AUT petition

David Hirsh, of Goldsmiths College is putting together a pretty level headed petition, opposing the proposed AUT motion calling for an academic boycott of Israel.

You may wish to encourage your friends who are academics to sign it and return it to David Hirsh as soon as possible. The intention is that it be published in the Guardian on or before the 20th April when the motion will be debated.

Therefore, the deadline for emailing David Hirsh is 5pm 18 April.


We oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and we support the
right of the Palestinian people to an independent state alongside Israel.
We think, however, that proposals by some members of the Association of
University Teachers for a boycott of Israeli academia would be

The campaign for the academic boycott treats all academics as though they
were responsible for government policy – which they are not. The latest
proposal contains a clause which is intended to get round this problem by
excluding from the boycott “conscientious Israeli academics and
intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies”. This

would mean that Israeli academics would first have to affirm their
‘anti-Zionist’ credentials before being allowed to function as members of
the global academic community.

But there is no agreed definition of the word ‘Zionism’. Some people
define it as a form of racism. Others understand it as a Jewish national
liberation movement. Others consider themselves Zionists if they support
the right of Israel not to be conquered.

We oppose the proposal that academics should be subjected a political test.
Does anybody suggest that American physicists should be excluded from the
academic community if they do not repudiate Guantanamo Bay? Does anybody
suggest that Chinese historians should be excluded if they oppose democracy?
Does anybody suggest that Muslim mathematicians should be excluded unless
they publicly repudiate the attacks of September 11? These kinds of demands
would destroy the principles of openness, free speech and community that
should define academia.

But the current proposal to make a distinction between good Israelis and bad
Israelis is a tactical move: the boycott campaign really wants a total
boycott of Israeli academia.

Last year there was a call by the religious right in Israel to boycott
Israeli academics who had signed a statement in support of Israeli pilots
who were refusing to bomb targets in the occupied territories. A government
minister spoke in favour of a ban on the books of these academics. How
would we support Israeli academics that come under such attacks if there is
a boycott on links with Israeli academia?

Who should be teaching Israeli students? Do we demand that Israeli
academics that are against the occupation should leave Israel and teach
somewhere else? Do we demand that Arab students who are studying at Israeli
universities should leave, rather than fight for equal rights?

We should be making more links, not fewer, with the Israeli academics who
are doing good work and who are resisting the racist culture of the Israeli
right. Formally, this question is dealt with by the good Israeli / bad
Israeli formulation of the latest proposal, but this would create more
problems than it addresses.

What effect would this boycott have on UK academics – and particularly
Jewish academics? It would put UK Jewish academics under pressure to
declare themselves ‘anti-Zionist’. And what will happen to those who

Click here for a list of signatories

Alan Johnson, Reader, Social Science, Edge Hill College of Higher Education

Anne Summers, Leverhulme Network Co-ordinator, The Women’s Library, London
Metropolitan University

Avrom Sherr, Director, Woolf Professor, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies,
University of London

Ben Gidley, Research Fellow, Centre for Urban and Community Research,
Goldsmiths College, University of London

Camila Bassi, Lecturer, Geography, Sheffield Hallam University

Carol Jones, Open University in Wales

Caroline Knowles, Reader, Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of

Catherine Dodds , Research Fellow, Sigma Research, University of

Charles Asher Small, Research Affiliate, Institution for Social and Policy
Studies, Yale University

Chris Rumford, Senior Lecturer, Political Sociology, Royal Holloway,
University of London

Daniel Chernilo, Lecturer, Social Science, University Alberto Hurtado, Chile

David Hirsh, Lecturer, Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London

David Lawrence, Hon Lecturer, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

David Seymour, Lecturer, Law, Lancaster University

Gideon Calder, Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Social Theory, University of
Wales, Newport

Ian Gordon, Department of Geography and Environment, London School of

Jane Liddell-King, Approved University Teacher, English, Cambridge

Jeffrey Boss, Senior Lecturer, Physiology, Bristol University (retired)

John Solomos, Professor, Head of Department, Sociology, City University,

Jon Pike, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy, Open University

Keith Kahn-Harris, Associate Lecturer, Open University

Les Back, Professor, Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Mario Di Paolantonio, Visiting Fellow, Sociology, Goldsmiths College,
University of London

Michael Freeman, Professor, Faculty of Laws, University College London

Michael Storper, Professor of Economic Geography, London School of economics

Monica Greco, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Goldsmiths College, University of

Peter Lawson, Associate Lecturer, Open University

Ray Kiely, Senior Lecturer, Development Studies, SOAS

Robert Fine, Professor, Head of Department, Sociology, Warwick University

Ross M. Goodman, Visiting Instructor, Criminal Justice/Legal Studies,
University of West Florida