Why Israel?

December 6, 2002

Can we now move beyond the recent sterile exchanges about the treatment of Israeli academics and take a look at what is implied by any boycott of any academic? And could we also ask ourselves what we mean by "academic freedom"?

We need to open our minds to these broader issues of principle and tackle the dilemmas and contradictions we face as concerned academics. We need to ask, for example, how it is that investigations by UK universities into the activities of their academic employees constitute infringements of "academic freedom", whereas the boycotting of academics in another country does not.

And why is it that we are singling out one country for an academic boycott even as we and our home universities are jostling to cooperate with universities and academics in a range of countries whose record on human rights (including persecution of dissident students and academics) is despicable?

We have not done our philosophical homework. We are guilty of muddled thinking and moral relativism.

Margaret Harris
Aston University

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