Israeli authorities have long sought to undermine Palestinian academic freedom and to
degrade Palestinian intellectual life. Despite the brutal conditions of the occupation, Palestinian students and scholars have persisted in their struggles for the right to education, asserted their academic freedom, and in many cases achieved noteworthy success in their fields of expertise.
The recent detention and arrest of Professor Imad Barghouthi, who teaches science at al-Quds University in Jerusalem, is the latest assault on Palestinian academic freedoms. In an article published online for AlterNet May 28, 2016, David Palumbo-Liu
provides an overview of Professor Barghouhti’s case:
for the second time in 15 months, noted Palestinian professor and astrophysicist Imad Al-Barghouthi was arrested by Israeli authorities. Barghouthi, a professor of space physics at al-Quds University, was arrested at an Israeli military checkpoint in the West Bank on his way home. According to the New Arab news source, Barghouthi, “a leading researcher, publishing frequently in academic astrophysics journals,” has previously worked for NASA.
Palumbo-Liu goes on to document the international protest movement that has emerged calling for Barghouthi’s freedom. Particularly noteworthy is the statement by the mathematician Michael Harris: “When our colleagues attack the academic boycott of Israel as incompatible with academic freedom, they should be asked repeatedly: where were you when a Palestinian astrophysicist was imprisoned without charges and without trial? Why is it not your concern when a Palestinian academic is denied not only academic freedom but even the most elementary protections of the rule of law?”
As Michael Harris comment implies, the academic boycott movement is an expression of solidarity on behalf of Palestinian academic freedom. By endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, the international community of university professors and students can effectively show solidarity with Palestinians and hold Israel accountable for its violation of Palestinian rights at all levels. As quoted by Palumbo-Liu, Imad Barghouthi stated in the “scientific journal Nature
that he believed that ‘the letters of support from international scientific organizations, which were presented to the judge by his lawyer, were instrumental in persuading the court to release him’.”