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Palestinian free software activists invited me to speak at Palestinian universities in July 2011, and offered funds for the trip. After this was set up, I invited people I know in Israel to set up other talks for me. Some of these were planned at universities.
When my Palestinian hosts found out about this, they objected to my plan to speak at Israeli universities because the Palestinian boycott/divestment/sanctions movement opposes academic cooperation with them. My speeches are not academic cooperation in the usual sense, but they took a strict interpretation of the criteria. They said they would cancel the trip if I were going to speak at those venues.
I don't advocate a blanket boycott of Israeli universities, but I don't campaign against it either, because I see where they are coming from. Israel's occupation policies are horrible; nonviolent Palestinian protests are crushed with persistent brutality. (See http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Columnists/Article.aspx?id=221897.) Palestinians who are against violence are looking desperately for an effective method of nonviolent resistance. I respect that even if I don't agree entirely with the details.
So I decided to follow my Palestinians hosts' boycott policy in the trip they organized, and I cancelled my speeches at Israeli universities. I apologize for not anticipating that this issue would arise. I have arranged two speeches at other venues in Israel, one in Haifa and one in Jaffa. Details can be found in fsf.org.
I hope that Free Software / Barmagiyat Horrah / Tochna Chofshit can provide an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to experience practical cooperation, and that this will make at least a small contribution to peace.
Copyright 2011 Richard Stallman Released under the Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 unported license.