Scholars call on Australian historian to decline Israeli award

Nora Barrows-Friedman

The Electronic Intifada  /  February 27, 2021

More than 250 Australian and international scholars are calling on a prominent Australian historian to reconsider accepting the 2021 Dan David Prize in rejection of Israel’s colonial violence and apartheid.

The $1 million prize is awarded by a foundation based at Tel Aviv University, an institution complicit in maintaining Israel’s systemic violations of Palestinian rights.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the US president, was also awarded the Dan David Prize and eagerly gave his implicit endorsement of Israeli medical apartheid.

In an open letter, the scholars urge Alison Bashford of the University of New South Wales to avoid “a flagrant contradiction” with her own published work, “which aims to contribute to ‘the critical history of colonialism, nationalism and public health.’”

Signatories include co-founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement Omar Barghouti, Exeter University historian Ilan Pappe, Kehaulani Kauanui of Wesleyan University, Judith Butler of UC Berkeley, Rashid Khalidi and Nadia Abu El-Haj of Columbia University, Saree Makdisi of UCLA and Jake Lynch of the University of Sydney.

They add that accepting the Dan David Prize would help Israel whitewash its violations of international law in refusing to vaccinate millions of Palestinians under military occupation against COVID-19 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.”

Activists with BDS Australia also called on Bashford to reject the award.

“Millions of Palestinians are subjected to Israel’s slow ethnic-cleansing regime, which dispossesses, arbitrarily imprisons, maims and kills them in large numbers,” BDS Australia stated.

“To them, a high-profile prize from the heart of the Israeli political and academic establishment can only appear a cruel joke.”

In 2016, feminist historian Catherine Hall of University College London declined to accept the prize following, as she stated, “many discussions with those who are deeply involved with the politics of Israel-Palestine, but with differing views as to how best to act.”

In 2019, Reporters Without Borders faced sharp criticism when it accepted the Dan David Prize.

Agence Média Palestine accused RSF of taking part in a propaganda exercise aimed at burnishing Israel’s image.

The Dan David Prize board includes Henry Kissinger, the American statesman notorious for a horrific array of crimes including masterminding the 1973 military coup in Chile and the dropping of more bombs on Cambodia than the US and its allies had used in the whole of World War II.

For Alison Bashford, the scholars say that refusing the award “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.”

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014)