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Noted French theorist Jacques Rancière cancels Israel lecture, heeding boycott call

By Ali Abunimah | The Electronic Intifada | January 19, 2012

Noted French philosopher and political theorist Jacques Rancière has canceled a visit to Israel after an appeal by PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

Rancière, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Paris VIII and Professor of Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Switzerland, had been scheduled to give a talk at Tel Aviv University on 25 January.

In a letter in French posted on the website of Tel Aviv’s Shpilman Photography Collection and translated by The Electronic Intifada, Rancière wrote that although he did not personally endorse a boycott of “all citizens of a State and against its researchers, without taking into account their own attitude towards the policy of this State,” he would not be able to violate the boycott call and provide “a politically and intellectually satisfying answer” to the dual choice he found himself in.

PACBI’s 9 January letter to Rancière asserted:

Your decision to speak at Tel Aviv University will violate the Palestinian call for boycott and will constitute a blunt rejection of the appeal from over 170 civil society organizations that comprise thePalestinian BDS movement.

Israel subjects Palestinians to a cruel system of dispossession and racial discrimination

Your lecture would function as a whitewash of Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.

Translated: Jacques Rancière’s letter

I accepted the invitation to contribute to the debate on the image, of a research group whose work on photography is closely related to the exposure of violations of the rights of the Palestinian people since the birth of the State of Israel.

The intervention of a group dedicated to uphold the boycott of Israeli academic institutions by foreign researchers has changed the meaning of this visit by making a breach of the boycott a public demonstration, namely support to the State that is responsible for these violations and the situation of oppression of the Palestinian people.

I am personally opposed to collective sanctions against all citizens of a State and against its researchers, without taking into account their own attitude towards the policy of this State. I have therefore neither respected nor violated a decision that I did not personally endorse. 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 this simple alternative, and due to my fatigue – I am not able to respond satisfactorily today to the dual demands of the situation that came into being.

I must therefore – thanking the people who invited me and whose invitation I accepted – offer to postpone the visit until thinking (reflecting on) about these issues has advanced and when I feel myself more able to give a politically and intellectually satisfying answer.

January 19, 2012 - Posted by | Solidarity and Activism

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