The AUT Boycott of Israeli Universities is Inimical to Academic Freedom

(Times-UK) Editorial - The decision by the [British] Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott two universities in Israel is a mockery of academic freedom, a biased and blinkered move that is as ill-timed as it is perverse. The vote targets the very institutions in Israel that have been havens of political and racial tolerance and beacons of academic freedom. The sponsors say the academic boycott is a protest against discrimination, as valid as the widely supported ban by British universities on links with South African institutions during the apartheid years. Such a claim is as laughable as it is inaccurate. In both universities, Jews and Arabs study together, and in Haifa especially there is a substantial number of Arab lecturers and students. Moreover, if Palestinian students themselves are not calling for a boycott, what is the point of such tokenism by the AUT? In many British universities there are vocal critics of Israeli policies. They can speak out in public, join protest marches, and argue with pro-Israeli colleagues. What they are not entitled to do is to impose a trade union boycott that is inimical to academic freedom - a principle fundamental not only to civilized society but the very basis of their professional life. Their actions are an echo of the Nazi ban on Jewish academics, and the general discrimination so common three generations ago. Many Jewish students at British universities are already suffering growing hostility, including intolerable abuse from extremists. How much academic freedom exists in Syria? Or Saudi Arabia? Why does the AUT not call for a ban on contacts in dozens of other countries inimical to human rights? If the reply is that building bridges achieves far more, that is all the truer of Israel.

2005-04-25 00:00:00

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