Distinguished French philosopher Jacques Ranciére became the latest public figure to honor the academic and cultural boycott of Israel this week by cancelling an upcoming visit, which would have included a January 25 lecture at Tel Aviv University (TAU).
The Shpilman Photography Collection, a would-be sponsor of Ranciére’s visit, announced the cancellation on its Web site Tuesday.
Its post specified that “Ranciére announced he will postpone his visit following the Palestinian call to boycot Israeli institutions which do not officially support the Palestinian struggle against the occupation.”
I accepted the invitation to contribute to the debate on the image of a research group whose work on the photograph is closely related to the reporting of violations of the Palestinian people since the birth of the State of Israel.
The intervention of a group dedicated to upholding by foreign researchers boycott of Israeli academic institutions has changed the meaning of the visit by making a public demonstration of rupture of the boycott, thus supporting the State responsible for these violations and the situation of oppression is maintained in which the Palestinian people.
I am personally opposed to collective punishment against all citizens of a State and in respect of its researchers, without taking into account their own attitude towards the policy of this State. I have neither respect nor to rape a decision to which I have not personally joined. But it appears that, in the present situation, the content of what I might say in response to the invitation that was sent to me has become completely secondary to the simple alternative, and it is not now for reasons of fatigue in my ability to respond satisfactorily to the dual requirement of the situation thus created.
I must therefore, by thanking the people who invited me and which I accepted the invitation, offer them to postpone the visit at a time when thinking about these issues has progressed and where I feel myself more able to give an answer politically and intellectually satisfying.
The “group dedicated to upholding by foreign researchers [of the] boycott of Israeli academic institutions” is presumably the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). On January 9 the organization wrote to Ranciére:
It has come to our attention at the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) that you will be giving a public lecture at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University on 25 January 2012. If our information is correct, then we urge you in the strongest terms to cancel your visit to an institution that is complicit in maintaining a regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Tel Aviv University in particular is a full partner in maintaining the military and security infrastructure of the Israeli state, as outlined in two recent reports.
As a prominent global scholar, you are certainly aware that Israel has flouted international law for several decades. Since the hegemonic world powers are actively complicit in enabling and perpetuating Israel’s colonial and oppressive policies, we believe that the only avenue open to achieving justice and upholding international law is sustained work on the part of Palestinian and international civil society to put pressure on Israel and its complicit institutions to end this oppression.
In 2004, inspired by the triumphant cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, and supported by key Palestinian unions and cultural groups, PACBI issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of institutions involved in Israel’s occupation and apartheid. We wish, in this appeal to you, to stress the importance of this Palestinian call; to underscore the rationale for the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, of which PACBI is a member; and to urge you to respect the Palestinian call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel …
Ranciére’s decision follows a year of growing support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement from academic figures, institutions, and organizations including South Africa’s University of Johannesburg, the United Kingdom’s University and College Union, and Canada’s National Campus and Community Radio Association, as well as numerous artists and performers.
Jacques Rancière, political philosopher and a prominent intellectual, professor emeritus at the University of Paris 8, was recently invited to the University of Tel Aviv, Israel, to give a public lecture. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) immediately asked him to cancel the conference.
Jacques Rancière, like us, is “opposed to collective punishment against all citizens of a State and in respect of its researchers.” The PACBI as the Collective Palestine Paris 8, and the AURDIP France BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israeli apartheid), does not condemn the dialogue between intellectuals of all countries, including Israel. We acknowledge, however, the University of Tel Aviv as all other Israeli universities, of complicity with the segregationist policies of the Israeli state, but also with its policy of military occupation. We rise, therefore, against the possibility that the prestige of an intellectual as Jacques Rancière used to such an institution.
BDS France welcomes today that Jacques Rancière has heard our call and canceled his trip to Israel. This is the first victory of the year for the cultural and academic BDS France, we hope followed many more. Jacques Rancière joins a long line of intellectuals engaged on the side of justice and human rights, such as Eduardo Galeano, Arundhati Roy, Andre Brink, Naomi Klein, Augusto Boal, Vincenzo Consolo, Henning Mankell, John Berger and Judith Butler. We reiterate our opposition to them with all collaboration with Israeli academic and cultural institutions, as this country will not respect the Palestinians’ right: the right to their land, the right to return for refugees and the right be treated like any other.
The Collective Palestine Paris 8