Academics For Justice (AFJ) is an organization of college and university professors whose mission is “to work for justice and human rights, to defend academic freedom of speech and association, to educate the public, and to help bring about peace with justice.” Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, AFJ was strongly opposed to America’s involvement in the Iraq War. But the group’s primary focus was, and still is, to condemn and combat what it portrays as Israel’s effort “to destroy all possibility of a viable two-state solution” with the Palestinians.
Specifically, AFJ denounces Israel’s “illegal settlements”; its construction of “Jews-only roads”; its “decades of debilitating occupation”; its “dispossession of most Palestinians”; its “continuing atrocities”; its “on-going destruction of Palestinian educational institutions”; its “breaches of international law and of humanitarian standards”; and its land theft, achieved, in part, by “bisecting Palestinian territory with its ‘fence’”—a reference to the anti-terrorism barrier in the West Bank. Further, AFJ depicts Israelis as people who “reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever [they] want,” and “to assassinate their [Palestinians’] leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, [and] tear out their olive groves.”
To protest such perceived injustices, AFJ has organized an international academic boycott whereby university professors worldwide pledge “not to support or participate in any conference, cooperative research, grant writing or grant evaluation, or other supportive activities, such as academic exchanges or visits, held at or involving Israeli universities and other state institutions.” This boycott should be sustained, says AFJ, “until Israel withdraws from all lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, removes all its colonies in those lands, agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian rights, and dismantles its system of apartheid.” The AFJ boycott has been endorsed by such notables as professors Hamid Dabashi and Joseph Massad of Columbia University.
By AFJ’s reckoning, Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist organizations motivated by genocidal ambitions, but rather, resistance groups reacting to incendiary Israeli atrocities. “Occupy a country, torture its citizens, and in the end you face resistance,” AFJ reasons. Further, AFJ maintains that Hamas leaders have made it “perfectly clear that they are ready to deal on the basis of the old two-state solution, which of course is the one thing Israel cannot endure.” According to AFJ, Israel is unwilling to strike any bargain that “gives the Palestinians anything more than a few trashed-out acres surrounded with barbed wire and tanks, between the Israeli settlements whose goons can murder them pretty much at will.”
During Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, AFJ characterized the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, as “the moral savage who brings shame on his country each day by “[telling] the world that a dead Israel civilian is worth a whole lot more in terms of moral outrage than a Lebanese one.”
AFJ describes the late Yasser Arafat as a man whose efforts “to sit down with Israel and embark on peaceful, good faith negotiations towards a two-state solution” were repeatedly thwarted by Israeli intransigence.
AFJ strongly supports the views of Norman Finkelstein, the DePaul University political science professor and Holocaust denier. Following the 2003 publication of Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, AFJ exhorted Americans to contact their local bookstores to request that they stock the book. The organization further encouraged people to invite Finkelstein to speak at their schools, community centers, and houses of worship.
AFJ members disseminate their anti-Israel message in a number of ways: by organizing teach-ins, speaking tours, and divestment campaigns on U.S. college campuses; accessing the media via letters-to-the-editor, op-eds, and paid advertisements; creating petitions and collecting signatures; directing financial aid to the causes it supports (e.g. to refugee students); producing educational materials such as fact sheets and other resources for instructors; maintaining a web page to post action alerts and timely information; and establishing a chat group to discuss future actions and strategies.
A member of the United For Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, AFJ identifies the following as activist organizations with worthy agendas: Al-Awda, the International Solidarity Movement, Jews Against the Occupation, the Palestine Children’s Welfare Fund, and Stop US Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN). An earlier version of this list also included Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.