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Sophia endorses the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

Sophia endorses the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

As the Belgian Network for Gender Studies, Sophia is dedicated to promoting and fostering gender and queer research and education, a critical field of study that recognizes the interrelatedness of systemic forms of oppression. Sophia’s members do not only reflect about, but actively envision and pursue a world that is free from gender-race-class based violence, caused by interlocking systems of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, capitalism, (settler) colonialism, and all forms of racism, including islamophobia and antisemitism. In the spirit of this intersectional perspective, we cannot overlook the colonial injustice, land theft and ethnic cleansing that has been perpetrated against Palestinians for over 75 years. As feminist and queer scholars, teachers, researchers and public intellectuals, we are therefore determined to answer the call of Palestinian women, trans, and queer people to feminists across the world to recognize and uplift the struggle for life and land in Palestine as a feminist struggle.

Sophia is abhorred and deeply concerned by the possibility of an unfolding genocide in Gaza, which has already resulted in the mass killing, injuring, displacing, starving, and traumatizing of an entrapped civilian population of 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, and which is rooted in a decades-old system of colonial occupation and dispossession. We therefore support the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of all Israeli universities until an immediate and permanent ceasefire is put in place, and Israel ends the colonial injustice in Palestine in accordance with international law.

Moreover, as an organization committed to advancing critical knowledge production, research and study in higher education, Sophia is deeply shocked by the destruction of educational facilities in Gaza and the systemic violations of Palestinians’ right to education and academic freedom, in what researchers and human rights organizations are calling “scholasticide” or “educide”, the targeted destruction of entire educational systems as a weapon of war. Since the start of the recent war, all university buildings in Gaza have been completely or partially destroyed, including the bombing of the Islamic, Al-Azhar and Al Quds Universities. Furthermore, the Euro Med Human Rights Monitor reports that 94 academics, 4.327 students, 231 teachers and administrators have been killed so far.

In solidarity with Palestinians students, teachers, researchers, Sophia endorses the call for the academic boycott of Israeli universities. The PACBI was initiated in 2004 by Palestinian civil society and is part of a larger non-violent movement Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) that aims to contribute to the struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. In similar tradition as the academic boycott against Apartheid South Africa, it advocates for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions (not individuals) for their deep and persistent complicity in Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Academic institutions do not exist outside of politics. As integral parts of the state apparatus, Israeli universities are playing a key role in planning, implementing and justifying Israel’s illegal military occupation and are maintaining a close and supportive relationship with the Israeli military, including involvement in developing weapon systems, providing justification for military actions and extra-judicial killings, rewarding students serving in the occupation forces, designing and delivering special programmes for soldiers and officers, building on occupied land, and systematically discriminating against non-Jewish students.Following other academic institutions and associations, including the National Women’s Studies Association, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, Middle East Study Association and American Anthropology Association, Sophia endorses the PACBI, and urges other universities and institutions of higher education in Flanders, Brussels, and Wallonia to take up a similar position until Israel respects and operates according to international law. A statement on the educide in Gaza has been sent to the VLIR in Flanders (which you can sign here) and we encourage colleagues from the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles to take similar steps in addressing higher education institutions from the French-speaking community.