The Israel question 1

February 2, 2007

The letter signed by a number of University and College Union members commenting on the union's response to the All-Parliamentary report on anti-semitism (Letters, January 19) refers to the academic boycott of Israel in ways that are (to quote the letter) "evasive and disingenuous".

The signatories argue that a call to boycott Israeli academics would be de facto anti-Semitic. But the initiators of that letter are well aware that the Palestinian boycott call, supported by all major Palestinian trade unions, non-governmental organisations and the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine is about boycotting Israeli institutions, not individual academics.

You don't have to be Jewish to work in Israeli institutions; many non-Israelis do, although both Mizrachi Jews and Israeli Arabs are sadly underrepresented.

The boycott thus relates neither to nationality nor ethnicity. The academic boycott could be construed as anti-Jewish only if it is assumed that the interests of the Israeli state and those of Jews are inseparable. It is just that assumption, alongside the continued illegal actions and breaches of human rights by the Israeli State, that can serve only to exacerbate anti-Semitism.

Steven Rose

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