Academic and Cultural Boycott

The below are excerpted from (Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott Initiative) PACBI’s website which you can visit here

Cultural Boycott Guidelines

Before discussing the various categories of cultural products and events and as a general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights.  Accordingly, these institutions (mainly major state and public entities), all their products, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted. By the same token, international artists and cultural workers are urged not to exhibit, present, or showcase their work (e.g. films, installations, literary works) or lecture at complicit Israeli cultural institutions or events, or to grant permission for the publication or exhibition of such work by such institutions. Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these complicit institutions should be boycotted, likewise.

International cultural workers who fail to heed the call for boycott and attempt to visit Palestinian institutions as a “balancing act” are assuming “parity between justice and injustice,” which Nelson Mandela has warned against. Although visits to the occupied Palestinian territory by international supporters and advocates of Palestinian rights have always been viewed by Palestinians as a source of encouragement and inspiration, Palestinians increasingly believe that solidarity entails respecting the boycott call and not combining a visit to Palestinian institutions with visits to or attending conferences and other events at boycottable Israeli institutions.  International visitors who insist on including Israeli cultural institutions in their itinerary, in violation of the boycott, should not expect to be welcome by Palestinian cultural institutions.

In all the following, “product” refers to cultural products such as films and other art forms; “event” refers to film festivals, conferences, art exhibits, dance and musical performances, tours by artists and writers, among other activities.

The following criteria may not be completely exhaustive and certainly do not preempt, replace or void other, common-sense rationales for boycott, particularly when a cultural product or event is shown to be explicitly justifying, advocating or promoting war crimes, racial discrimination, apartheid, suppression of fundamental human rights and serious violations of international law.

Based on the above, the Palestinian cultural boycott of Israel applies in the following situations:

(1) Cultural product is commissioned by an official Israeli body or non-Israeli institution that serves Brand Israel or similar propaganda purposes [6]

All cultural products commissioned by an official Israeli body (e.g., government ministry, municipality, embassy, consulate, state or other public film fund, etc.) or an Israel rebranding effort or organization, whether Israeli or international, deserve to be boycotted on institutional grounds, as they are commissioned and thus funded by the Israeli state or colluding institutions specifically to help the state’s propaganda or “rebranding” efforts aimed at diluting, justifying, whitewashing or otherwise diverting attention from the Israeli occupation and other violations of Palestinian rights and international law.  However, this level of explicit complicity is difficult to ascertain quite often, as information on such direct commissioning may not be readily available or may even be intentionally concealed.

(2) Product is funded by an official Israeli body, but not commissioned (no political strings)

The term “political strings” here specifically refers to those conditions that obligate a fund recipient to directly or indirectly serve the Israeli government’s or a complicit institution’s “rebranding” or propaganda efforts.  Products funded by official Israeli bodies — as defined in category (1) above — but not commissioned, therefore not attached to any political strings, are not per se subject to boycott.  Individual cultural products that receive state funding as part of the individual cultural worker’s entitlement as a tax-paying citizen, without her/him being bound to serve the state’s political and PR interests, are not boycottable, according to the PACBI criteria. Accepting such political strings, on the other hand, would clearly turn the cultural product or event into a form of complicity, by contributing to Israel’s efforts to whitewash or obscure its colonial and apartheid reality, and would render it boycottable, as a result.

While an individual’s freedom of expression, particularly artistic expression, should be fully and consistently respected in this context, an individual artist, filmmaker, writer, etc., Israeli or not, cannot be exempt from being subject to boycotts that conscientious citizens around the world (beyond the scope of the PACBI boycott criteria) may call for in response to what is widely perceived as a particularly offensive act or statement by the cultural worker in question (such as direct or indirect incitement to hatred and violence; justification — an indirect form of advocacy — of war crimes and other grave violations of international law; racial slurs; actual participation in human rights violations; etc.).  At this level, Israeli cultural workers should not be automatically exempted from due criticism or any lawful form of protest, including boycott; they should be treated like all other offenders in the same category, not better or worse.

(3) Event is partially or fully sponsored or funded by an official Israeli body or a complicit institution 

The general principle is that an event or project carried out under the sponsorship/aegis of or in affiliation with an official Israeli body or a complicit institution constitutes complicity and therefore is deserving of boycott.  The same may apply to support or sponsorship from non-Israeli institutions that serve brand Israel purposes.  It is also well documented now that Israeli artists, writers and other cultural workers applying for state funding to cover the cost of their — or their cultural products’ — participation in international events must accept to contribute to Israel’s official propaganda efforts.  To that end, the cultural worker must sign a contract with the Israeli Foreign Ministry binding her/him to “undertake to act faithfully, responsibly and tirelessly to provide the Ministry with the highest professional services.  The service provider is aware that the purpose of ordering services from him is to promote the policy interests of the State of Israel via culture and art, including contributing to creating a positive image for Israel.” [7]
(4) Product is not funded or sponsored by an official Israeli body or complicit institution

Unless violating any of the above criteria, in the absence of official Israeli or other complicit institutional sponsorship, the individual product of an Israeli cultural worker per se is not boycottable, regardless of its content or merit.

(5) Event or project promotes false symmetry or “balance”

Cultural events and projects involving Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis that promote “balance” between the “two sides” in presenting their respective narratives, as if on par, or are otherwise based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the “conflict,” are intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible.  Such events and projects, often seeking to encourage dialogue or “reconciliation between the two sides” without addressing the requirements of justice, promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.  All such events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless the Israeli side is explicitly supportive of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and unless the project/event is framed within the explicit context of joint opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott.  Other factors that PACBI takes into consideration in evaluating such events and projects are the sources of funding, the design of the program, the objectives of the sponsoring organization(s), the participants, and similar relevant factors.

Academic Boycott Guidelines

Inspired by the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa as well as the long tradition of civil resistance against settler-colonialism in Palestine, the PACBI Call [5] urges academics and cultural workers “to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

  1. Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;
  2. Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;
  3. Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;
  4. Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;
  5. Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.”
 
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