Note: A professor at San Francisco State that I know and work with was among an academic delegation that Israel detained and questioned for 10 hours on January 12. With many US academic associations discussing academic freedom in Palestine/Israel and considering whether to join the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, this experience only serves to drive home the need for concerned people around the world to speak up and respond to such actions. And as the press release notes, this experience is only a fraction of the injustices Israel commits in its occupation/colonization of Palestinian land. I’ve included links for more context at the end of their statement.
For Immediate Release: Contact: Joanne Barker
Jerusalem, Palestine email@example.com
Academic Delegation to Palestine Endures 10-Hour Interrogation by Israeli Security
On January 12, 2014, a delegation of six academics and a labor activist traveled from Jordan to Palestine through the Israeli checkpoint. The delegation is led by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi of San Francisco State University and is meeting with Palestinian academics to better understand conditions on the ground and to facilitate future collaborations. Four members of the delegation, including Abdulhadi and Professor Junaid Rana of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, were held at the checkpoint and interrogated by Israeli security, the Ministry of the Interior, and the military, for over ten hours.
Abdulhadi, Rana, and two other delegates, including Professor Joanne Barker of San Francisco State University, support the 2005 call of Palestinian Civil Society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israeli (ACBI) institutions that are complicit in the continued colonization of Palestine. Various delegation members belong to U.S. academic associations that have endorsed ACBI such as the Association of Asian American Studies (AAAS), American Studies Association (ASA), and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).
As the four members of the delegation were interrogated, the Delegate Assembly of the Modern Language Association (MLA) voted to support a resolution noting grave concern regarding the ability of U.S. scholars to travel and collaborate with Palestinian counterparts.
Four members of the delegation were individually interrogated up to four separate times over the ten hours during which they were held. They were pressed about their scholarly research, academic networks, family backgrounds, nationalities, and ethnic origins. The Israeli security officer demanded contact and cell phone information and two delegates were coerced into accessing their email accounts using Israeli security computers. One member had to insist twice to be allowed to sign-off from an email account before being allowed to leave the interrogation room. Another delegate was told explicitly not to pursue research on colonial gender violence. The delegates were additionally asked about travel to Arab countries, intended research, political activities, and names and phone numbers of academic and family contacts.
Professor Rana was asked whether he had recently signed any petitions regarding Israel, to which he replied that he was a member signatory to BDS resolutions of the AAAS and the ASA. Along with other members of the delegation, those interrogated have been actively involved in the academic boycott of Israeli institutions—as opposed to individual scholars—of higher education. Rana was also asked why he attended a conference on “Transnational American Studies” at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon, and whether he had any political writings related to Israel. Such actions are a clear violation of academic freedom, including the freedom to travel for scholarly research, and demonstrate tactics of intimidation and harassment of scholarly inquiry.
The delegation recognizes that their experiences on January 12, 2014, pales in comparison with the everyday surveillance and criminalization of Palestinian academics who are consistently denied the freedoms to research, publish, and travel. The delegation commends academic associations who have endorsed ACBI and encourage others to follow.
For more on academic freedom in Palestine: