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Physicist who refused to lecture in U.K.: I'm not calling for boycott

By Charlotte Halle, Haaretz, 25/05/2007
Source: Haaretz

An American physicist and Nobel Prize laureate who withdrew from a speaking engagement at a London university, citing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment in the U.K., says he is not calling for a boycott of Britain.

"I'm not calling on anyone else not to go to Britain," Prof. Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979, told Haaretz on Thursday night. "I don't want to say I'm cutting ties with the U.K. - I love England. I just feel personally uncomfortable going with the atmosphere there at the moment. It's increasingly hostile to Israel, especially in the intellectual world."

Weinberg told the Imperial College in London, where he had been invited to speak in July in honor of Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, that his decision was motivated by a move by Britain's National Union of Journalists to boycott Israeli products.

"I just felt this was too disgusting and I didn't want to go there this summer," Weinberg said. "I see in the British press and the BBC signs of a very strong anti-Israel bias - a kind of blind hostility that whatever Israel does, it is always in the wrong - so this is not an isolated action of a small group of anti-Semitic conspirators. This represents a widespread feeling among British journalists."

Weinberg said he sent the letter before learning that 120,000 members of the University and College Union were asked to vote on a proposed boycott of Israeli universities at its annual congress in Bournemouth on Tuesday and before he knew about the call in March by 130 British doctors to boycott the Israeli Medical Association.

Weinberg said he is against boycotts, and specifically boycotts of Israel: "To boycott Israel today would be like boycotting Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Hilter was complaining the Czechs were being unpleasant to the Germans in the Sudetenland."

Weinberg also pulled out of a 2006 conference at Durham University due to a boycott of Israeli academics imposed by the British National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education.

The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom at Bar-Ilan University, which coordinates Israeli efforts against boycotts, said it respects but does not endorse Weinberg's position.

"Although we respect Prof. Weinberg's decision and sympathize with his feelings, we do not believe counter-boycotts are an effective way of dealing with the situation," the board said in a statement.


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Related items:

Press Releases

2008
AFI Digest of March 28th

2007
National Postgraduate Committee (NPC)
National Union of Students (NUS)
Jewish Agency (JAFI)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Statement from The Russell Group on UCU motion on Israeli boycott
Statement from the LSE on UCU's motion in support of an Israel boycott
Columbia University response to boycotts of Israeli universites
Board of Deputies Response to UCU academic Boycotts
American Jewish Congress response to UCU boycott
American Physiological Society Response to the British academic boycott of Israel (includes feedback on this)
National Postgraduate Committee and the Academic Boycotts (14/8/07)
University and College Union (UCU) Press Release, Boycott illegal, 28th Sept 2007
Academic Friends of Israel Press Release, 29 September 2007

News Reports

2008
Union committee to reconsider Israeli academics boycott, The Education Guardian, March 27, 2008
UK group proposes boycott of Israeli academia, Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2008

2007
A slippery slope to totalitarianism, Education Guardian, May 24, 2007
Physicist who refused to lecture in U.K.: I'm not calling for boycott, Haaretz, May 25, 2007
Livni [Israeli FM] meets with British ambassador over U.K. boycotts, Haaretz, May 29, 2007
Memo From London: Should British Academics, or Rock Bands, Boycott Israel? New York Times, May 30, 2007
Lecturers back boycott of Israel, Education Guardian, May 30, 2007
Academics express outrage at Israeli boycott, Education Guardian, May 31, 2007
Divide and Rule, Education Guardian, June 5, 2007
Boycott should outrage academics, Inside Higher Ed, June 5 2007
Ignored by the Brits, Ynet, June 6, 2006
Boycott will destroy British academia, The Guardian, Saturday June 9, 2007
We Will Isolate Them, The Guardian, June 9, 2007 + ZOTW Commentry June 10, 2007
Government to form joint task force to counter U.K. boycotts, Haaretz, June 8, 2007
UK proposes joint academic seminar, Ynet News, June 10, 2007
US Unions condemn boycotts, The Jewish Chronicle, August 17 2007
Boycott a blessing in disguise, YNet News, Opinion, June 1 2007
FM praises British academics for nixing planned boycott of Israel, Haaretz, 30/09/2007
British academics forgo boycott call, Haaretz, 29/09/2007
Lecturers drop Israeli universities boycott call after legal advice, The Guardian, 29/09/2007

Responces, Blogs, Newsletters

2008
UCU Reconsidering Boycott, Little Bulldogs, March 27 2008

2007
UJS Chair's letter to UCU General Secretary
Lancaster University Students' Union Policy in repsonse
Academic Friends of Israel Digest vol 6 no 10 One week on
Academic Friends of Israel Digest vol 6 no 12
Goldhirsh Foundation Response
Responding to the Boycott by Shalom Lappin, at normblog, June 3 2007
Dark Days for the British Academy a letter by Prof Daniel Statman
A letter to UCU from Guy Handelman
SPME Petition against the boycott
Response from prominent British figures and law-makers, in Guardian Letters page, June 12, 2007

Other relevent documents and sources

The 2007 UCU motions
The 2007 document to be sent to branches
An explanation about the Durban Stratagy
Key quotes and summary of responses to the UCU policy
Why a cultural boycott of Israel would be banal, gestural and morally compromised
Relevent section of the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism
More background on anti-Israel boycotts in general

Other sites related to the boycott

UJS's UCU Academic Boycott
www.stoptheboycott.org
BICOM on the UCU Boycotts
Academic Friends of Israel
Engage
Jewish Agency page on Addressing the Academic Boycott of Israel at UCU