Last Friday, a long campaign by political extremists to vilify Israeli academics finally bore fruit, and the AUT Council voted to boycott certain Israeli universities.
It is clear from the history of the campaign and the logic of the boycotters that this is only a first step towards a general boycott of Israel academia.
The response to the misconceived AUT boycott from the academic community has been remarkable and immediate. Some – misguidedly – have decided to resign from the AUT in protest. Others will stay and fight.
On April 16, David Hirsh circulated a letter which was published on this website, opposing the boycott and arguing:
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.
That letter has given birth to a new website: “Engage”
Engage opposes Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. We are in favour of the foundation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. We do not believe that Israel is an ‘illegitimate state’. We are for reconciliation between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.
1 . Engage opposes the idea of an academic or cultural boycott of Israel.·
2 . Engage aims to encourage, facilitate and publicise positive links between Israeli, Palestinian, British and global academia. Engage is for closer engagement, not boycotts.
3 . Engage stands up against antisemitism in our universities, in our unions and in our students unions.
Harry’s Place stands fully behind Engage. It is time that academics took their union back from the extremists who have little real interest in peace and compromise, and no committment to academic freedom.
Engage will be a point of focus for academics who are supportive of dialogue and engagement between Palestinian and Israeli academics, and will be a catalyst in a process which will lead, both to the overturning of the ban, and the construction of stronger links between British academia and progressive movements in both Israeli and Palestinian society.