Cambridge academics: we have a ‘responsibility’ to ‘speak out’ against Israel

Helen Spokes 2 October 2014

More than 50 academics from the University of Cambridge have condemned the assault on Gaza, calling for an end to violence and the ‘discriminatory and dehumanising treatment of Palestinian citizens’.

In a statement published on 28th September, Cambridge academics have criticised Israel’s bombardment of Palestine, campaigning for ‘an immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza’ and appealing for ‘a more far-reaching justice for the Palestinian people’.

This follows the withdrawal of Professor Stephen Hawking from a conference in Israel in May 2013, when he supported an academic boycott against the country.

In August, academics and graduate students in philosophy and political theory from around the world also signed the ‘Back The Boycott’ campaign. In their statement, they urged for an academic boycott in recognition of the fact no Israeli academic institution had issued a condemnation of the occupation of Gaza.

As of 25th September, this had 263 signatures and included staff and students from the University of Tehran, Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol.

Dr Lorna Finlayson and Dr Clément Mouhot of King’s College have highlighted that the statement from Cambridge is different. In a press release, the fellows pointed to the support of ‘academics from more than 20 different departments and faculties’, ranging from Politics to Physics, Geography to Mathematics and History to Architecture.

Unlike the aims of ‘Back the Boycott’, the signatories are campaigning for academics to speak out against the actions of Israel rather than to actively support a boycott.

The statement declares the academics ‘are united on several points’. Despite considering different aspects of the history and current events between Israel and Palestine as a result of their ‘fields of specialism’, they agree that a ‘radical change’ is needed in order to achieve peace. The signatories also ‘wish to express…solidarity’ with over 300 holocaust survivors and their descendants who spoke out against Israel in August.

The statement concludes with the academics raising concern over the ‘victimisation of students and lecturers, inside and outside of Israel, for speaking on this issue’.

The full statement and signatures of the Cambridge academics can be read here.