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Dark days for the British academy

By Professor Daniel Statman, June 4, 2007
Source: First posted to the web at NormBlog
Reproduced at Zionism On The Web with permission

Dear [name removed]

I hope this mail finds you well. It's been a while since we last met.

As you surely recall, in the past I used to come regularly to the meetings of BSET, which I always felt were among the highest-quality conferences in ethics worldwide. For the last two years, I haven't been able to attend the meetings, but I did plan to do so this year and I sent the registration forms to Bristol two weeks ago. But after learning about the UCU resolution to promote an academic boycott of Israel, I have changed my mind. In the present circumstances, I don't think I'll feel comfortable at an academic institution or conference in the UK. I don't feel like sitting down to dinner with people some of whom may have voted to boycott me and my colleagues. Nor do I feel like having dinner with people who, though against the boycott, nevertheless believe the offensive and absurd claim that Israel is an "apartheid state," which makes all Israelis, academics in particular, morally polluted. And maybe, above all, I'd rather avoid the heightened self-consciousness which I fear will be inevitable in the circumstances. (Which of these folks voted to boycott me? Was that a friendly smile or the opposite? Is he being nice to me in spite of my being Israeli, because of, or regardless of? Was that political comment a provocation or just innocent small talk? And so on and so forth.)

I'm sure that you personally are against the boycott, and I trust that the same is true for a fair number of BSET members. But not for all of them, I suppose. The UCU decision has created a poisoned and hostile atmosphere for Israeli Jews in the UK - except for those who have confessed the crimes ascribed to them by UCU and have committed themselves to acting by UCU's guidelines. I try very hard to resist historical comparisons with past acts of discrimination and persecution against Jews (and other groups), but such comparisons almost force themselves upon us.

These are dark days for the British academy. What is urgently called for is determined action against the boycott by those lecturers who understand how unjust, one-sided, and harmful it is. I hope the moral and political resources for such action exist and that such action will indeed be taken as soon as possible and prove successful.

As ever, sincerely yours,


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

Related items:

Press Releases

AFI Digest of March 28th

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

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

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

UCU Reconsidering Boycott, Little Bulldogs, March 27 2008

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
BICOM on the UCU Boycotts
Academic Friends of Israel
Jewish Agency page on Addressing the Academic Boycott of Israel at UCU