Thursday, May 05, 2005

Academic Terrorism

I have thus far refrained from commenting on the British Association of University Teacher's obscene "boycott" of Israel's Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities, mostly because I feel there is nothing real to add to it. The boycott is anti-Semitic, pure and simple. It was proposed by radical anti-Israel extremists who wish to delegitimize it in the eyes of the global community. Regardless of what one feels about the merits of the Israel/Palestine conflict, it once was a core feature of academic life that issues were resolved via more speech, not an enforced silence.

I write today only to note some of the encouraging developments which have come out of this atrocious gesture--a generally outpouring of support for the two universities and a near universal condemnation of the AUT's actions.

Emmanuel Ottolenghi wrote an excellent article in the National Review condemning the AUT and asking to be put on the boycott list as well:
As a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of academic freedom and express solidarity with my harassed colleagues, I have asked Sally Hunt, the secretary general of the AUT, to be added to the boycott list. I have expressed my wish to be included in the list of people and institutions to be blackmailed and I sincerely hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me. We should all wear the badge of shame that the AUT wants to impose on our Israeli peers with great pride and in the full confidence that we are not only in the right, but that truly free academia stands on our side and against the AUT.

David Bernstein points to a more comprehensive effort to do the same thing, whereby professors sympathetic to the notions of Academic Freedom can sign up for affiliate status at the two targeted universities.

Even Ethan Leib, who characterized Israel's policies as "routinely colonial [This term is being badly misused here. For whatever reason, Israel is constantly characterized as colonial, when any dictionary definition of the term would render such a label absurd. A colonial endeavor is one which a) brings outsiders to take over a land b) for the purpose of controlling it for a foreign power. Israel, being neither "outsiders" to the lands in question nor a "foreign power" in the sense here, cannot reasonably be said to be colonizing anything. What we have here is a border war, and regardless of your views on the merits of the parties' positions, it seems facile to elevate a border war into colonialism, lest we degrade the term. --ED] and discriminatory" is appalled by the boycott.

If I could become an affiliate of the universities, I would. As it is, I must ask all conscientious academics and citizens to protest this grotesque assault on academic freedom and the state of Israel.

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