Press Release

Graduate Center Students for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions


April 15, 2015

Media Contact

CUNY Doctoral Students’ Council Vote on the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions Today

Today the student representatives of the Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) of the Graduate Center, CUNY, will vote on a resolution put forth by a coalition of students that calls for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Since spring 2014, a coalition of students at the Graduate Center from diverse backgrounds and disciplines have worked together to honor the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. This call comes from a variety of voices in Palestine, including the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors, the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions. In recent years, academic associations across the United States, including the American Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, have answered this call by passing similar resolutions, as have the student governments of the University of Chicago and Vassar College.

The resolution, which is supported by graduate students and faculty from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and has been endorsed by the Graduate Center’s Adjunct Project, Postcolonial Studies Group, Middle Eastern Studies Organization, and Critical Palestine Studies Association, calls for solidarity with Palestinian institutions, academics, and students who have been denied their academic and other freedoms by Israel. It also calls for solidarity with the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters in the CUNY system that have faced ongoing repression from the CUNY administration and local government.

“I support the DSC resolution as a small but significant action of nonviolent resistance to occupation, one of the few Palestinians presently have at their disposal,” said Chloe Wyma, third-year art-history student and a member of Graduate Center Students for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. “Given the billions of dollars the US provides to Israel annually, the belligerent rhetoric of several U.S. presidential candidates, and recent McCarthyite efforts to silence any criticism of Israeli state policies, it’s crucial to answer this call for international solidarity.”

“We see this resolution as part of a wider action against settler colonialism by Israel as much as by the United States and other nation-states across the world,” said Sean M. Kennedy, fourth-year English student and a member of Graduate Center Students for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. “The resolution also shows solidarity with Palestinian, Arab, Arab-American, and Muslim students and their allies at CUNY who have been profiled, surveilled, and entrapped by the police and other law enforcement—repression the DSC has opposed in previous resolutions.”

“The repression of CUNY students is connected to the same systems of power that uphold the Israeli state’s violation of Palestinian rights within Israel and the occupied territories, in which Israeli academic institutions are complicit,” said Jeremy Randall, fourth-year history student and member of Graduate Center Students for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. “By answering the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli academic institutions, we demonstrate that our struggles in ending systematic racism, colonization, and other forms of discrimination here in New York are part and parcel with the Palestinian struggle for liberation.”

The resolution being voted on today enshrines the importance of academic freedom—a freedom needed for free and civil discourse—yet one that is denied to Palestinians and to Jewish Israelis who support justice for Palestinians and BDS movement. The relationship between Israeli academic institutions and the state of Israel’s continued violation of Palestinian academic freedoms, along with continued policies of occupation and apartheid, make it imperative for us to take a stand against such injustices. The resolution calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions at the institutional level and does not, and cannot, prevent any individual doctoral student from doing research in Israel or engaging with individual Israeli scholars and educators.

“One of the major reasons for supporting an academic boycott is the deep complicity of Israeli universities in sustaining the occupation and expanding Israel’s leading status on the Global Militarization Index, said Rosalind Petchesky, distinguished professor emerita of political science at Hunter College and the Graduate Center and a member of Jewish Voice for Peace at a recent Graduate Center event on academic boycott. “Thirty percent of all research and development in Israel has a military focus, which includes policing and surveillance of Palestinians, much of which takes place in academic settings. Israel’s military-academic complex is circular and global, with much of this militarized policing technology exported back to U.S. urban police departments, such as our own NYPD.”

“Just like the struggle against South African apartheid, we need to speak out against Israeli apartheid,” said Erik Wallenberg, a third-year history student and member of Graduate Center Students for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions. “And just like in South Africa, Israeli apartheid would not be possible without the support of the United States. As a student and teacher at CUNY, I stand in solidarity with Palestinians fighting for justice in their everyday lives and their right to education.”

We, the student organizers of this resolution, want to thank the DSC for considering this resolution at its plenary today, Friday, April 15th. The DSC has a long history of taking important stances on pressing issues since its inception, from passing a resolution against the Vietnam War to a resolution at its February plenary supporting the student protest movement at India’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. The resolution we put forth today is consistent with this commitment to social justice and global solidarity.

You can find an FAQ on the resolution and academic boycott on our website here.