Friday, August 28, 2009

Self-Boycotting Jew

On August 20, Prof. Neve Gordon, chairman of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University, published an article in the Los Angeles Times, supporting the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel. The university president has announced she is checking into possible sanctions against Gordon, and has called him to resign, or at the very least, leave his post as department chair. It seems that legally she can't really do anything against him. Others have also called him to resign, while others have jumped to his defense and denounced the president's response.

Gordon did not mention an academic boycott in his article. He mentioned a boycott that is sensitive to circumstances and context, and gradual. He doesn't want to boycott all Israeli institutions and companies, but only those who participate in, or gain from, the occupation. One could easily find a reason to say that Gordon's own institution, Ben Gurion University, is participating in the occupation and so it should be boycotted. After all, it practically has a mini-campus at Hazerim Air Force Base, where BGU professors teach pilot trainees.

Prof. Gordon should be allowed to continue teaching at Ben-Gurion. His call for a boycott may be outrageous, and in my opinion anti-democratic and anti-peace, but it is his right as a citizen in general, and in particular as a professor whose field of expertise is the study of the occupation. However, I don't think he should continue serving as chairman of the political science department. The chairman needs to promote his department's cooperation with foreign universities and international organizations. He can't honestly do that while calling for a boycott.

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