A letter forwarded today to the Israeli higher education forum mailing list has revealed something few people have been aware of. Apparently, there have been recent calls to boycott the 7th International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, scheduled to take place in May 2011 at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, because one of its keynote speakers is Israeli. All I have is the letter denouncing the calls for a boycott and not the actual debate that took place in a health psychology mailing list exchange, so I don't know what exactly happened, but whatever it was, doesn't look like I would have approved. Did they demand that the Israeli's keynote address be cancelled before declaring a boycott? Doesn't matter. Whether they boycott the lecturer individually or the whole conference because of an Israeli's presence, both options are just vile.
I looked the conference up and found that the Israeli keynote speaker in question is Dr. Michal Krumer-Nevo, the director of the Israeli Center for Qualitative Research of Peoples and Societies (ICQM) and a lecturer at the Department of Social Work at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The conference website seems to suggest that there was a call to boycott BGU specifically rather than all Israeli universities. "It is not appropriate to hold one person responsible for the reprehensible actions of their university administration," declares the site. I'm assuming they are referring to Prof. Rivka Carmi's denunciation of Neve Gordon's call for a boycott against Israeli institutions, but again, I didn't see the debate itself so I don't know for sure. Poor BGU is getting hit from all sides now, from the right wing McCarthytites "Im Tirtzu" to the international left-wing bleeding hearts.
Turns out that there's going to be a public forum about boycotting academics, with Krumer-Nevo's participation. If I understand correctly, this wasn't originally planned to be part of the conference but was added as a response to the calls for a boycott. If I were Krumer-Nevo, I would not agree to take part in such a forum aimed at appeasing those who don't want her there, but it is her right to react differently than I would. It probably will not be fun for her, though.