Academics around the world sign petition to free Palestinian Astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi
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May 18, 2016
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Over 350 Academics Sign Petition to Free Palestinian Astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi
Dr. Barghouthi has been sentenced to administrative detention for his posts on Facebook
Oakland, CA (May 18, 2016)— Over 350 academics from around the world have signed a petition to free renowned Palestinian astrophysicist Imad Barghouthi, including Angela Davis and Noam Chomsky, along with notable physicists and mathematicians such as Freeman Dyson, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; David Mumford,Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Brown University, Fields Medal 1974; and Chandler Davis, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Toronto. Dr. Barghouthi, Professor of Theoretical Space Plasma Physics at Al-Quds University, is a leading researcher in his field, having previously worked for NASA. This is the second time in the last 15 months that Dr. Barghouthi has been arrested by Israeli forces, ostensibly for incitement on social media.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Commission, over 150 Palestinians have been arrested due to Facebook posts as of March of this year. A special unit of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) specifically surveils Palestinian social media. “Dr. Barghouthi’s arrest is the latest in a string of such arrests.” said Charlotte Kates, coordinator for the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, and member of the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. “Israel is attacking Palestinians’ freedom of expression. In addition to controlling many aspects of Palestinian life as the occupying military power, the Israeli army is now policing even Palestinian Facebook posts. It should trouble people of conscience that Israel is jailing Palestinians for vocally expressing their support for their national liberation movement.”
As of May 11, Dr. Barghouthi has been sentenced to two months administrative detention, a commonly used policy to hold Palestinian prisoners without charges or trial, and his sentence can be renewed indefinitely. There are approximately 700 Palestinian prisoners currently being held in administrative detention, several of whom are currently on hunger strike to protest the policy of indefinite detention without charge.
For the academics who signed the letter, the problem with Dr. Barghouthi’s arrest does not stop with the impingement on the Palestinian right to public speech, but extends to the suppression of the Palestinian right to education. The letter identifies “a broader pattern of disruption and suppression of Palestinian educational systems,” one that includes the bombings of the University of Gaza, the closing of Birzeit University, and the arrests of faculty and students. “Dr. Barghouthi’s arrest goes against every principle of academic freedom and the freedom of inquiry,” says Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical physicist and member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Academic Council. “It is a shameful act against the rights of Dr. Barghouthi and the entire Palestinian people.”
The petition is a joint organizing effort between US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the Association of Academics for the Respect of International Law in Palestine (AURDIP) and Jewish Voice for Peace’s Academic Advisory Council. Over 300 European academics signed a separate letter to the European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation drawing his attention to the renewed detention of Imad Barghouthi, and calling upon him to request the suspension of the EU Association Agreement until Israel releases Professor Barghouthi. The letter was coordinated by AURDIP, the Belgian campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (BACBI) and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP).
Jewish Voice for Peace (jvp.org) is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.