AUT/Sue Blackwell - Rejoicing too soon?
On April 22, 2005 the British Association of University Teachers (AUT) voted to their shame 96-92 to boycott two Israeli universities, Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University. The proposal to boycott Hebrew University was struck down. The motion was brought by Sue Blackwell. She and others in favor of the boycott said it was in response to Israel's bulldozing of Palestinian houses to make room for buildings at Hebrew University. The motion also claimed that Israeli universities had apartheid that was worse than the South Africans. According to the Jerusalem Post Ms. Blackwell had this at her web-site after the vote: Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham University lecturer who tabled boycott motions, has posted a triumphant message on her Web site, entitled: "Victory to the academic intifada!"
Underneath a photograph of herself wearing a dress made from the Palestinian flag, and flashing a victory sign, the lecturer told readers: "Yes folks, we won."
However, her victory may be short lived. There is growing opposition by many members of the AUT to this boycott. Many are threatening to resign and petitions are being signed to dump the boycott. In a London Times article from April 25, 2005 entitled "Blinkered and ill-timed" the following was pointed out: Their actions are an echo of the Nazi ban on Jewish academics, and the general discrimination so common three generations ago.
The issue of discrimination is more overtly political in the broader context of the Middle East. How much academic freedom exists in Syria? Or Saudi Arabia?
Personally, I think Ms. Blackwell is a bigot. Her motions were ill-conceived and the evidence that was presented was one-sided. No one was allowed to present evidence in defense of the universities. Her motion against Hebrew University must have really been ludicrous for it was not boycotted.
The two Israeli Universities, Haifa University and Bar-Ilan University, that are the targets of the boycott have long had the reputation of academic freedom for both Jewish and Palestinian students. Ideas are freely exchanged. Palestinians and Israelis talk to one another. Far from boycotting these universities, they should be held up as an example of how the exchange of ideas can lead to better understanding between two peoples that have been living in war for decades. Israel's universities are a beacon for the exchange of ideas in the Middle East.
I read this post at Common Sense & Wonder. It states how the boycott will actually undermine the peace process. Well worth the read.