Calls for the academic boycott of Israel have been given a massive boost by 160 academics representing 21 countries who have signed an open letter calling on the European Commission to ban Israeli universities that support the country's apartheid policies and human rights violations from receiving funds from an European Union (EU) programme worth over $100 billion.
The group took aim at the biggest EU Israel research and innovation programme known as Horizon 2020. Over seven years old, the project is said to have a budget of more than $112 billion through to 2027.
In their letter to the Commission, the group acknowledged that the EU has already taken a "principled position" in its funding guidelines for Horizon 2020 by prohibiting the allocation of funds to Israeli entities situated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or for research carried out there.
"This is a principled position, in line with international law and the respect of human rights," said the letter. "Israeli entities located in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and built on Palestinian land are structurally involved in the perpetration of war crimes and human rights abuses."
As commendable as the EU position is, it is no longer sufficient and bears no resemblance to the current reality of Israel's occupation, argued the academics who are all current and past beneficiaries of EU research funding.
"The crux of the problem goes beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory," said the group pointing to what is now a consensus among prominent human rights organisations that Israel is practicing apartheid inside the Green Line. "It would be important to extend the prohibition of European research funds to include Israeli institutions complicit in Israel's violations of Palestinian human rights, regardless of where they are situated," the group insisted.
"Indeed, the complicity of Israeli academic institutions in Israel's structural violence perpetrated against Palestinians across historic Palestine has been broadly and systematically documented," explained the group before providing a list of examples where Israeli academic institutions have been instrumental to the success of the occupation state's racist settler colonial policies.
"Israeli universities perpetrate forms of institutional racism against their Palestinian students and violate their rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression," they explained, adding that "some of the most prominent ethicists working in Israeli universities develop the 'moral' justifications for the killing of civilians and the perpetration of war crimes." The group also cited recent reports by human rights group which have concluded that Israel has passed the threshold of systemic and structural racism to be considered an apartheid state.
"Given the evidence of the relationship between Israeli academic institutions and the systematic state practices of settler colonialism, and the crimes of apartheid and persecution, which have escalated again in Israel's latest round of violence, we urge you to exercise your leverage," the letter said calling the commission to ensure that the EU's relationship with Israel's academic institutions is based on respect for international law and human rights.
The 116 academics join a host of other academic institutions calling for the boycott of Israel. Earlier this month a UCLA faculty called for the boycott of Israel. In May 400 New York University (NYU) affiliates signed a letter calling for "non-cooperation" with the NYU Tel Aviv campus.