Statement by Legal Scholars and International Lawyers Against Holding ESIL Forum at the Hebrew University in East Jerusalem

by | 23 Nov 2017

To add your name, please email: The statement is open to all law academics and international lawyers. You do not have to be a member of ESIL or based in Europe to sign.

The European Society of International Law (ESIL) is holding its Research Forum at the Hebrew University in February/March. Ten Palestinian human rights organisations have condemned this decision calling on ESIL to reconsider its decision and urging international lawyers and academics to not participate in this event.

[hero]As legal scholars and international lawyers committed to the rule of law and human rights, we are dismayed by the decision of the European Society of International Law (ESIL) to hold its 2018 annual research forum at the Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University. We believe that holding the annual forum on international law in an occupied territory legitimates this occupation and all of the other human rights violations that are part of it.

While we are aware that the original buildings of the Hebrew University are located in the area that was designated in 1948 as the “Demilitarised Zone”, whose status is contested, the University has expanded significantly since the 1967 occupation, and significant parts of it fall beyond the “Demilitarised Zone” line and are in the Palestinian occupied territory.

We believe that it is unbecoming for an organisation that is committed to the rule of law and international law to hold its annual forum in an institution whose campus is at least in part on an occupied territory. It is more so when this occupation is in its 50th year. Therefore, we shall not participate in this event, and we urge ESIL to reconsider its decision.

Institutions are for affiliation purposes only.

Professor (Emeritus) Georges Abi-Saab, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Professor (Emeritus) John Dugard, University of Leiden and the University of the Witwatersrand, former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory
Professor (Emeritus) Richard Falk, Princeton University, and former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Dr. Noha Abueldahab, Visiting Fellow, Brookings Institution

Huwaida Arraf, National Lawyers Guild, Free Palestine Subcommittee Co-Chair

Dr. Grietje Baars, City, University of London

Dr. Nesrine Badawi, American University in Cairo

Dr. Samia Bano, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Arnulf Becker Lorca, Brown University

Dr. Jason Beckett, The American University in Cairo

Dr Simon Behrman, Royal Holloway, University of London

Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Dr. Brenna Bhandar, SOAS University of London

Dr. Amar Bhatia, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Professor (Emeritus) George Bisharat, UC Hastings College of the Law

Dr. Isra Black, University of York

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck, University of London

Dr Yassin M’Boge Brunger, Queen’s University Belfast

Audrey Bomse, National Lawyers Guild (US), Palestine Subcommittee

Reem Al-Botmeh, Birzeit University, Palestine

Professor Marcel Brus, University of Groningen

Dr. Michelle Burgis-Kasthala, University of Edinburgh/Australian National University

Pierre-Alexandre Cardinal, McGill University

Professor  Irina Ceric, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Professor Cyra Akila Choudhury, Florida International University

Dr. Tanzil Chowdhury, University of Birmingham

Professor Olivier Corten, Directeur du Centre de droit international, Université libre de Bruxelles

Dr. Marios Costa, City, University of London

Luigi Daniele, Lecturer/Doctoral researcher, Nottingham Trent University and University of Naples Federico II

Professor (Emeritus) Eric David, Président du Centre de droit international, Université libre de Bruxelles

Dr. Julia Dehm, La Trobe University

Dr. Sara Dehm, University of Technology Sydney

Professor François Dubuisson, Université libre de Bruxelles

Dr. Nadine El-Enany, Birkbeck University of London

Noura Erakat, George Mason University

Dr. Luis Eslava, University of Kent

Prof. Mohammad Fadel, University of Toronto

Dr. Michael Fakhri, University of Oregon

Dr. Tomaso Ferrando, University of Bristol

Professor  Martin Gallié, Université du Québec à Montréal

Professor Conor Gearty, London School of Economics

Mariana Gkliati, University of Leiden

Professor Gustavo Gozzi, University of Bologna

Dr. Maj Grasten, Copenhagen Business School

Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University of London

Dr. Markus Gunneflo, Lund University

Friederycke Haijer, Utrecht University

Prof. Wael Hallaq, Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Columbia University

Dr Vanja Hamzić, SOAS University of London

Dr. Jeff Handmaker, International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Dr. Kevin Hearty, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr. Gina Heathcote, SOAS University of London

Dr. Loveday Hodson, University of Leicester

Dr. Nora Honkala, City, University of London

Emily Jones, Lecturer in Law, University of Essex

Dr. Henry Jones, University of Durham

Dr. Ioannis Kalpouzos, City, University of London

Dr. Michael Kearney University of Sussex

Dr. Asem Khalil, Vice-President for Community Affairs, H.H. Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Chair in Constitutional and International Law, Birzeit University, Palestine

Professor Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London

Dr. Adil Hassan Khan, Melbourne Law School

Dr. Zeynep Kivilcim, Berlin Institute for Advanced Study

Kojo Koram, Lecturer in Law, University of Essex

Tor Krever, University of Warwick

Dr. Vidya Kumar,  University of Leicester

Dr. Troy Lavers, University of Leicester

Anne Lagerwall, Université libre de Bruxelles

Dr. Thomas MacManus, Queen Mary University of London

Professor (Emeritus) Wade Mansell, University of Kent

Dr. Anne-Charlotte Martineau, Ecole Normale Supérieure

Alexandra Masako Goossens, Graduate Institute, Geneva

Dr. Mazen Masri, City, University of London

Dr. Heidi Matthews, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Dr. Akanksha Mehta, University of Sussex

Ladan Mehranvar, lawyer, SJD candidate in International Law, University of Toronto

Professor Chantal Meloni, University of Milan

Parvathi Menon, Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Procedure, Luxembourg

Dr. Nima Mersadi Tabari, City, University of London

Dr. Mathias Möschel, Central European University, Budapest

Dr. Usha Natarajan, The American University in Cairo

Professor Vasuki Nesiah, New York University

Professor Donald Nicolson OBE, University of Essex

Dr. Munir Nusseibeh, Al-Quds Human Rights and IHL Clinic, Al-Quds University, Palestine

Dr. Gearóid Ó Cuinn, Lancaster University

Dr. Paul O’Connell, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Amr Osman, Hamad bin Khalifa University

Professor Dianne Otto, Melbourne Law School

Dr. Genevieve R. Painter, Concordia University

Dr Alice Panepinto, Queen’s University Belfast

Dr. Imranali Panjwani, The University of Notre Dame Australia

Dr. Rose Sydney Parfitt, University of Kent/University of Melbourne

Dr. Amin Parsa, Independent Scholar, Prev., Lund University

Dr. Charlie Peevers, University of Glasgow

Professor (Emeritus) Sol Picciotto, Lancaster University

Professor Trevor Purvis,  Carleton University

Dr. Adamantia (Mando) Rachovitsa, University of Groningen

Dr. Rahul Rao, SOAS University of London

Professor Danya Reda, Peking University School of Transnational Law

Dr. John Reynolds, National University of Ireland Maynooth

Jillian Rogin, Assistant Professor, University of Windsor

Professor Hengameh Saberi, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Dr. Hani Sayed, American University in Cairo

Dr. Bérénice K. Schramm, Université du Québec à Montréal

Professor Iain Scobbie, University of Manchester

Rehana Seedat, Muslim Legal Network Queensland

Moheb Shafaqyar, Refugee Law Clinic Berlin, Humboldt-University Berlin

Dr. Halla Shoaibi, Birzeit University

Oishik Sircar, Jindal Global Law School/ Melbourne Law School

Dr. Adrian Smith, Carleton University

Dr. Graham Smith, University of Manchester

Dr. Nimer Sultany, SOAS University of London

Dr. Mayur Suresh, SOAS University of London

Dr. Mai Taha, The American University in Cairo

Dr. Anastasia Tataryn, University of Liverpool

Sâ Benjamin Traoré, University of Neuchâtel

Dr. Ntina Tzouvala, Melbourne Law School

Dr. Umut Özsu, Carleton University

Professor Lynn Welchman, SOAS University of London

Professor David Whyte, University of Liverpool

Professor Daniel Wilsher, City, University of London

Dr. Sujith Xavier, University of Windsor

Dr. Federico Zanettin, Università di Perugia

Paola Zichi, SOAS, University of London


Explanatory Note

Location of the Hebrew University

During the 1948 war, it was agreed between the Israeli and Jordanian military commanders that the Mount Scopus area, which included the Hebrew University (HUJI) buildings, would be a demilitarised zone. After Israel occupied the West Bank (including Jerusalem) in 1967, the Israeli Government confiscated the land around the Hebrew University and Hadassah hospital, and HUJI embarked on large-scale expansion plans. The expansion extended beyond the “Demilitarised Zone” and included private Palestinian land. As it stands today, significant areas of the Hebrew University are in occupied Palestinian area, and are effectively settlements. The areas are marked with the black line in the map below (the red line is the Demilitarised Zone), and they include: part of the Maiersdorf Dormitories, all of the Alan Bronfman Dormitories, the Students Village, the Lerner Family Indoor Sports Complex and the Gilbert Tennis Courts.

Role in the Settlement Project

HUJI is at least in part in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). These parts are settlements for they are used to house the population of an occupying power in an occupied territory. Furthermore, HUJI’s Mount Scopus campus as a whole is part of Israel’s illegal extension of its powers and control over the OPT. As a large higher education institution with thousands of students and employees, its presence in this area stimulates settler activities in East Jerusalem, especially in the adjacent neighbourhoods of the French Hill, Ramat Eshkol and Sheikh Jarrah and beyond. HUJI benefits from the settlement infra-structure, the transport lines, and the access roads, which are all in the occupied territory, some of which are on privately-owned Palestinian land. This infra-structure is also designed in a way to favour Israeli settlements in the area, and to the detriment of the local Palestinian population. HUJI’s campus is an integral part of Israel’s settlement enterprise in East Jerusalem.

HUJI itself does not see Israel’s occupation as an occupation, and does not distinguish between the “Demilitarised Zone” and other occupied areas. In fact, HUJI views the occupation favourably and calls it “liberation”, insinuating that Palestinian or Arab control should be seen as an occupation. As its official website states, “On the 7th of June, the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated, and the city was reunited. Efforts to return the university to Mt. Scopus began immediately, but the full restoration and building of the old/new campus took many years.” [Emphasis added]. HUJI also awarded the then Chief of Military Staff, Yitzhak Rabin, an honorary doctorate for his role in the occupation, or as HUJI’s website puts it his role “in reuniting Jerusalem, and for enabling the return of the university to Mt. Scopus.”

In 2012, the Israeli Government announced plans to build a new military college nearby (which will be wholly or in part in the OPT) because of its proximity to the University. The University did not oppose these plans, on the contrary, it expressed its support for them.

Assurances given by the Organisers to ESIL’s Board

The local organisers of the event gave a number of assurances to ESIL regarding the event.

The assurances offered by the organisers (based on emails sent by ESIL) are:

— to make a good faith effort to involve Palestinian scholars in the event.
— to facilitate visa formalities for conference participants and arrange video conference facilities for speakers who are unable to travel to Israel.
— to ensure that no part of the RF takes place in the occupied territories.
— to include Palestinian-owned hotels in East Jerusalem in the list of recommended places to stay.
— to not invite government officials to speak at the event.
— to carefully monitor security and inform the Board of any developments.

While some of these are common sense assurances, they do not address the main issue, which is that a significant part of the HUJI is on occupied territory; that, in effect, HUJI is part of the settlements project; and that holding the event at HUJI is effectively an endorsement of the occupation and the associated human rights violations. None of the assurances provided can remedy these problems.

More specifically, some of the assurances are either impractical or plainly offensive to Palestinians.
Assurance number 2 ignores the widespread boycott of Israeli academic institutions by Palestinian scholars (who also call on other academics to boycott) in protest against the role of Israeli academia in maintaining the occupation. Even if a few Palestinian scholars wanted to participate, they will most likely be unable to attend because of Israel’s restrictions on their movement.
Assurance number 3 “to ensure that no part of the RF takes place in the occupied territories” is impossible to comply with because HUJI itself sits at least in part on occupied land.
Assurance number 4 about including Palestinian-owned hotels in East Jerusalem in the list of recommended hotels is disrespectful to the local Palestinian population. It implies that the damage done by ESIL’s endorsement of the occupation and settlements could be remedied if the conference goers are given the option to spend a few hundred dollars in Palestinian-owned businesses.

HUJI’s Complicity in the Occupation

HUJI is complicit in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a number of ways:

1. In addition to being an integral part of the settlement enterprise in East Jerusalem, it actively played an important role to the illegal taking of Palestinian property in East Jerusalem, including attempts to evict nine Palestinian families from their homes.

2. HUJI maintains very intimate links with the Israeli army and Israeli security arms. These links include academic cooperation. One example is the Talpiot Programme academic and military training designed and delivered by HUJI and the army (for the programme’s website in Hebrew, see Other academic programmes included specially tailored programmes for the personnel of the Israeli secret service (General Security Service, also known as the Shabak) which is responsible for torturing Palestinian political prisoners. HUJI promotes the General Security Service as a potential employer for its students and graduates.

3. HUJI has taken measures to support Israeli soldiers who are in active combat. During the 2014 in Gaza, HUJI supported the war effort by fundraising for and offering financial support for its soldier students who participated in combat. HUJI and its official students union had a campaign to collect goods to be delivered to the soldiers fighting in Gaza.

4. As opposed to some universities in South Africa which took a formal institutional position against apartheid and consistently condemned it, HUJI has never made any public statement against the occupation and its associated human rights violations. In fact, HUJI shows support for the occupation and refers to it as “liberation”.


  1. Jerusalem is Israel. Get over it!

    • East JErusalem is occupied territory. Even successive US Administrations have not endorsed a “Jerusalem is Israel” lie.
      Get over it.

      • It’s been a Jewish land for 3500 years. The Arabs face Mecca and turn their backs from the Temple Mount when they pray. All Arab claims to Jerusalem are lies. They are permitted to live there but it is not their possession.

    • Let us put aside any differences and focus on the academics aspect, please. Bashar Malkawi

  2. Who of you would sign this petition if it was proposed to be held in Tel Aviv?

  3. This “While we are aware that the original buildings of the Hebrew University are located in the area that was designated in 1948 as the “Demilitarised Zone”, whose status is contested” is odd.
    The original land was legally purchased.
    Whatever happened in 1948, by the way, in which a war of aggression was launched against Israel and Israel was required to act defensively, has nothing to do with land ownership issues on Mount Scopus.


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