Why an Academic Boycott is Wrong · 01 June 2006

Filed under: Press Coverage
By International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom--FrontPageMag.com--06/01/06


We call on all National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) members and all people of goodwill to join us in working to reject the initiative of a small group at NATFHE who wishes to impose a boycott upon all Israeli academics "who do not publicly disassociate themselves from Israeli policies."

Whatever one's opinion of the situation in the Middle East, it is only by reasoning together that truth can be discovered, facts verified and opinions exchanged. A boycott strikes against free speech and the free exchange of ideas, limiting the ability of academics to contribute to mutual understanding. Academic life is about building bridges, not destroying them; opening minds, not closing them; hearing both sides of an argument, not one alone. Boycotts are a betrayal of these values.

As the prominent Palestinian leader Dr. Sari Nusseibah, President of Al-Quds University, put it:

" An international academic boycott of Israel, on pro Palestinian grounds, is self-defeating: it would only succeed in weakening that strategically important bridge through which the state of war between Israelis and Palestinians could be ended and Palestinian rights could therefore be restored. Instead of burning that bridge, the international academy should do everything within its power to strengthen it, including, foremost, through its own collaborative intervention".

The contribution of Israeli universities to human advancement is recognized the world over. Israeli universities are independent institutions where Jews, Muslim and Christian Arabs, and Druze study and research together side by side. Great leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Mikhail Gorbachev have proudly accepted honorary doctorates from Israeli universities.

We believe that scholarship has been the driving force behind human progress because it knows no boundaries. The proposed NATFHE boycott motion stands in blatant contradiction to the statutes of the International Council of Science that prohibit discrimination based on nationality, religion, creed, ethnic origin, race, color, language, age or sex; and to the NATFHE's own constitution which opposes actively all forms of unfair discrimination on the grounds of ethnic or national origin or religion. Should a scientist who has made a contribution beneficial to mankind be barred from a conference because of his refusal to swear an oath of political loyalty? Such oaths do not belong in academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes.

As Prof. Peter Kennedy, a Fellow of the Royal Society declared, "the proposed motion is unethical, unfair, inappropriate and just plain wrong."

Come now, and let us reason together.

International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB), Bar-Ilan University

Inter-Senate Committee for the Protection of Academic Independence (ISC)

University College London (UCL)

National Postgraduate Committee (NPC)

International Academic Friends of Israel (IAFI)

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME)

Academic Friends of Israel (AFI)

Anti Defamation League (ADL)

American Jewish Congress (AJC)

Israel Democracy Institute (IDI)

Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRME)

Foundation for the Analysis of Conflict, Ethnic and Social (FACES)

Historical and Investigative Research (HIR)

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD)

American Jewish Committee

Students for Academic Freedom (SAF)

School of Jewish Studies,University of Potsdam, Germany

Professor Lord Robert Winston

Sir Prof. Alan Fersht FRS, Cambridge

For further information contact:
Ofir Frankel, Manager, International Campaign for Academic Freedom
Mobile: +972-545-424043 E-mail: fofir@netvision.net.il;
Website: http://www.biu.ac.il/rector/academic_freedom/
International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB)

International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB) Executive Committee:

Prof. Yosef Yeshurun (Chair); Prof. Joshua Schwartz; Prof. Gerald Steinberg;

Prof. Eitan Gilboa; Dr. Jonathan Rynhold;