Shift in opinion over boycott of Israel

July 24, 2014

The academic boycott of Israel (“Unity amid divisions”, Features, 17 July) is a boycott of institutions not individuals, and there has been a tidal shift of opinion in favour of a boycott – this week, a fourth US academic association voted to support it.

The strength of world academic opinion about Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip is conveyed in the 1,000+ signatories (still flooding in) to a letter asking Israeli academics “to join your voices in an open and resounding protest about these war crimes by the Israeli government – your government”. The leading academics and intellectuals who have signed this request include Étienne Balibar, Sir Patrick Bateson, John Berger, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Ahdaf Soueif, Marina Warner…The Israeli academic response has been, in the context of that country, remarkable. At great risk to their personal and professional security, 65 of them have now publicly signed their names to the following:

“The signatories to this statement, all academics at Israeli universities, wish it to be known that they utterly deplore the aggressive military strategy being deployed by the Israeli government. The slaughter of large numbers of wholly innocent people is placing yet more barriers of blood in the way of the negotiated agreement which is the only alternative to the occupation and endless oppression of the Palestinian people. Israel must agree to an immediate cease-fire, and start negotiating in good faith for the end of the occupation and settlements, through a just peace agreement.”

The full list of signatories is available [here].

The picture presented in your feature on Israel is of UK government representatives cosying up to the Israeli universities that are producing the technology being used against the Palestinians, and of Israeli academics politely agreeing to disagree. All are bizarrely disconnected from reality. The picture is blown apart by the dreadful events in Gaza, the worldwide academic reaction and the courageous response of our Israeli colleagues.

Tom Hickey
University of Brighton UCU branch

Haim Bresheeth
Soas, University of London

Jonathan Rosenhead
Professor emeritus
Department of management, London School of Economics

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