* Britain’s Middle East minister, Kim Howells, issues a carefully worded “neutral” statement calling for a resolution of the dispute over the decision to boycott Israeli universities. (This is the first time the British government has made a public statement on the issue.)
* AUT special council meeting to be held on May 26 - could overturn the boycott
[This is an update to the dispatch titled Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem criticizes UK academic boycott of Israel (April 27, 2005).
Many of the items were collated over the last few weeks but I didn’t have time to send them until now. The dispatch also includes fresh developments from yesterday.]
1. Resistance to the Boycott Broadens
2. “British middle east minister calls for resolution of AUT boycott” (Ha’aretz, May 18, 2005)
3. “The academic ban - Nazi connection” (Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2005)
4. “British AUT getting ‘down wiv the kidz’” (by Julie Burchill, Ha’aretz, May 1, 2005)
5. “Britain’s professors against peace” (by Alan Dershowitz, Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2005)
6. “Please include me!” (Letter from Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the AUT)
7. “Israel to upgrade West Bank college after UK boycott” (Financial Times, May 3, 2005)
[* Please Note that all the above mentioned writers – Julie Burchill, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, and Oxford academic Emanuele Ottolenghi – are long-time subscribers to this email list.]
[All notes by Tom Gross]
OPPOSITION TO THE BOYCOTT BROADENS
Since the British academic boycott of Bar Ilan and Haifa Universities was announced on April 22, 2005 by the AUT (the Association of University Teachers union, representing over 48,700 UK higher education professionals), opposition to it has grown among academics and others, Jews and non-Jews, in the UK, US, Israel and elsewhere.
A special “emergency” council meeting of the AUT has now been called for May 26, next week, where a debate will take place on the boycott. This follows the collection of the requisite 25 signatures by AUT local association members who submitted a motion calling for the repeal of the boycott. The motion was headed by John Pike of the Open University.
As mentioned in the previous dispatch, Sue Blackwell, of Birmingham University in England, was one of the leaders of the boycott campaign. She attended the vote to call for a boycott in a Palestinian flag trouser suit. Since the boycott decision, she has come under increased scrutiny. Her website contains a picture of a wreath laid for the anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie as well as links to a Nazi website which is detailed in the Jerusalem Post article below.
Her website is also under a British parliamentary committee investigation for a previous link to a website blaming the Jews for the 9/11 attacks.
ACADEMICS AGAINST THE BOYCOTT: “A BADGE OF HONOUR”
Anger at the boycott has spread to academics that are not part of the AUT and are not affected by the boycott. Attached below is one example of many – by Emanuele Ottolenghi, a subscriber to this email list at Oxford University, who has asked to be put on the boycott list.
Michael Baum, one of the world’s leading oncologists, has also written a letter to Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of the AUT, asking to be added to the black list: “As someone who co-operates with the University in Haifa, I would consider this a badge of honour,” he says.
The New York Academy of Sciences has sent a letter to the AUT in which they say that “by selecting individuals and universities for boycott, is a very clear reminder of ‘McCarthy-like’ tactics of accusation. We call upon the AUT to take immediate steps to rescind their regressive vote and join forward-looking academics the world over in voting for cooperation and not boycott.”
ACADEMICS FOR THE BOYCOTT: STOPPING THOSE ISRAELI “CHILD MURDERERS”
Hilary and Steven Rose (both of whom are part of a small band of extremist Jewish academics who have made a specialty out of campaigning against fellow Jews) and who brought the original boycott proposal in April 2002, continue to be vocal in their support. In an article in the Times (of London) Higher Education Supplement on May 13, 2005, they argued that the AUT boycott is part of a tradition of non-violent protest. Among their many false claims they wrote: “The Israeli Government... sanctions murders and the shooting of civilians, not least children, with impunity.”
ILAN PAPPE: ON RECORD AS A FABRICATOR
Dr Ilan Pappe, a political science lecturer from Haifa University who urged the AUT to boycott his own university and himself, continues to receive wide coverage. There have been a number of articles delving into Pappe’s history, especially his defense of Teddy Katz a graduate whose MA thesis was rejected.
Fania Oz-Salzberger, a senior lecturer in the School of History and the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa wrote an editorial piece in the Wall Street Journal on May 8, 2005, saying that the decision to boycott Haifa University was based on a “libel”. The Jerusalem Post also questioned Dr Pappe’s academic integrity when he lied to the newspaper over the name of a conference to be held on Haifa University Campus. He claimed the conference was titled: “The Arabs as a Demographic Problem in Israel.” Whilst it is in fact: “The Demographic Problem and Israel’s Demographic Policy.”
There have also been a number of petitions on the internet against the boycott. One of them calls the boycott “counterproductive, racist, and bigoted,” saying it “singles out the only Jewish state in the world for punishment, yet ignores the numerous despotic, oppressive, tyrannical, fundamentalist, and repressive regimes in the world.”
Organizations such as StandWithUs (of California), Academics for Israel, Scholars for Peace MediaActionGroup (of Canada) and a co-ordinating group set up in the UK, as well as many other organizations and individuals, had by the end of last week received nearly 23,000 signatures.
PA UNIVERSITIES CONTINUE TO PROMOTE TERRORISM AND HATRED
The boycott against Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities persists whilst Palestinian universities continue to spew anti-Israel hatred on campuses. In just one example Hamas (who made significant gains in the local elections last week), and which intends to run candidates in the upcoming PA general election this summer, has won control of the student councils at Hebron University and the Polytechnic University of Hebron by significant margins.
A leaflet distributed by the Islamic Bloc, Hamas’ student wing on the Hebron University campus, called for students to become shahid “martyrs” (terrorists who are killed in homicide attacks against Israeli civilians), claiming that becoming one would be an “honor” for students.
No British lecturers have called for a boycott in response to this Hebron University leaflet, or for example to the exhibition glorifying bus bombings of Israeli civilians held on the Nablus university campus (with the university’s permission).
I attach six articles below, with summaries first. For space reasons, three of the articles (“British middle east minister calls for resolution,” “Israel to upgrade” and “Please include me”) are in the summary section only.
-- Tom Gross (with thanks to Ben Green for his help in preparing this dispatch)
BRITISH MIDDLE EAST MINISTER CALLS FOR RESOLUTION OF AUT BOYCOTT
“British middle east minister calls for resolution of AUT boycott” (Ha’aretz, May 17, 2005)
Britain’s middle east minister, Kim Howells, on Tuesday called for a resolution of the dispute over the Association of University Teacher’s decision to boycott Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities, The Guardian reported.
“I welcome the fact that the Association of University Teachers is to reconsider, on 26 May, its decision to boycott Bar Ilan and Haifa universities,” said Howells in a carefully worded statement. “I hope that the AUT will ensure the issue is fully-debated and will invite the two universities to express their views.”
... The AUT has also been told its members may face prosecution for breaking race relation laws should they carry out the boycott, and one of the universities is threatening legal action.
Howells’ comments mark the first time the British government has made a public statement on the issue.
“The British government fully supports academic freedom and appreciates the independence of the AUT,” said Howells. “But as a friend of both Israel and the Palestinians, we believe that we can best encourage both sides to take the steps needed for progress through close engagement to achieve a peaceful resolution.”
... Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham academic who has championed the boycott within the AUT, accused Howells of being “naive” in his comments. She rejected the appeal to have representatives from the two universities present next week, saying: “If we’re proposing a motion to boycott a British university we wouldn’t invite the management to come and put their side to us. We’d listen to what the trade unionists have to say.
“Bar Ilan asked to come and they were told quite rightly that we do not allow external people to come and speak and that is quite right and proper.”
THE ACADEMIC BAN – NAZI CONNECTION
“The academic ban - Nazi connection” (By Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2005)
The Web site of Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham lecturer who presented motions calling for boycotts of Israeli universities, contains a recommended link to a Web site owned by an anti-Semitic neo-Nazi activist…
Blackwell, who was described by [liberal Guardian and Observer] columnist David Aaronovitch as a “former Christian fundamentalist,” has said on her Web page that “I do not include links to sites which promote either racism or terrorism. This has always been my policy and applies to all my 200+ Web pages, not just this one.”
BRITISH AUT GETTING ‘DOWN WIV THE KIDZ’
“British AUT getting ‘down wiv the kidz’” (By Julie Burchill, Ha’aretz, May 1, 2005)
... Britain IS currently playing host to the biggest ever annual number of violent anti-Semitic attacks, both on people and on property, since the 1930s. Who can blame the teachers, so conscious of their uncoolness, for wanting to get ‘down wiv the kidz’? They’re too respectable to daub swastikas on a synagogue - but it sure feels good to band together and bully them Israeli academics!
... I’ve always loved being English - but more and more these days, living through this latest, almost post-modern plague of anti-Semitism with a ‘caring’ face, I wish it was a club that I could resign from, as opposed to a flag I carry in my blood. Trust me, with all your trials and tribulations, you lot don’t know how lucky you are. Because you will never, ever be ashamed of and embarrassed by your country the way I am increasingly ashamed of and embarrassed by mine.
[TG adds: Julie Burchill is a well-known, non-Jewish, English newspaper commentator, as well as being a longtime subscriber to this email list, and more recently has been writing a column for Ha’aretz in Tel Aviv.]
BRITAIN’S PROFESSORS AGAINST PEACE
“Britain’s professors against peace” (By Prof. Alan Dershowitz, The Jerusalem Post, April 27, 2005)
The British Association of University Teachers has now created a blacklist against Jewish Israeli academics – really a blue-and-white list – reminiscent of the worst abuses of McCarthyism. And just as McCarthyism was a barrier to peace between the US and the Soviet Union – by contributing to a dangerous atmosphere in which each side vilified and threatened the other – so too does the British lecturers’ boycott endanger the progress now being made toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians…
British university teachers will collectively punish Israeli academics in a manner that leading Palestinian academics do not support. They’ve become more Palestinian than the Palestinians, and at precisely the time when Israel is taking more risks and making more sacrifices for peace than it has since Camp David in 2000…
It’s a good thing Israel has only to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors and not European university professors…
PLEASE INCLUDE ME!
To: Sally Hunt, General Secretary,
The Association of University Teachers,
Dear Sally Hunt,
Regarding the AUT recent decision to boycott Haifa University and Bar Ilan University in Israel, I am shocked to learn that, in addition to a call for boycott, the AUT is ready to offer a waiver to scholars on condition that they publicly state their willingness to conform to the political orthodoxy espoused by the academics who sponsored your motion.
Oaths of political loyalty do not belong to academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes. Based on this, the AUT’s definition of academic freedom is the freedom to agree with its views only. Given the circumstances, I wish to express in no uncertain terms my unconditional and undivided solidarity with both universities and their faculties. I know many people, both at Haifa University and at Bar Ilan University, of different political persuasion and from different walks of life. The diversity of those faculties reflects the authentic spirit of academia. The AUT invitation to boycott them betrays that spirit because it advocates a uniformity of views, under pain of boycott.
In solidarity with my colleagues and as a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of a free academia, I wish to be added to the boycott blacklist. Please include me. I hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me.
Dr Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Middle East Centre
St Antony’s College
ISRAEL TO UPGRADE WEST BANK COLLEGE AFTER UK BOYCOTT
Israel to upgrade West Bank College after UK boycott
By Harvey Morris
May 3, 2005
The Israeli government yesterday voted to confer university status on a college in the occupied West Bank that is a target of a controversial UK academic boycott of Israel.
The decision to upgrade the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, one of the largest Jewish settlements in the West Bank, followed a vote last month by UK university teachers to sever links with Israel’s Haifa and Bar Ilan universities.
A motion adopted by the Association of University Teachers at its annual conference said Bar Ilan was “directly involved with the occupation of Palestinian territories” through its supervision of degree courses at the Ariel college.
Ariel Sharon, prime minister, told the cabinet yesterday that conferring university status on the 7,000-student college was in line with the government policy of strengthening the settlement blocs.
The upgrading of the college, which includes a number of Palestinian students, had been expected for some time. The timing of the decision, however, appeared to be a response to the UK boycott. It also coincided with renewed international attention on Israel’s settlement plans in the West Bank as it prepares to evacuate settlers from Gaza.
THE ACADEMIC BAN – NAZI CONNECTION
The academic ban - Nazi connection
By Yaakov Lappin
The Jerusalem Post
May 1, 2005
The Web site of Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham lecturer who presented motions calling for boycotts of Israeli universities, contains a recommended link to a Web site owned by an anti-Semitic neo-Nazi activist. Wendy Campbell, who owns the MarWen Media Web site, has promoted Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories discussing “unrivaled Jewish power,” and maintains an additional Web site entitled “Exposing Israeli Apartheid,” which is also linked by Blackwell.
MarWen Media, which is linked directly from Blackwell’s Web site, advocates the views of Kevin Macdonald, an anti-Semitic pro-Nazi author, who has claimed Jews are responsible for a “breeding program” to conquer other “races.”
Under the heading “Sue Blackwell’s links on Israel and Palestine,” Blackwell provides a link to the MarWen site, along with the following description: “MarWen Media offers the latest in groundbreaking documentaries, breaking through barriers and taboos that mainstream media – and even most alternative media do not venture.” Blackwell writes that “the documentaries, mostly about Israel, Zionism, and Palestine, are by Wendy Campbell; see her other site, Exposing Israeli Apartheid.”
Combining anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial and vilification of Israel, Campbell writes: “It is no accident that Israeli ‘security’ is now the centerpiece of US foreign policy. How are the highly placed “friends of Israel” able to bamboozle so much of the world?”
She peddles Holocaust denial, saying, “It’s a staggering fact that in numerous ‘free, Western democracies’ (such as Germany, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, and others) it’s a crime to question the official Jewish death toll figures or the gas chamber story in the events now called The Holocaust. Penalties include fines and actual imprisonment! Holocaust heretic Ernst Zundel was deported from the US to Canada where he spent two years in solitary confinement. Now he sits in a German prison. Who’s next?”
MarWen Media offers a videotaped interview with Kevin MacDonald, accompanied by the following description: “Prof. Kevin MacDonald is the author of three groundbreaking books on Judaism, the most recent being The Culture of Critique. In it, MacDonald concludes that Jewish intellectual movements including Freudian psychology, Marxism (including other radical, Leftist politics), the Frankfurt School of Social Research, the New York intellectuals and others, including right-wing NeoConservatism, have all been designed to advance specifically Jewish interests – often at the expense of non-Jewish interests. MacDonald’s incisive analyses offer an alternative view of western history and has the potential to change the course of major events still unfolding.”
MacDonald is a pseudo-intellectual white supremacist,who claims that Jews have been practicing a “breeding” program “masked” as a Jewish religious code, in a sinister bid to subjugate the world, and holds that Jews are responsible for an impending “race war” in the US.
Blackwell, who was described by columnist David Aaronovitch as a “former Christian fundamentalist,” has said on her Web page that “I do not include links to sites which promote either racism or terrorism. This has always been my policy and applies to all my 200+ Web pages, not just this one.”
Her Web site is reported to be under a House of Commons Committee investigation for a previous link to a Web site blaming Jews for the 9/11 attacks.
Ronnie Fraser, chairman of the Academic Friends of Israel group, told The Jerusalem Post that he was “shocked but not surprised.”
“Sue Blackwell denies being an anti-Semite, but her denial of being anti-Semitic cannot be taken seriously in light of the links she has put on her personal Web site,” said Fraser.
“With this revelation, I call upon the executive of the AUT to take a stand and bring the boycott motions to an end,” he added.
BRITISH AUT GETTING ‘DOWN WIV THE KIDZ’
British AUT getting ‘down wiv the kidz’
By Julie Burchill
May 1, 2005
Prejudice is one of those things - like white shoes or Germans - for which there are very few excuses made. If someone is stingy (stinginess being the halitosis of the soul, as I always say) there’s always some do-gooding bystander who’ll stand up for them and say ‘Oh, but they’re just scared of being poor/they used to be poor!’
If someone’s a child abuser, even, some jerk will pop up and pipe ‘Ooo, it’s not their fault - it probably happened to them, too, when they were children! The abused abuse!’ Which is patently untrue to anyone with even the flimsiest grasp on mathematics in general and fractions in particular; around three quarters of child abuse victims are girls, but three quarters of child abusers aren’t women, are they? D’oh!
But you won’t find many people trying to explain why a person is prejudiced. ‘Oh, they’re just ignorant!’ is the best you’ll get. And it may well be true. Which is why the sight of ‘clever’ people showing prejudice seems singularly grotesque. What’s THEIR excuse?
I’m asking this right now because a couple of weeks ago, on April 22nd, Britain’s Association of University Teachers - an organization representing over 48,000 professional swots - voted to ban all contact with two Israeli universities, and asked its executive committee to consider a boycott against a third, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israel was accused of being ‘a colonial apartheid state’ worse than South Africa, a ‘regime’ worthy of ‘removal’, and its universities of repressing academic freedom. Needless to say, this show of spite received rapturous applause; well, Britain IS currently playing host to the biggest ever annual number of violent anti-Semitic attacks, both on people and on property, since the 1930s. Who can blame the teachers, so conscious of their uncoolness, for wanting to get ‘down wiv the kidz’? They’re too respectable to daub swastikas on a synagogue - but it sure feels good to band together and bully them Israeli academics!
Just imagine; for once, the swots aren’t having their books ripped up in front of them by a gang of thugs - THEY’RE the ones doing the ripping. But if we learnt nothing else from the Shoah, you’d think we’d have learned that the seductive power of herd-mentality cruelty can suck in the most unlikely people; it sucked in the Germans, for instance, almost all of them, a nation thought by many to be the most cultured and civilized in Northern Europe. And now, sixty years after the rough-necked Brits showed the cultured Krauts the true meaning of civilization, we are going through our own dark night of the anti-Semitic soul.
In one way this turn of events is as unexpected as it is cruel - after all, in this country it tends to be academics who react to anything from mild censorship to book-burning with ‘That’s how Hitler started!’ That they are now doing something Hitler would thoroughly approve of, and did - barring contact with Jews - seems to have escaped them. But in another way, it makes logical, horrible sense. It’s not so long since English academia saw nothing wrong with having Jewish quotients as a matter of course, lest the ‘best’ universities be over-run by those unnaturally smart Heebs. Far from flying in the face of English academic freedom, maybe the latest haters are simply reverting to type.
I’ve always loved being English - but more and more these days, living through this latest, almost post-modern plague of anti-Semitism with a ‘caring’ face, I wish it was a club that I could resign from, as opposed to a flag I carry in my blood. Trust me, with all your trials and tribulations, you lot don’t know how lucky you are. Because you will never, ever be ashamed of and embarrassed by your country the way I am increasingly ashamed of and embarrassed by mine.
You’re too damn good-looking for your own good, you’re humourless and you don’t know the meaning of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ - but you’re not bullies, and you never will be. It makes me sad to think that just a few years ago, I thought that last thing about my people, too. I don’t anymore.
(Julie Burchill is a columnist for The Times of London.)
BRITAIN’S PROFESSORS AGAINST PEACE
Britain’s professors against peace
By Alan M. Dershowitz
The Jerusalem Post
April 27, 2005
The British Association of University Teachers has now created a blacklist against Jewish Israeli academics – really a blue-and-white list – reminiscent of the worst abuses of McCarthyism. And just as McCarthyism was a barrier to peace between the US and the Soviet Union – by contributing to a dangerous atmosphere in which each side vilified and threatened the other – so too does the British lecturers’ boycott endanger the progress now being made toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
It is not surprising therefore that even the Palestinian Al-Quds University in Jerusalem headed by Sari Nusseibeh released a statement against the British association blacklist, saying, “We are informed by the principle that we should seek to win Israelis over to our side, not to win against them... Therefore, informed by this national duty, we believe it is in our interest to build bridges, not walls; to reach out to the Israeli academic institutions, not to impose another restriction or dialogue-block on ourselves.”
But instead of heeding the moderate words of those they claim to support, British university teachers will collectively punish Israeli academics in a manner that leading Palestinian academics do not support. They’ve become more Palestinian than the Palestinians, and at precisely the time when Israel is taking more risks and making more sacrifices for peace than it has since Camp David in 2000.
A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students got it exactly right when he said, “Things in the Middle East are moving forward while in the UK they are moving backwards. These boycotts have struck a blow at talks between Israel and Palestine.”
As Israel’s Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s Zvi Hefetz noted, “The last time that Jews were boycotted in universities was in 1930s Germany.”
Not only is the academic blacklist harmful and wrong; it may also be illegal. According to Jocelyn Prudence, head of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, “This would appear to run contrary to contractual law, race and religious discrimination law, and academic freedom obligations...”
It’s a good thing Israel has only to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors and not European university professors.
The terrible message being sent by this anti-Semitic action – anti-Semitic because it will apply only to Israeli Jews, not Arabs or Christians – is that the Jewish state will not be rewarded for taking steps toward peace and ending the occupation. Instead it will be punished.
This isn’t the first time the AUT has targeted Israeli professors and universities. Back in May 2003, in response to Israeli re-occupation of several West Bank towns, the union considered but voted down a proposed boycott of Israeli academics. The ban would have directed members to “sever academic links with Israeli institutions and funding agencies, boycott conferences in Israel, and refuse to participate as referees in hiring or promotions by the country’s universities.”
The resolution failed by a ratio of two to one, because the members feared that a boycott would “harm progressive Israeli academics campaigning against the Sharon government.”
Why did the boycott resolution succeed this time around? What’s changed in the last two years? From the Palestinian perspective, the political and social climate is objectively improved over what it was two years ago. In just this year, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have signed a cease-fire agreement, Israel agreed to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and Israel is about to withdraw from all of the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.
The “second intifada” has effectively ended, and Palestinians are preparing to police their own streets after the Israelis disengage. By any reasonable standard, things are better for Palestinians today than they were in 2003.
Instead of applauding Israel for taking courageous actions toward ending the occupation, British lecturers choose to attack Israel by blacklisting the nation’s Jewish academics. From now on, professors in the UK are not only permitted, indeed, they’re instructed, to discriminate based on nationality and ethnicity. As The Jerusalem Post wondered, “Why is it that just as the Palestinians are about to receive the greatest unilateral concession ever from Israel they urge a boycott? It is hardly the manifestation of goodwill that would encourage Israelis to support yet greater existential risks.”
The Guardian concurred, pointing out a troubling double standard: “Singling out Israel raises other questions. AUT members are not proposing, after all, to boycott universities in North Korea, Zimbabwe or Sudan, where the government has been accused of perpetrating genocide against its own people.”
“I used to think that it didn’t matter what we did,” an Israeli moderate once told me. “They will hate us just as much even if we give back the whole West Bank as well as Gaza.”
He paused and then continued: “I was wrong. It does make a difference. They hate us even more when we give more, because it confuses their image of us as totally evil. And our enemies see it as a sign of our weakness and their strength.”
My friend was right. This academic boycott makes clear that when Israel does precisely what its detractors demand that it do, even then – especially then! – extreme left-wing academics will only despise Israel more for putting the lie to the professors’ hate-filled views.
By targeting Israeli Jews, Britain’s “Professors Against Peace” – that’s what they really should be called – have displayed bigotry against Jews, done violence to academic freedom and anti-discrimination laws, and are fast closing a window of opportunity for reconciliation in the Middle East.
(The writer is a professor of law at Harvard. His latest book is Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights.)