Joseph Skibell on NATFHE Israeli boycott

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To the leaders and members of NATFHE;
As a writer, as a professor, as a man living in a free, if imperfect society, I urge the leaders and the members of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, as writers, as professors and as citizens of a free, if imperfect society, to rethink and renounce their collective motion to boycott Israeli academics.
Must an American novelist really lecture his British academic colleagues on the dangers of McCarthyistic political tests? Must an American really remind his British colleagues that the military troops that represent their will are not quite yet out of Northern Ireland, nor did the world call for a boycott of British academics all during that long conflict, nor did it ask British teachers and professors to swear a political oath in support of the Irish in order to be able to lecture and teach and carry on research in other countries. Must an American really remind his British colleagues of the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the (to a degree duplicitious) British hand in the current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate these historical acts represent? Lastly, must an American really remind his British friends that, if nothing else, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex conflict — in other words, it’s not a Western in which the good guys all wear white hats and the bad guys all wear black hats (neither is it a “Middle-Eastern,” in which all the good guys and all the bad guys wear either kippot or kaffiyehs, depending on which side you favor; nor one in which the good guys all pass political litmus tests adminstered to them by the British Thought Police) — and I can only urge your organization and its members as individuals to refrain from simplistic gestures that will do nothing but harm individual professors while it brings disgrace to your organization.
To paraphrase Voltaire: While I personally regret and decry the political and moral positions implicitin your proposed boycott, I would fight to the death for your right to hold those positions, just as I would fight to the death for the right of my academic colleagues in Israel to hold positions contrary to yours and to go about their lives and their work without interference from McCarthyistic boycotts like the one NATFHE is shamefully proposing.
Now that Britain is finally leaving Ireland, isn’t it time she left Israel as well?
Joseph Skibell
Author of “A Blessing on the Moon” and “The English Disease”
Associate Professor
Creative Writing Program/Department of English
Emory University
Atlanta, GA 30322
404/929-0025 (fax)
[email protected]

Joseph Skibell on NATFHE Israeli boycott

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Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) is not-for-profit [501 (C) (3)], grass-roots community of scholars who have united to promote honest, fact-based, and civil discourse, especially in regard to Middle East issues. We believe that ethnic, national, and religious hatreds, including anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, have no place in our institutions, disciplines, and communities. We employ academic means to address these issues.

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