Wednesday, May 27, 2009

UCU votes again to boycott Israel

David Hirsh, blogging live from the UCU Congress, reports on the course of the discussion and the votes on the proposals to boycott Israel academia. The boycott motion passed, despite the legal advice given to leaders of UCU that "to pass this motion would be unlawful because it is likely to be viewed by a court as a call to boycott Israeli academic institutions." The leading British academic union has once again disgraced itself by singling out Israel from all other nations of the world.

Reading through David's notes on the discussion it is very interesting to discover how obsessed the boycotters are with Israel. Several other motions were passed expressing concern with other war-torn parts of the world (for example, Sri Lanka), but the discussions were much less extensive and revealed a much lower level of personal engagement. Why are the academics of UCU Congress so personally touched by the Palestinian cause above all others in the world? Why do they continue to decide to engage in actions whose main effect is to alienate members of their own union? (It certainly isn't having any effect on Israel).

Why do Jews and (ex-)Israelis like Haim Breesheth bring to the fore their own Jewish identity, as if this gives them greater moral authority than others? David reports these words from Breesheth -
I am speaking as an Israeli and as a Jew.
Very many Israeli academics are supporting their government 96%
Do not rely upon Jewish academics in Israel.
This is not the way we will resolve the situation. Not the way South Africa was resolved.
three quarters of Israelis have education. three quarters of army officers and soldiers in tanks and planes and checkpoints have all been through academia.
out of 20,000 israeli academics less than 200 support bds.
To support Palestinians and Israeli academics who are against the war crimes committed you can make history today. I know Sally and Sasha are not looking forward to calling this null and void.
I urge you to take a moral position. vote for the amendment.
How does Breeshet know that 96% of Israeli academics support the government? Has he taken a poll? In the last election, the right-wing bloc certainly did not win 96% of the votes! And what does he mean by saying that three quarters of Israelis have education, including soldiers? He seems to be implying that they gained their political opinions from their university education. How true is that in Israel? I have my doubts - Israel is a highly politicized society, and the people I know in Israel who have gone to university generally leave with the same political opinions they entered with.

From my own experience of Israeli academics (anecdotal) many of them are opposed to the occupation - I don't know if it's a majority or not. It's not particularly surprising that fewer than 200 of Israeli academics support BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) - why would people support something that could cripple their own work? Yet he sees this as evidence to back his assertion that Israeli academics "support their government." BDS is not the only way to oppose actions of the Israeli government. I oppose many actions of the Israeli government, especially the current right-wing government, but such opposition doesn't require support of BDS! His is a very narrow definition of what it means to oppose the government.

This vote is not making history - except as further evidence for the moral degeneration of some British academics.


  1. I've noticed that despite my being very open to debate, you seem distinterested in arguing your case against mine. You claim it's useless since neither of us will change the other's minds. But If you don't welcome debate and discourse isn't your political blog simply a means to take implant one viewpoint in the minds of you students?

    You provide no other links to other opinions. You don't seem interested in even engaging any alternative viewpoints. Does this not breach any ethical or moral code of behavious you would be bound under as an academic authority figure for your students?

  2. My blog isn't intended for my students - I don't tell them about it or provide links to it for them. It's not hosted on a server provided by my college. In short, it has nothing to do with my academic position.

    You seem to have misunderstood what a blog is - it's a platform for my personal statements, opinions, presentations, etc. It's not a newspaper that prints letters to the editor. It's not a public forum. I invite people to read it, but that doesn't give any other person a right to comment or determine the course of the blog. If you feel so strongly about this issue, start your own blog and make arguments that you think will persuade others.

    And I do not have the impression that you are particularly open to listening to the arguments of others on this point, so I see no real point to arguing with you.

  3. Your two blogs are connected and linked through your one profile. You must understand that your words and opinions will be accessible to your students and that the sense of authority you have from being an educator brings responsibilities on your part. Alternative viewpoints should be welcomed especially if they provide the opposing view of your entries.

    Also, I surprised by your lack of interest in engaging with me despite my part in the campaigns you are denigrating in your blog. In fact dialogue may just be the most important thing for people involved in this subject; it was in Ireland during the worst days of our 'Troubles'.

    I do hope one day you'll see those 'pro-Palestinians' in Europe as something other than anti-Semitics and their patsies.

    It seems you confuse persuasion with dialogue and to that end I can understand why you wouldn't want to talk to a member of the 'opposite' side. I do appreciate your responses but I will stop posting any more comments as you seem to prefer.

  4. Have you taken a look at that blog? You'll see it has only a few posts and was intended as a way for me to link to the student blogs in my class. As far as I know, none of my students read even that blog (certainly judging by the lack of comments), and none of them have read this one. They can if they wish, certainly, but I haven't heard anything from any of them about it.