Israeli academics consider the academic boycott

A few articles in English.

In Y-net, there’s a piece by Eli Pollack and Mordechai Kedar of Israel Academic Monitor, a site which works to expose Israeli academics it designates ‘radical’. I sympathise with the authors’ outrage at the slants and slogans embraced by some academics, and the eagerness of those academics to sacrifice their colleagues’ international connections. However, their own site is high on names and thin on commentary, presenting events and quotations as if they were de facto evidence of anti-Israel activity. It functions, and backfires, as a kind of blacklist. Moreover, I can’t envisage what their ultimate call for “a committee that would set ethical rules for non-academic activity in order to protect academic freedom against misuse” would look like in my own institution, which actively brands itself radical and recognises many diverse forms of research and research output, including event, social activism or artefact, alongside field work, desk work, paper and book. I think such a committee would be both laughed at and resented, easily roped into some kind of language game. In stable democracies it’s hard enough to laugh and reach cybernetic accommodations; you can only imagine how recent government moves into Israeli academia have been received there in these political times.

Elsewhere, in Haaretz, Tel Aviv University professor of constitutional law, Asher Maoz takes a more sober look at distinctions between freedom of speech and academic freedom:

“A university lecturer calls the naval commandos who raided the Mavi Marmara cold-blooded murderers. Another lecturer refuses to permit a student returning from reserve duty to enter the classroom in uniform. A third tells his students that he does not believe reserve duty in the territories justifies absence from class – but he is prepared to excuse the absence of students who attend a protest at a checkpoint.

Yet another lecturer calls for a boycott of Israel because of the occupation. His colleague calls for an academic boycott of Israeli universities, including the one that employs him. Another lecturer’s students claim he silences them when they disagree with him.

Or the details could be changed: Perhaps one lecturer calls soldiers who evacuate settlers “Nazis.” Another forbids a Muslim student from entering the classroom because she is wearing a veil. A third gives no special consideration to a student called up for reserve duty to evacuate a settlement outpost, but does so for a student who is absent because he went to help thwart an evacuation. And a fourth calls for a boycott on Israel or its universities because the “treasonous” government is prepared to give up parts of the homeland.”

Read on.

This interesting as-a-Jew piece in Ynet by Sarah Reef (not an Israeli academic) is worth linking to again.

A university lecturer calls the naval commandos who raided the Mavi Marmara cold-blooded murderers. Another lecturer refuses to permit a student returning from reserve duty to enter the classroom in uniform. A third tells his students that he does not believe reserve duty in the territories justifies absence from class – but he is prepared to excuse the absence of students who attend a protest at a checkpoint.

Yet another lecturer calls for a boycott of Israel because of the occupation. His colleague calls for an academic boycott of Israeli universities, including the one that employs him. Another lecturer’s students claim he silences them when they disagree with him.

Or the details could be changed: Perhaps one lecturer calls soldiers who evacuate settlers “Nazis.” Another forbids a Muslim student from entering the classroom because she is wearing a veil. A third gives no special consideration to a student called up for reserve duty to evacuate a settlement outpost, but does so for a student who is absent because he went to help thwart an evacuation. And a fourth calls for a boycott on Israel or its universities because the “treasonous” government is prepared to give up parts of the homeland.

What all these scenarios have in common is the pretension that they are protected by academic freedom. But their true common denominator is that they have nothing at all to do with academic freedom. Some of these incidents are protected by freedom of speech, not academic freedom. Others contravene academic freedom.

Let’s take criticism of the government: In a democracy, freedom of expression and criticism must be zealously guarded. But what does this have to do with academic freedom?

“How can we create a new conversation about Israel & Palestine?”

Received by email, this may be of interest to those of our readers who identify as Jewish, Muslim or Christian.

St Ethelburga’s is recruiting a group of Jews, Christians and Muslims to undergo an innovative process of co-operative inquiry exploring the Israel Palestine issue.  The group will spend a weekend away together in October, followed by an 8 day study and encounter tour of the Holy Land in November.  Followed by futher meetings to reflect on learning.

The programme will adopt the co-operative inquiry approach, which is a reflective action research model in which participants set an agenda and inquire together into a key research question.  The question in this programme will be focused on how to create productive dialogue around the highly divisive and polarising issue of the Middle East.

Our intention is to select a very diverse group of individuals, reflecting as wide as possible a range of perspectives, who have a strong connection to the issue as well as an interest dialogue processes.  We will fund air fares and hotels for successful applicants.

This is a very special opportunity to undergo an intensive learning experience with a diverse group.

Application forms and background information can be found at http://stethelburgas.org/israel-palestine-inquiry

Applications need to be with us by 30 August and selection and interviews will be in the second week in September.

Please forward this email on to anyone you think would be interested.

Please do not reply to this email.  For more information contact justine@stethelburgas.org

Warm wishes,

Justine Huxley
Interfaith Projects Co-ordinator
St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace

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