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Hundreds of academics call for boycott of genocide conference in Jerusalem

May 24, 2016 5:57 P.M. (Updated: May 25, 2016 9:53 A.M.)
Palestinians walk past a sign in the occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem calling to boycott Israeli products coming from settlements, June 5, 2015. (� AFP)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Almost 300 academics have called for the cancellation of the Fifth Global Conference on Genocide, which is set to take place at an Israeli university in June, the Academics for Palestine group said in a press release on Monday.

The Global Conference on Genocide, organized by the International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS), is scheduled to take place from June 26 to 29 at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The theme of this year’s conference, according to the INoGS website, will be “Intersections: Holocaust scholarship, genocide research, and histories of mass violence.”

“We urgently call on InoGS to act in a principled way by canceling the Jerusalem venue for their conference and transferring it to a location in another country,” a letter signed by 270 academics read.

“Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people -- from the Nakba to the ongoing displacement of Palestinians from their lands, and from repeated military offensives against Gaza to the ongoing blockade -- are increasingly being viewed through lenses of ethnic cleansing and genocide linked to settler colonialism,” the letter added.

“It is therefore shocking that INoGS plans to hold its 2016 Global Conference at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University that is partially built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem.”

The letter accused INoGS of disregarding Israel’s own history of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem.

Israel refers to Jerusalem as its "united" capital and annexed the city in 1981 in a move that was never recognized by the international community. Israel has since carried out policies of expulsion and house demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem, which critics have slammed as an attempt to “Judaize” the city.

“Billing the conference as held in ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ demonstrates that INoGS is turning a blind eye to Israel’s illegal annexation of the city, condemned unanimously by the international community, and to the ongoing campaign of dispossession against indigenous Palestinians as Israel seeks to erase their historic and diverse presence in the city through plunder and expulsion,” it said. “The significance of all this cannot be lost on genocide scholars.”

Academics for Palestine reported that INoGS had not responded to the letter, and had not acknowledged a previous appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to change the conference’s location.

“I am an academic living in besieged Gaza. I have witnessed three massacres committed by Israel, I almost lost my own life and saw my comrades, colleagues, relatives, and students perish in them,” Haidar Eid, a professor and PACBI member told Academics for Palestine. “INoGS is lending its name to the perpetrators of these crimes in a move that is not unlike holding a conference on racism in apartheid South Africa.”

One of the signatories of the letter, John Docker, a University of Sydney scholar with a focus on genocide and massacre studies, slammed the conference in a statement quoted by Academics for Palestine.

“Genocide studies is now, it seems clear, actively seeking opportunities to be complicit in Israel's flouting of international law, not least the Fourth Geneva Convention,” Docker said.

Israel has been struggling to tackle a growing Palestinian-led boycott campaign which has had a number of high-profile successes abroad in both academic and artistic fields.

Known as the BDS movement -- boycott, divestment and sanctions -- it aims to exert political and economic pressure over Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.
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