Professor Alison Bashford, please reconsider the Dan David Prize: an open letter from academics, researchers and students

NB. This letter is open to receiving signatures from academics, students and researchers. To sign it, follow this link. It has also been published by the BDS campaign, here is their statement on the issue.

Dear Professor Bashford,

We are academics, researchers and students. We ask you to please reconsider accepting your share of the prestigious 2021 Dan David Prize,[1] the academic award administered by and headquartered at Tel Aviv University (TAU).[2] This year’s prize rewards scholars who have contributed to advances in and understanding of medicine and public health. In reality, however, accepting it serves to legitimise and normalise Israel’s colonial violence and apartheid.

As we are sure you are aware, for decades, through its military occupation, blockade and apartheid, Israel has been undermining Palestine’s health systems and systematically denying Palestinians medical care.[3] In a report from November last year, the director of the World Health Organization noted that Israel’s ‘chronic occupation has profound implications for the sustainability of health-care provision by public authorities, in terms of both revenue raising and affordability’.[4] Palestinians are regularly blackmailed into collaboration with the Israeli Security Services in order to get the permits they need to leave the West Bank and Gaza for medical treatment.[5] Currently, while Israel has been hailed for vaccinating its population, it is refusing to immunize all Palestinians under its rule,[6] as is its responsibility,[7] and placing obstacles in the way of transfer of vaccines into Gaza and the West Bank, entry to which it fully controls—clear testament to the apartheid regime it maintains.[8]  

Since 2005, Palestinian civil society organisations have been calling on supporters of justice and antiracism around the world to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause by boycotting Israel, including its academic institutions. Accepting the prize would be a clear violation of this call, and an outright refusal of Palestinians’ aspirations for freedom. We ask you to respect the wishes of Palestinian people and not side with their oppressor.

TAU directly facilitates Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and its illegal blockade of Gaza. It must be held accountable for supporting Israel’s repression of Palestinians. Examples of TAU’s complicity in Israel’s anti-Palestinianism are numerous: 

  • An affiliate of the university’s Sackler School of Medicine, the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute,[9] is currently stockpiling the bodies of scores of Palestinians for use as leverage in negotiations, refusing to release them to their families, a practice that contravenes international treaties and conventions.[10]  
  • TAU hosts the Institute for National Security Studies, whose 2018 ‘Plan’ recommends completing the illegal separation wall, and ‘ongoing construction in settlement blocs’—in other words, perpetuation of Israeli apartheid—and which declares in its current report that ‘it is necessary to prepare for the next war’.[11] 
  • TAU’s Yuval Ne’eman Workshop for Science, Technology and Security cooperates closely with the Israeli Defence Force and other security services, and hosts work on, among other things, ‘missiles and guided weapons, homeland security, [and] force build-up policy’.[12] In 2008 the TAU president described himself as ‘awed by the magnitude and scientific creativity of the work being done behind the scenes at TAU that enhances the country’s civilian defense capabilities and military edge’.[13]  
  • TAU’s Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering runs an ‘entrepreneurship program’ with Elbit Systems,[14] a major Israeli arms manufacturer, whose weapons and technology are battle-tested on Palestinians.[15] 
  • Since 2016, as at all Israeli universities, soldiers’ TAU tuition fees are paid after discharge from the army.[16]  
  • In 2014, TAU offered a year’s free tuition to students who had participated in the murderous military attacks on Gaza.[17] 
  • In 2012, TAU started collaboration with settlement organisations in archaeological digs in Palestinian East Jerusalem, in violation of international agreements.[18] 

Professor Bashford, we call on you to follow the lead of your colleague and fellow historian Professor Catherine Hall, who in 2018 refused the Dan David Prize.[19] Doing so would make an important contribution to the cause of antiracism and opposition to apartheid in Israel in a context in which state-led resolution efforts have failed. It would also avoid a flagrant contradiction with your own published work, which aims to contribute to ‘the critical history of colonialism, nationalism and public health’, investigating, among other topics, ‘segregation as both hygienic—that is, as part of public health—and racial—as part of the systems and cultures of race management’.[20]  

Israel’s racist policies against Palestinians, long criticised as instances of apartheid by Palestinians themselves, as well as by international legal and humanitarian authorities (including recently by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem), are an egregious example of racial segregation imposed on an entire population, with all the desperate consequences for Palestinians’ health and well-being that this implies.[21] 

Professor Bashford, you have a significant opportunity to contribute to public understanding of the importance of antiracism and anti-apartheid. In 2003, you and a co-author noted that ‘even repressive regimes have been eroded through criticism generated by external human rights groups attempting to universalise democratic ideals’; as you pointed out, ‘it is difficult to imagine the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, for example, without the chorus of international calls to release high-profile political prisoners on Robben Island’.[22] Palestinians’ appeal for boycott is an attempt to mobilise a chorus of international calls of exactly this kind. 

Nothing obliges you to accept the Dan David Prize and the financial reward that accompanies it. Doing so would be a sharp rebuke to the unanimous call from Palestinian organisations to support their struggle for freedom. As you have noted, ‘liberalism and the idea of democratic rule—most recently through the language of human rights—problematises arbitrary detention, the incarceration of non-criminals and of political prisoners’.[23] These are, however, among the very practices that Israel imposes on Palestinians. Refusing the award, opposing the whitewashing of Israel’s crimes, and rejecting collaboration with an Israeli academic institution complicit with the oppression of Palestinians would earn you the respect and admiration of all those who believe that academic research must serve the cause of freedom, in Palestine and in the world.

NB. This letter is open to receiving signatures from academics, students and researchers. To sign it, follow this link.

Samah Sabawi, independent scholar, Melbourne
Nick Riemer, University of Sydney
Rima Najjar, Al Quds University, Palestine
Ahmed Alnajjar. Director of Public and International Relations, Ministry of Education, Palestine
Randa Abdel-Fattah, Macquarie University
Randa Farah, University of Western Ontario
Wael Hallaq, Columbia University
Laleh Khalili, Queen Mary University of London
Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University
Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University
Nadia Abu El-Haj, Columbia University
Saree Makdisi, UCLA
Judith Butler, UC Berkeley
Ilan Pappe, University of Exeter
Omar Barghouti, independent scholar
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University
Jasbir Puar, Rutgers University
Peter Slezak, University of New South Wales
John Keane, University of Sydney
Alistair Sisson, University of New South Wales
Michael Grewcock, University of New South Wales
Alana Lentin, University of Western Sydney
David Brophy, University of Sydney
James Godfrey, Birkbeck, University of London
Jumana Bayeh, Macquarie University
Adi Ophir, Tel Aviv University, Emeritus, Brown University, visiting
Sara Dehm, University of Technology, Sydney
Ntina Tzouvala, Australian National University
Lucia Sorbera, University of Sydney
Kieron Cadey, Canterbury Christ Church
Inna Michaeli, independent scholar, Germany
Michael Griffiths, University of Wollongong
Sara Saleh, University of New South Wales
Liyana Kayali, Australian National University
Micaela Sahhar, University of Melbourne
Kate Davison, University of Melbourne
Daniel A. Segal, Pitzer College of the Claremont Colleges, USA
Nicola Perugini, University of Edinburgh
Sharri Plonski, Queen Mary, University of London
Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin
Ryan Al-Natour, Charles Sturt University
Robert Boyce, London School of Economics
Mohd Nazari bin Ismail, University of Malaya
Lobna Yassine, Australian Catholic University
Suzita Noor, University of Malaya
Karel Arnaut, KU Leuven
Paola Manduca, University of Genoa, Italy
John King, New York University
Angelo Baracca, University of Florence
Zati Azizul, University of Malaya
Marcelo Svirsky University of Wollongong
Elsa Haniffah Mejia Mohamed, University Malaya
MY Musa, USM
Aneesa Abdul Rashid, Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia
Herman De Ley, Ghent University
Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
Brinkley Messick, Columbia University
Gil Hochberg, Columbia University
Samera Esmeir, UC Berkeley
Mark Ayyash, Mount Royal University, Canada
Raja Jamilah Raja Yuso, University of Malaya
Norhayati Ab.Rahman, University of Malaya
Brian Boyd, Columbia University
David Faber, Flinders University
Noor Fadiya Mohd Noor, University of Malaya
Noor Adwa Sulaiman University of Malaya
Fatiha Shabaruddin, Universiti Malaya
Marc De Meyere Gent University
Susan Ferguson, Wilfrid Laurier University
Nozomi Takahashi, Staff scientist, VIB/Ghent University
Snehal Shingavi, University of Texas, Austin
Hassan Basri, University of Sultan Zainal Abidin
J. Ahmad, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
Meera Atkinson, University of Notre Dame Australia
George H Morgan, Western Sydney University
Brian Brophy, University of Adelaide
Zul’aini Zainal Abidin, Kolej Poly-Tech MARA
Sharmani Patricia Gabriel, Universiti Malaya
Amir Nor, Islamic Science University
Omar bin Yaakob, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Mike Cushman, London School of Economics
Harry Smaller, York University, Canada
M.Tashid, University of Technology Malaysia
Rozaini Roslan, UTHM
Mohamed Hatta Shaharom, Chairman Ikram Foundation of Malaysia
Harlina Halizah Siraj, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)
Prof Dr Hayati, USIM
Borhanuddin Mohd Ali, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Azman Che Mat, UiTM
Mustafa Mohd Hanefah, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia
Ramli Bin Nazir, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Ahmad Hariza Hashim, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Prof Dr Norhasmah, UPM
Nor Azan, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Abdul Rashid Mohamed, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Daing Nasir Ibrahim University Malaysia Pahang
Sahrim Ahmad, UKM, Malaysia
Haiyun Ma, Frostburg State University, USA
Mahamod Ismail, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
Tengku Shahrom Tengku Shahdan, Universiti Selangor
Suhaimi Mhd Sarif, International Islamic University Malaysia
A’zzah, CEO, Al Musab Institute
Wan Jefrey Basirun University Malaya
Adlina SuleimanAcademy of Professors Malaysia
Khairul Saidah Abas Azmi, University of Malaya
Noorsyazly Rameli, Malaysia
Mohammad Nazri, Universiti Malaya
Kelton Muir Sydney University
John Michael O’Brien, University of Sydney
Souheir Edelbi, UNSW
Paul Russell, Victoria University
Toby Fitch, University of Sydney
Finola Laughren, University of Sydney
Azmi Aminuddin, UiTM
Rohana Hassan, UiTM
Christiane Schomblond, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Kathryn Ticehurst, University of Sydney
Carol Que, University of Melbourne
Noor Sapiei, University of Malaya
Alan Hill, RMIT University, Melbourne
Goldie Osuri, University of Warwick
Azman Hassan, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Meloni Muir, University of Sydney
Liam Ward, RMIT University, Melbourne
David Klein, California State University Northridge
Vannina Sztainbok, University of Toronto
Colin Mooers, Ryerson University, Canada
Sylvat Aziz, Queens University, Toronto
Joy Moore, Dawson College, Montreal
Asha Varadharajan, Queen’s University
Brett Story, Ryerson University
Larry Hannant, University of Victoria
Sumi Hasegawa, McGill University
Nicola Pratt, University of Warwick
David Borgonjon, Rhode Island School of Design
Kevin Moloney, York University, Toronto
Steven Jordan, McGill University
Tim Anderson, Centre for Counterhegemonic Studies
Peter Chidiac, University of Western Ontario
Anne Meneley, Trent University
Edwin E. Daniel, University of Alberta
Christo El Morr, York University
Natalia Maystorovich Chulio, University of Sydney
Matilda Fay, University of Technology Sydney
Mark LeVine, UC Irvine
Robert Austin, University of Sydney
Viviana Ramírez, independent scholar, Chile
Mohd Hilmi Jaafar, University of Malaya
Victor Wallis, Berklee College of Music
Zuhaimy ismail, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia
Shira Robinson, George Washington University
Daing Nasir Ibrahim, University Malaysia Pahang
Malek Abisaab, McGill University
Graham Holton, University of Queensland
Ben Golder, University of New South Wales
Izlin Ismail, University of Malaya
Suzannah Henty, University of Melbourne
Shamsul Izwan bin Saharani, University of Malaya
Yara Hawari, University of Exeter
Nate George, Columbia University
Jake Lynch, University of Sydney
Michael Leonard Furtado, University of Queensland
Lewis Turner, Newcastle University
Owen Marsden-Readford, Sydney University SRC
Sonia Qadir, University of New South Wales
Susan Spronk, University of Ottawa
David Heap University of Western Ontario
Ximena de la Barra, lecturer and writer, Spain
Lim Yat Yuen, Universiti Malaya
Briony Neilson, University of Sydney
Didier Samain, Sorbonne Université, Paris.
Mohd Rais Mustafa, Universiti Malaya
UNSW Students for Palestine club, UNSW
Lauren Banko, University of Manchester
Evan Jones, Sydney University
Sujatha Fernandes, University of Sydney
Raja Hisyamudin, Senior Lecturer University of Malaya
Ben Etherington, Western Sydney University
Nurhazwani Abdul Rahman, Assistant Bursar, University of Malaya
David Pritchard, The University of Queensland
Judith Grbich, Griffith University
Eshah AWahab, University of Malaya
Muhammad Shamil, Pondicherry University
Roza Hazli Zakaria, University of Malaya
Sharmila Jayasingam, Universiti Malaya
Paola Rivetti, Dublin City University
Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College
Marc Lamont Hill, Temple University
Michelle Hartman, McGill University
Stephen Sheehi, William & Mary
Ariella Azoulay, Brown University
Haim Bresheeth-Zabner SOAS, University of London
Sarah Schulman, City University of New York, College of Staten Island
Sherene Seikaly, UCSB
Peter Eglin, Wilfrid Laurier University
Andrew Brooks, UNSW
Holly High, University of Sydney
Valentina Baú, University of New South Wales
Noam Peleg, UNSW
Safiah Muhammad Yusoff, University Malaya
Jonathan Dunk, University of Melbourne
Mohamad Said Bin Othman, University Of Malaya
Joseph Pugliese, Macquarie University
Andy Kaladelfos, UNSW
Matthew Abbott, Federation University
Claire Launchbury, Leeds
Meaghan Morris, University of Sydney
Anna Hush, University of New South Wales
Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath
Helen Goritsas, Academy of Information Technology, Australia
Judith Mcvey, University of Sydney
Amy Thomas, University of Technology Sydney
Diana Shahinyan, University of Sydney
Marcus Banks, RMIT University, Melbourne
Tasnim Sammak, Monash University
Lina Koleilat , Australian National University
Catriona Menzies-Pike, Western Sydney University
Jordy Silverstein, La Trobe University
Iseult Mc Nulty, Trinity College Dublin
Maayan Geva, University of Roehampton
Cynthia Wright, York University
Ilan Kapoor, York University
Maya Ober, FHNW Academy of Art and Design, Switzerland
Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Western Sydney University
Najib Safieddine, University of Toronto
Diana Jefferies, Western Sydney University
Ned Curthoys, The University of Western Australia
John Docker, University of Sydney
Sophie Loy-Wilson, University of Sydney
Jimmy Yan, University of Melbourne
Anna Saunders, Harvard Law School
Caitlin Biddolph, University of New South Wales
Shaira Vadasaria, University of Edinburgh
Emma Russell, La Trobe University
Scott Burchill, Deakin University
Tarik Cyril Amar, Koc University, Turkey
Samia Khatun, SOAS, University of London
Gavan Titley, Maynooth University, Ireland
Francesco Saverio Leopardi, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Laurence Davis, University College Cork
Ismail Patel, independent researcher, England
Mohamad Faithal Haji Hassan, University of Malaya
Effie Karageorgos, University of Newcastle, Australia
Dalia Abdelhady, Lund University, Sweden
Mod Faizul Sabri, University of Malaya
Roland Loh, Kingston University, UK
Hussain Mohd, University Malaya
Awangku Abdul Rahman, Islamic Science University of Malaysia
Khadijah Md Khalid, University of Malaya
Sarah Keenan, Birkbeck School of Law
Leah Price, Rutgers University
Saul Takahashi, Osaka Jogakuin University, Japan
Ben Silverstein, Australian National University
Terence Gomez, Universiti Malaya
Roshidah Hassan, Universiti Malaya
Maha Nassar, University of Arizona
Suria Zainuddin, University of Malaya
Dr Bedj Bedj Toufik, University of Malaya
NW Salman, University of Malaya
M Zaidi A Rahman, University of Malaya
Aishah Ahmad Fauzi, University Malaya
Rodiah Zawawi, University of Malaya
Aileen Moreton-Robinson, RMIT, Melbourne
Muhamad Ammar Remli, Islamic Science University of Malaysia
Ghazala Mir, University of Leeds
Judith E. Tucker, Georgetown University
Salwa Mohd Saleh, University College London
Yasmine Kherfi, London School of Economics and Political Science
Kamakshi Amar, London School of Economics
Zulqarnain Mohamed, Universiti of Malaya
Tg Muzaffar Tg Muda, Lancaster University
Roger Markwick, University of Newcastle, Australia
Shuaib Manjra, University of Cape Town
Zulqarnain Mohamed, University of Malaya
Usuf Chikte, University of Stellenbosch
Jasmine Duff, University of Wollongong
Fairuz Mullagee, University of the Western Cape
Abu Bakar, University of Indonesia
Catherine Ann Cullen, Trinity College Dublin
WZ Kamaruddin Ali, University of Malaya
Prof. Dr. Mohd Afandi Salleh, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin, Malaysia
Yau’Mee Hayati Hj Mohamed Yusof, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia
Wan Muhammad Afiq bin Wan Muhamad Fauzan, INSPEM Universiti Putra Malaysia
Zulfakar Ramleem International Islamic University, Malaysia.
Tuti Iryani Mohd Daud, Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia
Sahrim Ahmad, Universiti Kebangsaan, Malaysia
Zul’aini Zainal Abidin, Kolej Poly-Tech MARA, Malaysia
Abdul Rashid bin Abdul Rahman, University of Cyberjaya, Malaysia
Hadhrami Ab Ghani,Universiti Malaysia Kelantan
Syamimi Saadon, Universiti Putra Malaysia
Alwani Ghazali, Universiti Malaya
Rohaida Mohd Saat, independent scholar, Malaysia
Siti Zarina Mohd Muji, Universiti Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia
Ahmad Ainuddin Nuruddin, Universiti Putra, Malaysia
Nurul Iffah Bt Ghazali, UiTM Puncak Alam
Mandy Turner, University of Manchester
Dror Warschawski, Sorbonne Université, France
Ahmed Abbes, CNRS, France
Professor Hairuddin Mohd Ali, International Islamic University Malaysia
Nada Elia, Western Washington University, USA
Carolyn D’Cruz, La Trobe University
Siti Zaiton Mohd Hashim, Universiti Malaysia Kelantan
Priya Kunjan, University of Melbourne
Rabah Tahraoui, Université de Rouen, France.
Poppy de Souza, Griffith University and UNSW
Maree Pardy, Deakin University
Dr Crystal McKinnon, RMIT, Melbourne
Mohammed Massoud Morsi, Independent Scholar, Australia
Clive Gabay, Queen Mary University of London
Mahanim Hanid, Universiti Malaya, Malaysia
AbdulRahman Sufi, City University of Mogadishu, Somalia
Michael Harris, Columbia University
Zoë Lawlor , University of Limerick
James R. Levy, University of New South Wales Sydney
David Landy, Trinity College Dublin
Haim Bresheeth-Zabner, SOAS University of London
Professor Yosefa Loshitzky, SOAS University of London
Anam Matariyeh, Independent Scholar
Kenneth W. Burchell, Independent historian
Sarah Dweik, PSU
Waad Marzuqi , University of London
Lorenzo Ramero, Université de Lille
Zuhair Idris, Independent Scholar
Nour Ali, Brunel University
Erik Karlström, Lund University (masters student)
Abdulrachman Teves UPLB
Adel Yousif , University of Tasmania
C. Michael Hall, University of Canterbury
Ana Madeira, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Anas Elkady, Ryerson University
Rachid Darradji, MIT
Shahd Al-Janabi, Charles Darwin University
Elaine Bradley, independent scholar, Ireland
Timothy Erik Ström, independent scholar, Australia

List as of the 10/3/2021


[3] A 2020 report by the WHO director general, Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan, for instance, finds that ‘Israeli settler population in the West Bank, estimated to comprise more than 600000 persons, compared to Palestinians living in the same territory, have a life expectancy almost nine years higher, infant mortality more than six times lower and maternal mortality nine times lower’, p. 12.
[4] Health Conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, p. 18.
[20] A. Bashford, (2004) ‘Introduction: Lines of hygiene, boundaries of rule’, in Imperial Hygiene, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp 13 and 2.
[22] A. Bashford and C. Strange, ‘Isolation and Exclusion in the Modern World: An Introductory Essay’, in A. Bashford and C. Strange (eds), Isolation: Places and Practices of Exclusion, London: Routledge, 2003, p. 14.
[23] Bashford and Strange, ‘Isolation and Exclusion in the Modern World’, p. 14.

About the authors

Samah Sabawi

Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer and Policy Adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network.

More articles by Samah Sabawi

Nick Riemer

Nick Riemer is an academic in the English and Linguistics Departments at the University of Sydney, writing in a personal capacity.’

More articles by Nick Riemer

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