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Friday, April 22, 2005

Absurdities and hypocracies....

The news tonight is of the British AUT -- Association of University Teachers -- sanctioning a boycott of Israeli academics from two universities. The basis of this boycott is that those academics affiliated with these institutions must be made to suffer for the alleged sins of their institutions regardless of whatever their individual or personal or professional views or activities. The rationale, as expressed by one of the boycott's advocates, is that it is necessary to violate the academic freedom of these individuals because there is no academic freedom at the designated Israeli institutions. "Those people who do stick their head above the parapet and speak out are subject to witch-hunts and victimisation," notes Sue Blackwell, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. Perhaps it's my own distorted way of looking at the universe, but isn't this boycott an example of witch hunting? Isn't the AUT engaged in victimizing a set of Israeli academics for no other reason than the fact that they work at a particular institution?

For me this is more than merely an "academic" question, for not only do I have colleagues/friends who are affiliated with one of those institutions -- the University of Haifa -- but I am also likely to be in violation of the boycott next year when one of those colleagues plays a major role in the conference I'm convening in Belfast. The illogic and utter absurdity of the boycott are addressed in other blogs (e.g., see here and here), and I am especially interested in how Blackwell and others would deal with the charge that what they are engaged in is not merely nonsensical also a bit hypocritical given the quiescent posture of British universities in the face of the UK's role in the Iraqi war. Double standards seem alive and well....
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