Boycott is betrayal of our values 4

June 2, 2006

You published two ill-informed articles to illustrate opposing views on the boycott of Israeli academia. Steven Weinberg denies that Arabs are the victims of discriminatory educational practices in Israel, when it is widely recognised - on the basis of research by Israeli academics - that, like the Arab municipalities, Arab schools (which are separate from state-secular Israeli schools) suffer from much poorer resourcing than schools for Jews.

Israel is not the only democracy in the Levant: Lebanon also is entitled to that description. To say that Israel (or indeed Lebanon) is a "true democracy" is stretching things: Israel is a democracy, but hardly a liberal democracy, given the impunity with which the Army has operated in the Occupied Territories and the ethnic and to some extent arbitrary basis on which it confers or denies citizenship. In that light it is inconsistent to criticise Saudi Arabia for not allowing Jews or Christians to become citizens.

The article in support of the boycott propounds the thoroughly illiberal and undemocratic view that academic institutions should take a stand on government policies outside the educational sphere, and - ignoring the outcry in the Israeli press - states that there have been no voices raised in Israel against the ruling of the Israeli High Court on family reunification. It also overlooks the vast amount of research and advocacy by Israeli academics on discrimination in Israel against Arabs and also among Jews as well as the work of Israeli human rights organisations.

David Lehmann Cambridge University

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