Close to 250 international academics have appealed to well-known Australian historian Alison Bashford to reject an Israeli award which they claim will serve to “legitimize and normalize Israel’s colonial violence and apartheid,” Middle East Eye reported on Thursday, February 25. According to the open letter, “Israel has been undermining Palestine’s health systems and systematically denying Palestinians medical care.”
Bashford is currently the University of New South Wales Laureate Professor of History. She is poised to receive the Israeli Dan David prize along with two others. The letter calls on Bashford to refuse the award in accordance with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement’s international campaign to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.
The letter highlights Israel’s illegal policies against the Palestinians, including its denial of access to medical care to Palestinians in the occupied territories. Israel is obligated under international law to ensure healthcare for people living under its occupation. Palestinians have allegedly even been blackmailed into secretly collaborating with Israeli intelligence and security agencies in exchange for travel permits to Israel to receive medical treatment for themselves or their family.
Israeli discrimination against Palestinians in providing them medical services recently came under severe criticism amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic following news that the Israeli government is not providing Palestinians living under its occupation with the vaccine. This is despite Israel vaccinating the highest number of people per capita in the world when it comes to its own citizens. The letter implores Bashford to reject the award along with the financial prize that comes with it, stating that “Doing so would be a sharp rebuke to the unanimous call from Palestinian organizations to support their struggle for freedom.”
The Dan David prize is awarded each year to scientists and academics from around the world for significant or breakthrough achievements in the cultural, social, science and technology sectors. The award comes with USD three million as prize money, which is divided into three prizes of one million each. Bashford is selected for one of these for the year 2021 for her work on the history of health and medicine. Keith Wailoo of Princeton University and Katharine Park of Harvard University are the two other recipients. Bashford’s work looks into the issues of quarantine, gender and colonialism in relation to health and medicine from the 18th to the 20th century.