Dear UNSA board,
We, the board of Students for Justice in Palestine Maastricht, are writing this letter to express our extreme disappointment of UNSA’s participation in The Tel Aviv Model United Nations Conference this coming September. We are deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the intolerable human rights violations that it incites on all sections of Palestinian society. Israeli academic institutions and universities are no exception. Not only do they play a major role in normalizing an unjust and intolerable situation, they also support the ongoing oppression against the Palestinians. We completely support academic freedom of speech and oppose all forms of racism including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and this is why we take action. Palestinians are denied their freedom and with painful consequences these unjust forms of racism are manipulated in this situation to suit the occupying State. Israel seeks to disrupt the functioning of Palestinian universities and has put many restrictions on education through many layers including physical, emotional, and economical among others. Thus, we believe that academic boycott is an effective moral and proportionate way to advance peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. Taking part in TLVMUN would disregard and condone the harsh injustices that are taking place, which surely Maastricht University with its clear set of values and its students do not adhere to. We urge you to reconsider your decision in joining TLVMUN and to not collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions that violate human rights and international law.
For decades, Israel has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination through ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation. Despite abundant condemnation of Israeli policies by the UN, other international bodies, and preeminent human rights organisations, the world community has failed to hold Israel accountable and enforce compliance with basic principles of law. Israel’s crimes have continued with impunity. In view of this continued failure, Palestinian civil society called for a global citizens’ response. On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic Advisory Opinion on the illegality of Israel’s apartheid Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law. The global movement for a campaign of Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions follows a rights-based approach from principles of international law and highlights the struggle among the three broad sections of the Palestinian people : the 6 million refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and those under blockade in the Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the decade-long Palestinian struggle for justice:
Boycott targets products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions due to their overwhelming support for the illegal occupation and the Israeli military.
Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that the likes of university investment portfolios and pension funds are not used to finance such companies.
Sanctions are an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s actions. By calling for sanctions against Israel, campaigners educate society about violations of international law and seek to end the complicity of other nations in these violations. It is the duty of our governments to impose such sanctions to ensure the enforcement of the Fourth Geneva Convention and to stop funding the violations of human rights making them complicit in Israel’s abhorrent human rights record.
BDS also calls for an academic boycott. This call recognizes that Israeli academic
institutions (mostly state-controlled) and the vast majority of Israeli intellectuals and academics have either contributed directly to the Israeli occupation and apartheid or at the very least have been complicit through their silence. All Israeli academic institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations. Accordingly, these institutions, all their activities, and all the events they sponsor or support must be boycotted. This is an urgently needed form of pressure on Israel that can bring about its compliance with international law and the requirements for a just peace.
We, the Students for Justice in Palestine here in Maastricht, feel the urge to voice our opposition to the ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian rights. Not only do we stand against the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian land, but we also boycott Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in these violations. Tel Aviv University, alongside many other universities, have publicly declared their unconditional support for the Israeli military. The same military that violates international law and discriminates against Palestinian students in Israeli universities and isolates Palestinian academia by preventing foreign academics from visiting palestinian institutions. Palestinian students encounter many restrictions, such as limited access to universities and options because of the limited freedom of movement. On top of that, university campuses have become unsafe environments, at arrests and violence are held against Palestinian students.
Tel Aviv University took numerous actions that define its position:
● Adheres to an Israeli law which stipulates that universities must give special treatment to student military reservists in the form of financial assistance, age restriction for entry into particular programs, and student housing allotments. 1
● Restricts the freedom of speech and protest of Palestinian students by honoring the Nakba Bill, which discourages academic discussion and pubic commemoration of a day of mourning to a minority of its university students. 2
● Maintains an intimate connection with the military through its Institute for National Security Studies, which helps formulate military strategy and select agent research. Based on statistical facts in 2009, Tel-Aviv University conducted 55 research projects with the Israeli army and hosted (still does) a convention on weapons’ development for the Israeli army. (3)
● Appointed a colonel whose military past includes overseeing and approving attacks on civilians during the 2008 Gaza attacks, to be a lecturer on international law. (4)
● Helped develop the Dahiya doctrine, known as the intentional and mass killing of civilians and destruction of civilian villages, using disproportionate force and proning collective punishment for revenge. It was employed during Operation Cast Lead (Gaza war), killing approximately 1400 Palestinians in 2008, most of which were civilians including more than 300 children. It also led the Israeli military’s plans in Operation Protective Edge in the bloody summer of 2014, causing the death of more than 2100 Palestinians, including 1462 civilians, of whom 495 were children. (5) These severe violations of international law (e.g. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the prohibition of collective punishment) were also committed during the war on Lebanon (2006). (6)
● Is participating in a settler-run archaeological dig in the City of David national park located in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. This evidences both Tel Aviv University’s complicity in the occupation and its discriminatory practices against Palestinian students. (7)
An academic boycott on Israel is a necessary step to ensuring Palestinian rights, including the right to education as stated in Article 26 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a fundamental right to every human being. Therefore, we advise you, as an esteemed student association that stands for basic human rights, to not collaborate on projects and events involving Israeli academic institutions that violate human rights and international law, to not attend conferences by the same institutions, and mostly to not promote events such as TLVMUN. We call for doing so until such time as these institutions end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law, and respect the full rights of Palestinians.
Let us encourage you to participate in PALMUN (8) conferences held in Palestinian schools. Students for Justice in Palestine is a worldwide movement of university students advocating respect for international law and human rights in Palestine. Our work is to raise awareness and promote BDS. It is evident that SJP – Netherlands and UNSA do share a desire for peaceful coexistence in Palestine and Israel, however it is also clear that Tel Aviv University, through its actions does not strive to achieve this crucial goal. We hope that you as conscious citizens reconsider your decision, respect the Palestinian call to BDS and act mindful towards the hardships that Palestinian academics, students and the general population suffer every day as a result of Israeli impunity.
We look forward to your positive response,
The board of Students for Justice in Palestine – Maastricht
This letter was initiated by SJP Maastricht board members and received full support from SJP members in Maastricht and from our partner organisations Studenten voor Rechtvaardigheid Amsterdam at the University of Amsterdam, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Studenten voor Rechtvaardigheid Rotterdam at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and Studenten voor Rechtvaardigheid Nijmegen at the Radboud University Nijmegen.
8 Ramallah: https://www.facebook.com/plamunFF/?ref=br_rs&__mref=message_bubble; Jerusalem: https://www.facebook.com/rosmun.conference/info/?tab=page_info; Gaza: https://www.facebook.com/www.palmun.org/?ref=br_rs