Friday, June 01, 2007

Stop the Academic Boycott of Israel

Here's a message I got from one of my most leftist bleeding-heart peacenik friends. I mention his political leanings just to demonstate how counterproductive and simple-minded this boycott is:

On the 30th May 2007, a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions was passed by Britain's University and College Union (UCU).

If you agree with the following please sign the petition at:


- It is counter to the universal principle of academic freedom

- It is a form of prejudice & discrimination; it unfairly singles out Israel

- It is counter-productive to peace & reconciliation

- It stifles scientific advancement, which depends on international interaction

An academic boycott is counter to the universal principle of Academic Freedom. Academic life is about building bridges, not destroying them; opening minds, not
closing them; hearing both sides of an argument, not one alone. Boycotts are a betrayal of these values. This principle has been formally recognized by UNESCO, he International Council for Science, the Middle East Studies Association, the journals Nature and Science, the American Association of University Professors, and other learned societies around the world. Only in an atmosphere of academic freedom, unfettered by partisan political manipulations, can scientific advances of benefit to all mankind be made.

Not only does a boycott of Israeli academia violate the principle of academic freedom, it would do so in a discriminatory matter. Any institution representing academics, including trade unions, must adhere to universal, objective criteria for
determining its policy towards academic boycotts. This has not been the case. Only Israel has been singled out for such treatment. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Israeli government actions, Israel is very far from being the worst abuser of Human Rights in the world, yet no other country has been targeted for boycotts.

Prof. Sari Nusseibeh, President of Al-Quds University, bravely opposes the boycott and issued the following statement:

"An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro-Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: It would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the
international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it."

And indeed, there are a number of joint projects between researchers at Al-Quds University and Israeli universities, a choice that is far more likely to contribute to peace than would the blacklisting of researchers of one nationality.

The passed boycott is a dangerous precedent, opening the door to the spread of political boycotts to other organizations and other countries, and to other political issues as well. Clearly, a trend of this kind would destroy the system of peer review which assesses academic research on merit, not nationality or political opinion.

With very few exceptions, those leading the boycott call are not the leaders of British academia, but, rather, political extremists seeking to use the boycott as part of their broader campaign to delegitimise the State of Israel. These boycott proponents seek to hijack the union and use it as a weapon for propagating their marginal political


- Sign the petition:

- Contact Sally Hunt General Secretary of the UCU at and ask for a National referendum

- If you are studying at a British University, contact your local branch of the UCU. Details can be found on:

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