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February 3 2009

Dear All,

Last week, with initial hesitation but finally strong conviction, I
endorsed the Call for a U.S. Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel.
http://usacbi.wordpress.com/   I’d like to offer my reasons to friends,
family and comrades.  I have tried in fullest conscience to think this
through.

My hesitation:  I profoundly believe in the visible/invisible liberatory
social power of creative and intellectual boundary-crossings.   I’ve been
educated by these all my life, and by centuries-long cross-conversations
about human freedom, justice and power—also, the forces that try to
silence them.

As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I’ve joined with other concerned
Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I’ve
seen the kinds of  organized efforts to stifle—in the US and
elsewhere–critiques of Israel’s policies–the Occupation’s denial of
Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the
“settlements,” the state’s physical and psychological walls against
dialogue—and the efforts to condemn any critiques as anti-Semitism. Along
with other activists and writers I’ve been named on right-wing “shit-lists”
as “Israel-hating” or  “Jew-hating.”   I have also seen attacks within
American academia and media on Arab American, Muslim, Jewish scholars and
teachers whose work critically explores the foundations and practices of
Israeli state and society.

Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a
cultural and academic boycott.  But Israel’s continuing, annihilative
assaults in Gaza, and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven
me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel’s blockading
of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural
and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind.
Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish
dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of
military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of
power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state
economic and military power.  And US media, institutions and official
policy have gone along with all this.

To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from
individuals struggling against the policies of that state.  So, in
continued solidarity with the Palestinian people’s long resistance, and
also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers,
intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the
means and ends of the Occupation,  I have signed my name to this call.

Adrienne Rich

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