After the recent faux controversy in Australia over a principled academic refusing to assist an Israeli academic because his centre abided by BDS principles, this story (via Ben White in Electronic Intifada) shows how intimately linked are Israeli universities, the occupation and the settler establishment:
Dozens of academics from Israel and abroad, worried about the threat of academic boycott, have sent a petition to Tel Aviv University (TAU) requesting the cancelation of the university’s participation in the settler-run archaeological dig in the Silwan neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem.
The partnership between TAU and Elad’s project was revealed in October, and TAU’s Institute of Archaeology began digging in the “City of David” national park last week. Elad “is responsible for settling over 500 Israeli Jews throughout Silwan,” and the organization’s director “has himself been caught on tape admitting the digs he oversees endanger Palestinian homes situated above.”
The university’s response to what TAU archaeologist Prof. Rafael Greenberg has called “a clear politicization of research” has been to defend the dig on the grounds that it “will be carried out using modern scientific methods, at the highest professional standards, with particular attention paid to professional ethics.”
TAU is not alone in its relationship with the settler group’s project in Silwan; Hebrew University now offers an “Archaeological Field Summer School” at the City of David, where students can gain credit for the studies.
The organizers of the petition to TAU, worried about damage to their efforts to fight support for the Palestinian call for academic boycott, claimed that a boycott has already begun to bite. In the words of Prof. Sidra Ezrahi:
“Tel Aviv University would be causing immeasurable damage to academia in general and to our desperate efforts to steer clear of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel in particular. We’re already getting cancellations of conference participation and this is playing straight into the hands of the BDS movement.”
This follows a familiar pattern whereby so-called liberal critics of Israeli government policies are motivated by concern for the country’s international image and a desire to combat the BDS campaign. For example, opposition in 2008 to freedom of movement restrictions on Palestinian students from the West Bank was partly due to the assumption that the policy helps “those who are trying to impose an academic boycott on Israel.”
In fact, TAU’s relationship with the Elad dig in occupied Silwan is not even the half of it, in terms of the university’s complicity with grave violations of international law and human rights abuses.