I am writing to you regarding the upcoming AUT vote on the proposal to begin a partial boycott of Israeli academic institutions. I strongly oppose this move and would be grateful if you could take my views into account in your voting on this matter.
For the record, I am a British Jewish sociologist with a number of links to Israeli academia. I am also heavily critical of the policies on the Israeli government and I am involved in Jews for Justice for Palestinians. I oppose the boycott for the following reasons:
1) Israeli universities are centres of criticism in Israel. They are the sources of dissent against the Israeli government. They are sources of cosmopolitanism and dialogue. Israeli academics draw strength from international contacts. If Israeli universities are isolated from the world, this sources of diversity and dissent will be weakened. This will strengthen those in Israel who wish to isolate Israel and who seek to stifle dissent. In other words, the boycott would be a gift to the Israeli right.
2) Whilst I do not believe that universities can be considered independently from their host societies, there is a merit in the ideal of the free market in ideas. If an idea is good, then it should be considered and debated regardless of where it comes from. If an Israeli academic were to come up with a life-saving medical treatment, whose interests would it serve if this were ignored?
3) The idea that academics who oppose the Israeli government's policies will be exempted from the boycott does not improve matters. The idea that academics should be made to sign pledges of ideological good behaviour to have access to the world is faintly fascistic. Who is to monitor such pledges? Frankly, if I was an Israeli academic I would never consent to this sort of thing even if I agreed with the sentiments. It is against freedom of conscience.
4) Israel is a world centre of Jewish studies. If Israel were cut off from the rest of the world academically, where would it leave those of us who research Jewish issues and depend on Israeli academics for support?
5) Israel is responsible for many bad things, but it is not the worse regime in the world. I do not see why there is no boycott proposed against other oppressive societies.
6) Those of us Jews who are on the left are constantly criticised from within the Jewish community for being 'self-hating Jews' and for siding with anti-semites. The boycott will make life even more difficult for us.
I would be grateful if you could take my views into account."
Eric the Unread: A tale of two scientists
Eric the Unread: NUS and anti-semitism update
Harry's Place: NUS's failure to confront
Previous: Statement on the AUT and the academic boycott