Academic boycott of Israel back on the table

The teachers’ union at Birmingham University is proposing another “academic boycott” of Israeli universities. A similar proposal was rejected in 2003, and it appeared the various boycott-Israel campaigns had flagged with the new signs of movement toward peace. But those who see Israelis as the world’s designated whipping boys don’t give up easily.

The Israeli author and peace activist A. B. Yehoshua had an appropriately sarcastic response:

“The incredible sensitivity of the British is very encouraging precisely at this time, while the British army is still in Iraq,” said… Yehoshua. “Are these esteemed academics also boycotting their British and American colleagues who are not speaking out against the war in Iraq?

“We are very flattered,” Yehoshua added, “by the expectation that Israel remain unblemished. But there is a great distance between academic dialogue and an academic boycott. If they cared to dialogue with Israeli academics and intellectuals, they would discover how many of them have been struggling for years against the occupation and for recognition of a Palestinian state, even in a very complex situation of war and terror. Perhaps they would realize that part of the positive steps towards resolution of the conflict taken by the Israeli government are the result, in part, of such intellectuals’ efforts. If they choose to boycott, let them boycott everyone in the world who doesn’t think like them. And if they choose to dialogue, we are always ready to talk things over for the sake of peace.”