Academic boycottHere's the doctor's response:
The newspaper Haaretz recently reported that the British ambassador to Israel, Simon McDonald, told a meeting at Bar Ilan University: "We had success in May" in overturning the AUT boycott of two Israeli universities. He is also reported to have described the AUT as taken over by a "highly motivated minority" who captured it to further their agenda. Bar Ilan was one of two universities targeted by a 2005 AUT boycott resolution as it had established the College of Judea and Samaria in the colony of Ariel, in the occupied West Bank (Vote ends Israeli boycott, May 27 2005). Under pressure of the boycott motion, Bar Ilan divested itself of legal responsibility for its offspring and the Israeli government hastily accorded the college independent university status. As members of AUT and Natfhe, we would like to ask the British ambassador why he was intervening in a professional trade union matter? Is it now Foreign Office practice? If not, who is the "we" to whom McDonald referred?
Prof Steven French, AUT, University of Leeds, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, AUT, LSE, Prof Steven Rose, AUT, Open University, Sue Blackwell, AUT, Birmingham, AG Nasser, AUT, Manchester, Phil Marfleet, Natfhe, East London, Bahadur Najak, AUT, Durham, Sean Wallis, AUT, University College London, Sami Ramadani, Natfhe, London Metropolitan, and seven others
The campaign for an academic boycott of Israel has misrepresented the words of the British ambassador to Israel at the Bar-Ilan conference (Letters, February 16). A full and accurate transcript of what he said is available online (EngageOnline.org.uk) Simon McDonald said that it is possible for a highly motivated minority to win a vote where participation is low. He pointed out that, in a democratic organisation, a wrong can be righted. This is what happened in the AUT and the British government was pleased that the wrong was righted. The government, McDonald said, "recognised that the AUT was an independent player. Academic freedom cuts both ways. And whilst the British government made its views plain, it was up to the institution to right its own wrong". According to the letter's authors, McDonald admitted that the British government had intervened in this matter. What he had actually said was that "it is up to the institution to right its own wrong".Ok so here's where the cartoon character with the long nose comes in. Dr Hirsh's Engage website is becoming increasingly unhinged and so when he's not trying to schmooze the Guardian with words like "misrepresentation", which could of course arise out of misunderstanding, he is running a cartoon of Pinocchio to say that the writers of the original letter are actually liars. Now we have to look at the Ha'aretz article that the boycott posse were responding to.
McDonald finished with a quote from Albert Einstein, that the right to academic freedom "implies also a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognised to be true". The boycott campaign should take this advice more carefully.
Dr David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College, London
British Ambassador Simon McDonald criticized the Association of University Teachers (AUT), the British higher education union that imposed a short-lived boycott on Israeli academia last April.It looks to me that their report of Ha'aretz's report was 100% accurate and that Hirsh's beef is as to whether the ambassador's words amounted to an intervention in the AUT's affairs. I'd say it did though I have to say that the boycott posse are being a tad naive if they expect the government to cheerfully stand back and not intervene when anti-zionist or pro-boycott groups or individuals are actively trying to undermine an aspect of Britain's unethical foreign policy.
The AUT was taken over by a "highly motivated minority," he said, who captured the large organization to further their agenda.
"We had success in May," he said of the decision to overturn the boycott one month after it was first passed. "But it won't necessarily continue and vigilance is vital to renewing that success."
In conclusion, thus we see, blah di blah, it looks to me that it is Dr Hirsh and his Engage site who are doing the misrepresenting here.