Thursday, June 07, 2007

The academic boycott

Part of this letter was published in the Jewish Chronicle, London

Even if we give the so-called academic boycotters of Israel the benefit of the doubt and accept their contention that the boycott of Israeli Universities and individual academics is not motivated by anti-Semitism, it is a most peculiar boycott. First, it is directed only at Israeli institutions and (Jewish) individuals, there is no mention of excessive human rights violations in other countries, such as Darfur in Sudan (200,000 murdered), Tibet in China, Myanmar, N. Korea, Sri Lanka, etc. etc. So the focus on Israel, a liberal democracy, is weird and certainly suspect. If that's not anti-Semitism what is?
Have any of the intended boycotters ever visited Israel, its only a 5 hr flight from London? There they will see a vibrant free press and a multicolored (rainbow) country, full of people from all over, blonde Russians, black Ethiopians, brown Arabs, and many more, all represented in the Knesset/Parliament. Remember that 20% of the population of Israel are Arabs, they live all over and are students and faculty at all the universities (Haifa, Tel Aviv, Hebrew University Jerusalem, etc). So what will their boycott accomplish, who will it hurt?
Also, who are they supporting, the Fatah Palestinians or the Hamas Palestinians? Presumably they want to support the moderate Palestinians who want to make peace with Israel, but if they can come up with a list of 100 such people who are prepared to state their wish publicly, then even I would join their boycott. No, there is little doubt, this is a stupid and ill-advised boycott, and if Jewish academics all over the world, including the US, conclude that it is indeed an anti-Semitic boycott and stage a counter-boycott, then it could boomerang and hurt British academia much more than it could ever hurt Israel.


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