May 30, 2006

Letters on the NATFHE boycott

There are a crop of letters for and againt the NATFHE Israel boycott in today's Education Guardian. Here are the pro-boycott ones:
Natfhe's inspiring and historic decision, in the context of the growing international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, will effectively contribute to the civil struggle aimed at ending the Israeli occupation and other forms of oppression of the Palestinians, by attaching a considerable price tag to Israel's unrelenting disregard of international law.

The truth about the collusion of Israeli academic institutions in maintaining Israel's colonial and racist policies has come out, despite all attempts at suppressing debate and bullying critics of Israel. Indeed, Israeli academic institutions have consistently condoned, even encouraged, the work of academics who advocate ethnic cleansing, apartheid, denial of refugee rights, and racial discrimination against the Palestinians. Collaboration with the intelligence services and the occupation regime is part of the routine work of the Israeli academy.

Sanctions and boycotts are morally and politically sound tactics which, in the past, succeeded in bringing down the apartheid regime in South Africa. They can also be used to challenge Israel's impunity and its exceptional status as a state above the law.
Lisa Taraki, Omar Barghouti
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Imad Oudeh
Union of Al-Quds University Teachers

To link the issue of boycotting Israeli universities implicated in the occupation of Palestine with the ongoing industrial action being undertaken by the AUT represents a narrow political vision and the failure once again to "take a stand" against one of the most reprehensible regimes in the world today. How cynical to suggest that academics can only take on the big political questions of our time only if our own unity is secured. Further, to cast the issue of the boycott as one of academic freedom is to deflect discussion from the real question at stake - what is the responsibility of academics in states following illegal and murderous policies of occupation and colonisation? The letter writers cast Israeli academia as spaces of democracy. Yet, apart from the likes of Ilan Pappe and a few others, how many Israeli academics have openly denounced their state's policy? Why do they demand impunity for their complicity in this longstanding violation of international law?
Dr Rashmi Varma
University of Warwick
Dr Subir Sinha
University of London

Israel is not a "normal" democratic society in which the rulers have had to accept that far-reaching political dissent or class conflict be part of the state's ideological framework. It is a settler-colonial society with a much greater degree of social cohesion. Therefore the question why Israeli academic institutions should be boycotted and not necessarily those of other societies with poor human rights records is wide of the mark. In most such societies, there are usually many dissident intellectuals who tend to suffer the same repression meted out to ethnic or political minorities. Not in Israel. There, academic institutions are part of the structure of the illegal, colonial occupation. It is right that the boycott should go ahead until Israeli universities decide to support the campaign for an end to the occupation.
Sabby Sagall
There's also a Guardian article on the boycott vote here and an Independent one here.

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