In January 2012, a delegation of scholars and teachers working in the United States went on a week-long investigative trip to Israel/Palestine organized by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. The trip resulted in a published collective statement on the situation in Palestine, strongly supporting and endorsing the call to boycott. In this Periscope, alongside the full version of the collective statement and the organizers' contextualization of the trip and campaign, members of the delegation offer their individual reflections on their experiences and views of Palestine today.
We are a group of scholars and academics who teach at universities in the United States who were part of a January 2012 delegation sponsored by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which was a weeklong, fact-finding trip within '48 Israel and the Occupied West Bank. This is our statement.
On July 1, 2011, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), sent a letter to several scholars at US universities, inviting them to join a historic delegation to Palestine. The letter began:
When I told the Israeli border official who interviewed me that I was going to Ramallah, she sneered and wrinkled her brow: "Okay." Why would anyone go there, she seemed to say. There was no mistaking her disapproval. Looking at my US passport, she wanted to know about my family tree: my father's name, and my father's father. "Tirlok Singh," I recalled hesitatingly, "I was a baby when he died," I added with a bit more conviction. For a moment, she scrutinized my visage for some discernible trace, or sign. Then I was allowed in, rather more easily than I had imagined.
I arrived in Ramallah well prepared . . . or so I thought. I'd read Saree Makdisi's chilling portrait of Palestinian life under occupation, historical accounts by Rashid Khalidi, Walid Khalidi, Ilan Pappe, Nur Mashala, and Gabriel Piterberg, powerful critiques of Israeli apartheid leveled by Ali Abunimah, Omar Baghouti, and Uri Davis, exposés penned by Israeli journalists Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, as well as pro-Zionist voices such as Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua. I had Edward Said by my side, and the Electronic Intifada and the Palestine Monitor in my web browser. Our small delegation, formed at the behest of the U.S. Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, consisted of some of the smartest people I know, their collective knowledge of the situation surpassed only by our hosts at Birzeit University in Ramallah. We were there on a fact-finding mission.
When reflecting on the week-long visit to Occupied Palestine and Israel - the delegation organized by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) - in some ways, the meeting that was the most provocative was with the Palestinian academics who hosted us at a public policy research center in Haifa called Mada al-Carmel: Arab Center for Applied Social Research. There we encountered critical and incisive perspectives on the academic boycott by Palestinian citizens of Israel that showed how the politics look different from their social location. Their penetrating critiques and our productive dialogue ultimately strengthened my understanding of the situation of fragmentation on the ground in Palestine, and of the need to grapple with this complexity to address what is, after all, one occupation.
The eight meter high Apartheid Wall bordering the Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem features a tattered and faded replica of Pablo Picasso's 1937 painting "Guernica." The painting famously commemorates the bombing and massacre of nearly 1,600 civilians by Nazi German and Italian warplanes during the fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Hand-painted barbed wire and a Palestinian flag frame the Wall's reproduction. The caption above reads: