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Ignored by the Brits

By Amir Hanifes, June 6, 2007
Source: Ynet, Opinion

Druze PhD student defends Israel, but British academicians uninterested

As a holder of two degrees from the University of Haifa and a PhD student at the University of London, I traveled to Bournemouth for the meeting of the British University and College Union (UCU) as an Israeli delegate on behalf of the Israeli Council for Academic Freedom.

The discussions at the meeting regarding the imposition of a boycott on Israeli academia took place in a hostile environment while ignoring all the facts we presented regarding freedom of expression and academic freedom at Israeli institutions of higher learning.

Evidence that Israeli lecturers who hold pro-Palestinian views are able to express their positions uninterrupted both in their research work and lectures, as well as in the media, had no effect whatsoever on the discussions.

Even when we presented a list of organizations and research centers that operate in the framework of Israeli universities and boast Israeli-Palestinian or Israeli-Arab cooperation, with the promotion of ties between the peoples their top agenda, it did not make a difference.

The same was true when it came to calls by Palestinian lecturers and figures, including al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibah and Minister Raleb Majadele urging the UCU to refrain from boycotting their Israeli colleagues.

Boycott leaders in Bournemouth ignored the figures I presented to them regarding the University of Haifa and the fact that close to 20 percent of students there are members of minority groups in Israel apparently, we will also be subjected to the boycott.

Futile battle

They were uninterested in the fact that Arab students, who view themselves as a national minority in the State of Israel, are represented by a separate student committee and enjoy the freedom to act politically and on the public relations front. They were also uninterested in the fact that Professor Majid al-Haj is the deputy president of the research university, or that the Jewish-Arab center headed by Dr. Faisal Azaiza is considered one of the university's most prestigious bodies.

The truth is that it is clear to this group of lecturers that Israeli academia is least at fault for what is happening in our region, certainly when compared to the freedom of expression at our neighbors' academic institutions. After all, the English know full well that the technological, academic, and cultural achievements in the State of Israel stem first and foremost from the freedom of expression and research in every field in Israel.

Therefore, the figures we presented were futile, because all they cared about was their one and only objective: De-legitimizing the State of Israel with no relation to its academia; presenting it as an apartheid state that deprives its minorities of elementary rights such as education and the freedom of expression.

They were particularly bothered by the fact that a student like me, a member of the Druze community, appeared in the meeting and defended Israeli academia. They protested the fact that I even agreed to study at institutions that are associated with the country's majority population group and teach in its native tongue, Hebrew. I wonder how they would have reacted had I protested the fact that her majesty Queen Elizabeth is the patron of the University of London, and now I am studying in their native tongue, English.

The writer, a member of the Druze community in Israel, is a graduate of the University of Haifa and a PhD student in the University of London. His grandfather, Salah Hanifas, served as a member of the second and third Knesset


Reproduced at Zionism On The Web for educational purposes only, please site the initial source as listed above


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