SPME/IAB Petition Against Academic Boycott/Blacklist Draws Worldwide Faculty Condemnation of British Union

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“”In an amazing show of solidarity with Israeli Faculty, scholars from institutions from around the world are expressing o Despite protests to the contrary, the proposed boycotts stem from outright antisemitism. That some Jews are prepared to support or even to initiate the boycotts evinces only their naivete or unscrupulousness. The telltale evidence that the motivation is antisemitism is the absence of an proposed boycott of academia in any other country on earth. To cite just one example, has either the AUT or NATFHE ever proposed boycotting China for its conquest of Tibet all the way back in 1950, for its imprisonment and execution of Tibetan monks, for its attempted erasure of Tibetan culture? Of course, not. utrage and ire with the proposed boycott/blacklist resolutions of the NATFHE Union of faculty in the UK. Even though the resolution will be binding for only a short time if passed, the symbolism of it being brought up after the defeat of last years AUT’s resolution is an affront to many academics if not on political terms, certainly on the basis of academic freedom.

The petition located at https://spme.org/cgi-bin/display_petitions.cgi?ID=2 has amassed over 1300 signatures as of this writing with more added hourly. The comments of some of the faculty quoted are not necessarily reflective of the positions of SPME or IAB-Bar Ilan University, but are simply representative of a wide range of offerings. Here are some of the comments:

Joan O’Callaghan at the University of Toronto observes, ” The proposed boycott is a disgrace and an embarrassment to all academics.”

John Palmer at the University of Ontario says, ” I may not agree with everything at SPME, but I certainly am opposed to the boycott.”

Faruk Birtek at Bogazici University in Istabul Turkey, says, “…blacklisting is a Nazi operation that should be oppposed on all fronts whether against Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Christians or Athiests, et.al”

David Duncan at Cambridge University in the UK tells us, ” Israel is a sole beacon of light in a region governed by despots. Attacks against it are misguided, ignorant and hypocritical at best, and anti-Semitic at worse.”

Henry Knobil at University College, London states, ” Any action to prevent the dissemination of knowledge is unacceptable.”

Katherine Margo at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says, ” This sort of boycott is the most anti-intellectual move possible.”

David Sternlight, affiliated with MIT and the London School of Economics, observes, ” Academic freedom only for those who agree with one is academic slavery.”

Robert Segal of Lancaster University in the UK says: “…The telltale evidence that the motivation is antisemitism is the absence of an proposed boycott of academia in any other country on earth. To cite just one example, has either the AUT or NATFHE ever proposed boycotting China for its conquest of Tibet all the way back in 1950, for its imprisonment and execution of Tibetan monks, for its attempted erasure of Tibetan culture? Of course, not. “

Patricia Royer at Simon Frasier University in Canada reminds us: ” To catagorically exclude the scholars of any country or political system from dialogue and exchange of ideas is antithetical to all the principals of the advancement of human knowledge. To behave otherwise is intellectual hypocrisy of the first order. “

Andrew Mathis at Villanova University observes, ” Boycotting products is different from boycotting the free expression of ideas. All you are doing is punishing academicians–not the government.”

Patrick Villano, a post-graduate student at Rutgers University observes, “…I find the idea of a boycott of any academics to be repugnant, even if i disagree with the views of some academics. “

Mark Humphrys of Dublin City University writes, ” Israel is a liberal democracy fighting totalitarianism. We should be supporting it, not boycotting it.”

Carson Phillips at York University observes, ” The proposed boycott is a neo-colonial action that impedes upone academic freedom and integrity.”

Lucy Glynn of the University of Leeds in the UK, ” I was shocked and appalled to hear about yet another proposed boycott of Israeli academics by a British organisation. This proposed boycott goes against all the ideals of academic freedom – would a British university have to publicly declare itself as opposing the government – on the war in Iraq for instance? To judge academics purely on their nationality instead of their merit is both bigoted and racist. Keep racism where it belongs – in the history books. “

Daniel Sudwarts of Queen Mary College at the University of London, ” I am disguested and appalled that supposed academics and intellectuals can be so ignorant.”

Elie Dahan of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johanesburg, South Africa writes, ” Germany lost monumentally when it boycotted Jews from its University. Do you propose the same to the United Kingdom?”

William Bilek at McGill University says, ” Since no similar boycott is or has been invoked against any other country guilty of similar or worse alleged crimes, this action can only be termed as ‘anti-semitism at its most most noxious.'”

Richard Pious at Barnard College writes, ” It seems to me that a sincere effort to assist the Palestinians would lead to more engagement with Israeli academics and not a boycott, which is the antithesis of liberal inquiry and enegagement in university life. “

Peter Milburn from Columbia University suggests, ” It is highly inappropriate to single out academics from Israel, many of whom work for peace, when the Palestinian government has not worked for peace for many years.”

Gerald M. Fraser at University of Tel Aviv School of Medicine observes, ” Israeli academics are at the forefront of peace movements in Israel. Academic exchange promotes peace end prevents extremism. “

Gur Hirshberg, a student at Georgetown and graduate of London School of Economics, shares his opinion with, ” I sign this petition both as an aspiring academic, and as an alumnus of a UK postgraduate programme (MSc in political theory, LSE.) It is utterly shameful that the NAFTHE plans to consider motions to boycott Israeli scholars.”

Wlodzimierz Kuperberg at Auburn University writes, ” Pressuring people to publicly declare their “correct” political view is a despicable act, to which the only proper reaction can be: “HAVE YOU NO DECENCY???” “

Shani Beth-Halachmy at National-Louis University writes, ” The resolution seriously risks to isolate and weaken the academic peace activisits and those who tirelessly work to eliminate racism in both Israel and Palestine.”

Lucille Cohen of the University of Manchester in the UK suggests that, ” The advocates of this blacklisting attempt are the dupes of those who would seek to impose their hegemony on the world through terrorism. The proposers of this motion become accompolices to academic terrorism. “

Natalio Krasnogor at the University of Nottingham in the UK, notes, “…Clearly NAFTHE’s and AUT’s line of thought is untenable. The only reason I could think of for such a ridiculous boycott proposition is raw and naked anti-semitism. “

Oriel Sullivan at Ben Gurion University of the Negev states, ” As a British academic working in an Israeli University, I can confirm that the Universities here are one of the main forums for fair and free debate on the Israeli-Palestine issue. “

Heinz-Peter Wolff at the University of Hohenheim, Germany points out, ” Boycott and ostracism are neither scientific instruments nor arguments.”

Sidney Strauss at Tel Aviv University states, ” I oppose some of my government’s policies. Who doesn’t? Nevertheless, I would NEVER, under any circumstances, kowtow to another person or group by stating my objections so as to seen as a person in good standing by that person or group. My objections are addressed to the appropriate source, i.e., my government. Asking me and others to denounce our government so as to have academic connections with colleagues in the UK? Are you kidding? “

Eugene Matusov at the University of Delaware reminds us, “…truth is based on open academic dialogue that knows no borders. Whatever your political views and judgement [of the] Palestine-Israeli conflict, please know that two wrongs do not make one right.”

Camille Rasminsky of York University, Canada offered: “It is unbelievable in this day and age to try to boycott scholars of any creed just because they are from certain country. those who even suggest it should be barred from any scholarly pousuit because of their lack of openess which is one of the 1st priority in order to educate and not to teach obtusenees. Revolting “

R. Vago of Tel Aviv University expresses anger and sadness with, “The day will come when all of you naive so called intellectuals will realize how much we, Israeli academics have contributed to a just and real peace and understanding among the peoples of the region, while you are sabotaging those very efforts by completely misreading and unable to understand the facts as they are. “

Ezra Maguen, MD, of UCLA says, “It is high time a stop be put to the politicising of academia and to the curtailing of academic freedom by exercising finanacial pressure. What you do places you right along the Taliban with respect to preserving freedoms of all kind.”

Carol Sokolov at UC Irvine tells us, “this is an outrageous abuse of power. It is clearly and totally one-sided, and ignores the realities of the situation. There is only one underlying theme to this attempt, make no mistake. It’s anti-Semitism in the guise of a political statement. “

S. Moreh of the Hebrew University suggested: “It is more appropriate to NATFHE Members to boycott the Iranian Univrsities whose President is calling for the destruction of Israel and the deportation of the Israelis to Europe. It is great shame to those who are calling to boycott the Israeli Academics and to follow the steps of the Nazis of the WWII. “

Marsha Bensoussan of the University of Haifa explains: “…The above motion is particularly offensive, since it is a McCarthy type test. Note that The Principle of the Universality of Science, adopted by the International Council of Science, explicitly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of nationality or political stance. “

Sally Temple at Albany Medical College warns us, ” This boycott is absolutely shameful. Antisemitism has infiltrated the NATFHE organization. This is part of a wider campaign to influence academics and higher education, traditional strongholds of intellectual freedom, against Israel. They hope to brain wash our young people. Beware, we have been on this road before! Stand strong, support Israeli scientists and fight against this hatred. “

Ivan Goldberg of the University of Sydney in Australia says, ” find the concept of boycotting academics from a particular country because there is opposition to the policies of the government of that country to be counter-productive and indefensible. Rather work towards building bridges between the academic and teaching institutions and individuals of that country and its opponents – i.e. the exact opposite of a boycott. “

Donald Friedman of Villanova University apparently agrees with, ” The concept of an academic boycott is so oxymoronic. Boycotts and academic freedom are antithetical.”

Paul G. Shane of Rutgers University observes, ” It is unbelievable that those who supposedly believe in scientific inquiry and reason should boycott, for political reasons, others who operate on the same basis. Academic boycotts only suppress academic freedom. All and any motions to boycott scholars because of their country’s political misdeeds would mean that U.S. scholars, Iranian scholars, Sudanese scholars and many other nations’ scholars would have to be boycotted and then we’d have a world of paranoia. “

Sylvia Lewis from the University of Toronto exhorts the British union to note, ” Your focu son politics and less on your teaching may expalin some of the educational and resulting social problems in your country…”

Philip Schein of the University of Oxford in the UK requests, ” A boycott in the face of the recent withdrawal from Gaza, announced withdrawals from the West Bank, and homicidal bombings and daily rockets from the Palestinians has no justification and can find no explanation other than old fashion anti-Semitism. Halt this nonsense if you have any sense of decency. “

Rabbi Avi Winokur of the Reconstructionist Rabbinal College offers these thoughts, ” Communication of ideas is one of the hallmarks of the academy. This sets a terrible precedent. Should we have boycotted Russian academics over Chechniya? Shall we boycott Chinese academics over Tibet? If not, can we really say that situation between Israel and the Palestinians is so egregious that it requires this exceptional action. I think not. Countries far less democratic and more repressive continue be accepted in the academy. This would be a terrible mistake. “

Shalom Rackovsky at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine at New York University observes, ” Boycott attempts have already made British academics the laughing stock of the educational world. Don’t make this mistake again. “

Preston Wolin at the University of Illinois-Chicago sums these comments up and others with, ” Simply put this is a bad idea. In the interests of academic freedom, no scholar should be prevented from presenting or attending meetings. Without a free exchange of ideas, how can knowledge grow? Preventing someone from presenting their ideas based solely on the perceived errors of their government is antithetical to the free market of ideas. Those who promote motions such as these need to answer what they fear about that concept. What are their criteria for who is “acceptable”. Some day soon they may find themselves to be judged to be living in a country whose policies are “incorrect”. How would they feel about being shut out of meetings then?”

SPME/IAB Petition Against Academic Boycott/Blacklist Draws Worldwide Faculty Condemnation of British Union

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Edward S. Beck

Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

Contributing Faculty Member, Walden University

Read all stories by Edward S. Beck

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