -don’t speak and don’t act against the above!!!!!
    *****boycott the defending Israel *******

    !!!!!!!!! Israel !!!!!!!:

    1:Al-Jazeera about IDF.
    “”why the Syrian army,Hezbollah and other Islamic military groups
    cannot be more humane like the Israeli. “”

    2:Israeli doctors fixed the reversed ventricles-a 4-year boy – his father said,
    “We always heard in the Arab media how children from the Gaza Strip and
    the West Bank were receiving medical treatment in Israel.”

    Palestinians and Hisbula are firing rockets targeting Israel hospitals.

    3: Israel provided medical treatment in Israeli hospitals to 700 Syrians.
    Israel provided food and winter closes to Syrian villages nearby Israeli
    What the so called human rights organization and boycottiers have done?
    Many words however little help

    4: Christians Israel:
    Israel is the one country in the Middle East where the Christian population has
    grown from 34,000 in 1948 to more than 155,000 in 2014.

    5:Illegal work infiltrators from Muslim countries in Israel demonstrate demanding permanent visa in Israel>
    They don’t want to be returned to any of the Muslim countries

    6:””The best ethics papers and debates on terror issues are in Israel””
    Ref: BBC ethics program, Beyond belief


    8: Internet usage:
    Academic degree people can get by free tuition over internet.
    Founded by Israeli Shai Reshef.
    University of the People is the world’s first non-profit, tuition-free,
    accredited online academic institution opening access to higher education
    globally for all, despite financial, geographic or societal constraints.
    Students listed from 141 countries.

    !!!You don’t hear-don’t see -don’t speak and you act against the above!!!!!
    *****boycott the defending Israel *******

    ******* Although the above facts the boycotters support the Palestinian ******
    !!!!!!! Mirror-mirror tell me who are the unmasked boycotters!!!!!!!

    1. Nadia Feb 28, 2014

      I had to respond to this. Palestinians are both Muslim and Christian. Both suffer under occupation:

      There are Palestinian and Jordanian Christian communities in the valley. I want anyone reading to ask them what they think about the policies of Israel. Now, I want you to ask them what they think about Muslims, Palestinian and non-Palestinian. The answer may or may not shock you. It is up to you to form your own opinions based on what they say. Don’t form your opinions by letting someone else speak for them.

      60 Minute Special on Palestinian Christians:

      Maha, a Palestinian Christian, takes you to the village of her grandfather on Easter Day. The village is called Iqirit. The descendants of the people who were ethnically cleansed from the village come to pray in the church on Easter. The Church was the only building left standing.


      1. Shein Ariely Mar 1, 2014

        Follonig pure cut and pace_ endless detailes are available:

        1:Palestinian Muslim control over territory has always led to the flight of Christians. Ramallah was founded by Christians fleeing Muslim persecution. Like so many other Christian strongholds, it became Muslim. Bethlehem is majority Muslim and its Christians report incidents of persecution and intimidation.

        There is a reason that Christians are vanishing in the Muslim world. And the issue is Muslim intolerance.


        2:Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
        “In Iraq and Egypt, scores of churches have been attacked,
        hundreds murdered. In Syria, revolution seriously threatens Christian
        communities. The one place where Christians are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land:

        **** Palestinian Authority Declares Baptist Church Illegitimate
        in West Bank
        Thursday, March 29th, 2012

        *** Hamas Cracks Down on Christians; Pushes Conversion to Islam
        Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

        Christians living in the Gaza Strip live under the reality of ongoing attacks on both churches and individuals. Living under the control
        of Hamas which considers Christians as infidels, the situation is more serious than you can imagine, Hazem Shanab said. Hamas controls all churches and mosques implements their ideology in all sectors of life, even to rewriting textbooks to match their worldview.


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