Letters for the Editor of the London
Guardian: the Pros and Cons of the Academic Boycotting of Israel
I am deeply
opposed to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
I am appalled by the human rights violations by Israeli security forces and
strongly against the settlements and the wall. But the best hope for changing
all this is through Israeli and Palestinian civil society - of which
universities are a key component (Israeli college boycott debated, April 19).
Academic boycotts are never
a good way to change society. I supported the sanctions against South Africa in the apartheid years, but I broke
them to help a lecturer at the University
introduce a course on militarism and anti-militarism, and I hope the course
helped to change opinion. In the former Yugoslavia, I was planning a
similar project when sanctions were introduced.
boycott will affect those people most likely to press for peace. The Israeli
right has used the threat of an academic boycott to try to discredit and marginalise
those courageous Israeli academics who already work with their Palestinian
colleagues. I urge my AUT colleagues to oppose
tomorrow's resolution calling for a boycott.
Prof Mary Kaldor
As a protest against the
treatment of Soviet Jews in the mid-1970s, the Cavendish Laboratory refused
three Russian postdoctoral students nominated under the terms of the
Anglo-Soviet cultural and scientific agreement. That was the reason given when
the rejected applications were returned to me. No objection to this was raised.
It was regarded as a matter of academic freedom. Interesting, then, that two Cambridge academics are signatories to a letter (April 19)
attacking the proposed boycott of Israel because "academic
collaboration should stand above politics".
The claim by Omar Barghouti
and Lisa Taraki (Letters, April 20) of a "clear analogy" between
Israel and South Africa is refuted by the participation of Arabs throughout all
institutions, at all levels, in all aspects of Israeli life, including Mr
Barghouti's own position as a PhD student at an Israeli university.
Dr Robin Stamler
Wembley Park, Middx
I am astounded at the
naivety of those calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Since
the time of its inception in 1948, Israel has been subjected to
constant attempts to destroy its land and dissipate its inhabitants. Despite
these attempts from all of its neighbours, it has developed an academic
reputation that is world-class. Its academic institutions welcome students and
teachers from around the world, irrespective of religion or ethnicity.
Jewish academics have been
driven out of institutions and the rights of non-Muslims and women are
extremely limited in much of the Arab world. The call for an academic boycott
is no more than anti-Semitism dressed up as a campaign for rights for the
Dr Simon Nadel
St Mary's hospital, London
In Israel's universities, less than 1% of tenured
full-time staff are Palestinian citizens of Israel, none of
them women. About 3% are female Mizrahi (Jews who immigrated to Israel from Africa and Asia),
and 5.5% Mizrahi males. For every four Ashkenazi (Israeli Jews of European
descent) who are college graduates, there is only one Mizrahi and near zero
academics perpetrate and benefit from the systematic discrimination against Israel's 70%
non-European majority (48% Mizrahim and 22% Palestinian). Israel's
Ashkenazi "post-Zionist" professors, brandishing their progressive
politics as they use Mizrahim and Palestinians for grantsmanship and as career
advancement tools, are just the cynical tip of this apartheid iceberg.
Dr Smadar Lavie
I am astounded an army of
academics has written to oppose the proposed boycott. The Israeli state
practises apartheid policies that are codified in law, including legalised
torture, and continues to systematically colonise Palestinian territory
occupied by conquest. There is a deliberate programme of impoverishment and
state terrorism against the Palestinians. Only days ago three teenagers were
killed by Israeli soldiers after they went to retrieve their football in a
"no-go area" in Gaza.
Where were the protests then?
As an Israeli academic, I
have no sympathy for Israel's
occupation policies. But my AUT colleagues work in a country whose troops
continue to be part of an illegal occupation of Iraq. Their government is a leading
member of a coalition which has inflicted tens of thousands of civilian casualties
and has destroyed a whole city (Falluja) out of frustration and spite. It is a bit rich for them seek to punish academics in other
countries. Both Iraqi and Israeli occupations would be untenable without US initiative
or support. Where is the resolution to boycott American academics?
Prof Avner Offer
All Souls College, Oxford
You say (Leaders, April 20)
"it is wrong to assume that all or most Israeli academics support the
policies of Ariel Sharon's government". The same could be said about Iraq under
Saddam Hussein, yet it was happily boycotted.
Sleepy Hollow, New York
First published on "The Guardian", 21.4.2005