Saturday, May 14

Boycotting Israeli Universities

Boycotting Israeli universities is short sight and insipid. It punishes those who least deserves punishment. Those academics affected are those who have a record of being against the occupation and the abuse of basic human rights in Israel and the occupied territories.

Boycotting universities whose policies support the occupation and at the same time support the establishment of partisan university colleges within the occupied Palestinian areas may be justified. Perhaps this places Bar Ilan University in that category by its association with Ariel College in occupied Palestinian territory.

A parallel situation existed in apartheid South Africa prior to the first democratic elections in April 1994. In South Africa, even during the darkest period of apartheid, the University of Cape Town, Witwatersrand and Natal were at the forefront in the fight for academic freedom and against apartheid. The police detained many of their respective professors and lecturers for their anti-apartheid activities, nevertheless their institutions of learning were boycotted by the academic world. This did not bring about revolutionary changes in South Africa. Openness encourages debate to change attitudes, which would be more useful.

On the other hand, there are academic institutions in the Arab countries, China, Iran and North Korea that have no record of academic freedom or human rights. Why does the British Association of University Teachers not demand a boycott of academic institutions in these countries? It is a matter of academics living in glass houses throwing stones.

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