Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, July 22, 2002

Professor Geoffrey Alderman writes in the Guardian (no less) about the gesture politics behind the call for an academic boycott of Israel.

The AUT resolution was aimed only at Israel. Its ostensible purpose was to bring pressure to bear on Israel, via the EU, to force the democratically elected government of Israel to ignore its popular mandate by making concessions to which the Israeli electorate happens to be opposed.

...For example, last year, the Egyptian government put 28 scholars on trial for "impugning Egypt's international reputation." Many were imprisoned, some with hard labour. Why didn't the AUT or NATFHE demand a boycott of Egyptian universities? Why did Professors Hilary and Steven Rose, who have taken a leading part in the Israel boycott movement, not demand a cessation of all academic links with Egypt?

...Some academics have tried to use the example of South Africa in the apartheid era to justify their demands for a boycott of Israel. The analogy is fundamentally flawed.

The racist policies of white-only South African governments impacted directly on the work of South African universities. I boycotted the South African state. That is to say, I refused, insofar as I could, to lend it any legitimacy. For instance, I declined an offer from the South African government of an all-expenses-paid trip to see the country for myself.

But I did not boycott South African institutions of higher education. I maintained my personal links with South African colleagues, for I knew that they valued these links not least for the hope and encouragement they gave.

Israel is not a racist state. Jews of all races live in Israel. Arabs and Christians may attend Israeli universities. God knows, Israel is not a perfect society. But it is a great deal less imperfect than scores of other countries in which the repression of freedom of expression and of academic activity is widespread and systematic.

< email | 7/22/2002 04:01:00 PM | link

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