The power of civil society: Academic boycotts have presidents and have students making a difference

With a world at war the Peace and Justice Studies program is as relevant as ever.

Anna Baltzer giving her lecture titled, "Life In the Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories and Events" on Feb. 18. Courtesy of Corey Duncan

Anna Baltzer giving her lecture titled, "Life In the Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories and Events" on Feb. 18. Courtesy of Corey Duncan

Since 1946 the land balance between Israel and Palestine has been reversed with Palestine increasing their oppression of the Israeli. Addressing this Israeli Palestinian conflict was the purpose of the Peace and Justice Studies department conference held Feb. 17 and 18 titled J. Bonner Ritchie Dialogue on Peace and Justice: “The Israeli Palestinian Conflict- Toward Peace.”

Riham Barghouti, the final speaker at the conference, gave a lecture titled “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: A Palestinian rights-Based Movement.” Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. She approached the topic by addressing the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people, specifically students. While equating the events of Palestine and Israel to the South African apartheid, Barghouti says that boycotting what is revered will make a difference. In South Africa it was sports and in Israel it is academics.

With the Israeli suppression of Palestinian education, Israel made any form of Palestinian education illegal. Barghouti says that the goal of the peaceful boycott of Israeli academics with the international community is to make Israel a piranha country.

“Popular struggle cannot be stopped with arrests. Arrests and persecutions do not detour us. No army, no prison, no wall can stop us,” Barghouti said referencing protesters in Palestine.

“Unlike Israel, we have no nuclear weapons or army, but we do not need them. The justness of our cause earns us your support. No army, no prison and no wall can stop us,” said Abdallah Abu Rahmah, from the Ofer Military Detention Camp. Abdallah Abu Rahmah is a schoolteacher and nonviolent activist from Bilin.

One of the complaints of actions against Israel is the issue of anti-Semitism.  However, Barghouti refutes such claims.

“The argument of anti-Semitism undermines the real debate about Israeli crimes, it devalues the term anti-Semitism, there is a distinction between the Jewish people and the state of Israel, the Israeli crimes are not Jewish crimes,” said Barghouti.

The call to Palestinian to boycott Israel has been shared with the world. From Europe, United States, Venezuela, Sweden, Australia, South Africa to Canada and many other nations around the world have answered the call. Dockworkers in South Africa refused to unload a ship of Israeli goods. Similar to the Danish/Dutch boycotts when workers refused to unload a ship of South African goods during the apartheid struggle. Carelton University in Ottawa, Canada has created a campaign to support Palestine, which can be view seen on YouTube.com: SAIA Carelton Divestment Campaign. The campaign outlines the students’ history of crusading for human rights and encourages their peers around the world to join the campaign.

“Place yourself on the right side of history,” said Barghouti.

The Peace and Justice Studies student club has begun discussing a boycott and divestment campaign on the UVU campus. For any student interested in supporting or joining the boycott and divestment campaign please contact Peace and Justice student club president Crystal Busenbark at crystal.pjst@gmail.com or 801-427-5885.

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