[Marxism] Academic boycott of Israel gathers momentum

David Quarter davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Wed Mar 31 22:59:48 MST 2004


Academic boycott of Israel gathers 

Polly Curtis
Thursday March 25, 2004 

Leading advocates of an academic boycott of Israel have stepped up their 
campaign calling for an "outing" of Israeli universities which support their 
government's policy on the occupied territories. 
Nearly 300 academics from around the world have published an open letter 
calling for leaders of Israeli universities to lay their political cards on the 
table and reveal whether they support the government's policies on the 
border conflict. 
One Israeli academic said the move echoed the days of "McCarthyism" in 
The letter, which is addressed to Professor Menachem Magidor, president 
of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and "members of Israel's forum to 
combat the academic boycott", says that Palestinian universities are being 
severely compromised. "Harassment, arrests, random shootings and 
assaults" are carried out regularly by Israeli troops on Palestinian 
campuses, it claims. 
It goes on: "Given the destructive nature of Israeli government action 
against Palestinian education and academic freedom, and your 
simultaneous expression of concern for Israeli academic freedom in the 
face of the boycott, we feel that it is only fair to ask the Israeli academic 
leadership where it stands on the issue of current Israeli policy as 
described above, and to share with us what Israeli academic institutions are 
doing to challenge the behavior of your government." 
The letter also calls for an international public debate to be held at an Israeli 
institution. Among the signatories, who hail from 12 countries including 
Israel, are Andre Brink, the South African novelist, Ronnie Kasrils, minister 
of water affairs and forestry of South Africa, and Hilary and Steven Rose 
who were among the first in the UK to call for the boycott. Mona Baker who 
caused a row after she sacked two Israeli academics from a journal she 
edited after signing the original petition two years ago is also on the list. 
Hilary Rose said: "I'm hoping that this will re-open... and deepen the 
discussion of what is happening to the Palestinian academic system at 
every level - schools are shut, universities are shut, the military enter the 
campuses at will; it is a completely impossible situation." 
"It's about outing Israeli academics and saying you can't actually pretend 
that this isn't going on." 
She said that the recent assassination of the Palestinian resistance group 
Hamas's founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin had 
"intensified" her belief in the boycott and added that they were calling for a 
public meeting so people could see that such a meeting would be 
impossible for Palestinian academics to attend in the current climate. 
Professor Nachman Ben-Yehuda, of Hebrew University's sociology 
department, said that there was no formal forum discussing a response to 
the boycott, but that members of the university were monitoring the boycott 
and approaching individuals taking part in the boycott to discuss the 
issues. He said the letter harped back to the days of McCarthyism. 
"I have no desire to go back to the days of McCarthy where people had to 
sign forms to say whether they were loyal or not. 
"We should isolate this conflict [the border conflict] not escalate into other 
parts of public life. If people want to go against the government, that's fine, 
but what do they want from Israeli academia? Israeli academia is not the 
Israeli government." 
He added: "Did such a letter go to Harvard to ask whether they support 
Bush in Iraq? If academics have to come out and say what they believe in 
why just Israel? Why shouldn't they ask the LSE [London School of 
Economics] if they support the Gulf war? Why just Israel?" 
The debate over the academic boycott of Israel has raged for the past two 
years since two petitions, one calling for an out and out boycott and the 
other for a moratorium on EU research funding to Israel, were established. 
Further petitions opposing the boycotts have since gathered thousands of 

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