In a move that could cost them their jobs, 150 professors, researchers and other academic professionals decided this week to follow the lead of their peers in the theatre community and signed a pledge to boycott Israeli settlements.The settlements are constructed on occupied Palestinian territory that was taken over by the Israeli military during a 1967 war, and are considered to be in violation of international law. Since 1967, over 500,000 Israeli civilians, most of whom are immigrants, moved into these settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, effectively stealing Palestinian land to make it a de facto part of Israel.

Last week, a group of 56 Israeli theatre professionals signed a statement boycotting the settlements, which they call an ‘obstacle to peace’, after the national Israeli theatre guild tried to require them to perform at a new cultural center constructed in the largest West Bank settlement, Ariel.

The academic professionals, in their statement this week, said they support the theatre professionals in their boycott, and agreed that they would also boycott settlements, refusing to lecture or work in any territory beyong the ‘Green Line’ armistice border of 1967.

The boycott comes as peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli leadership begin in Washington, and while the Israeli government claims that these boycotts weaken their position at the negotiating table, the academics argue that it is only through boycott that they can pressure their government to adhere to international law and create a just peace with the Palestinians.

In their statement, the academics say, ‘Legitimatisation and acceptance of the settler enterprise cause critical damage to Israel’s chances of achieving a peace accord with its Palestinian neighbours.’

Both Israel’s Education Minister and the Culture and Tourism Minister have spoken out against these boycotts. They argue that Israelis should be able to get education and culture wherever they live. But the Ministers refused to address the fact that the Israeli settlers in question are living on land illegally seized from the indigenous Palestinian population, in violation of international law.