Opposing British professors’ boycott of Israel

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After last year’s defeat of a ferocious British campaign against two Israeli universities, the boycotters have come back again. On May 29 they intend to force through a NATFHE Union Board motion encouraging their

“members to boycott Israeli educational institutions and individuals who ‘do not publicly dissociate themselves’ from Israeli policies in the West Bank.”

Israel is accused of “apartheid” policies, in an effort to tar the Jewish State with the racist policies of the former white governments of South Africa and Rhodesia.

Since Israel’s West Bank policies exist to prevent suicide attacks against innocent Jewish civilians, the result would be to force Israel’s professors to denounce the last, desperate measures designed to protect their own lives and the lives of their families. This logic can only appeal to those who are living in perfect safety, thousands of miles from the nearest suicide bomber. Others may wish to view the results of terrorist bombings of buses and restaurants.

As Winston Churchill said so memorably on a similar occasion, Britain has long been tarred by a long list of “bloody minded professors.” Today, nothing has changed.

A number of academic organizations around the world have protested the pending motion, but there is considerable pessimism about the outcome on May 29. Some Canadian and US academics have therefore decided simply to boycott British universities if the anti-Israel boycott passes, including British conferences, British journals and British academic authors. While it is painful to engage in a counter-boycott, for those who remember the Nazi Holocaust it is far more painful to acquiesce in a grotesque inversion of morality.

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has posted an anti-boycott petition on the web, although the petition has been defaced with anti-Semitic messages. The SPME petition states that

“Academic boycott actions are antithetical not only to the principles of academic freedom, but also to the quest for peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

That point would seem plain enough to a six-year old child, but apparently it is difficult to grasp for radical professors in the United Kingdom.

The Council of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, published a statement last week

”…reiterating its opposition to academic boycotts … The council called the proposed boycott “especially unfortunate” given the success of a recently established Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization.”

Last year, thet US NAS formalized its position as follows :

“The Council of the National Academy of Sciences has always been opposed to academic boycotts, and we continue to call on the members of the world scientific community to support freedom in the conduct of science and cooperative scientific exchange…. the Council firmly believes that scientists provide a voice for rationality and moderation in political affairs, and that they can and should work to build strong bridges of understanding between cultures.

Two years after formally endorsing the establishment of the Israeli-Palestinian Science Organization (IPSO), the NAS Council is heartened to learn that IPSO now has the formal endorsement of 25 national academies, and that it has received more than 60 proposals from Palestinian and Israeli scientists who want to carry out joint research. These positive developments reinforce our belief that scientist-to-scientist and institution-to-institution interactions between Palestinians and Israelis are possible, and indeed vital to the future success of the region. It is especially unfortunate in light of this progress that there are renewed threats, from organizations outside the region, to academic exchange with Israeli universities.”


Opposing British professors’ boycott of Israel

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