Against the AUT Boycott of Israeli Universities

John Strawson, Reader in Law, UEL, makes a powerful argument against the boycott and provides an important insight into the mindset and worldview of the boycott proponents:

I was invited to two meetings of the boycott activists in the fall of 2004. I was slightly surprised, as my opposition to a boycott position was on record. I thought, however, it might be interesting, so I went and stated my position. I spoke in favour of positive academic links with Palestine and extending academic freedom. This seemed reasonably well received and in an e-mail discussion they seemed to be moving away from the blanket boycott position. The second meeting, which discussed the AUT resolutions, contained a rather unpleasant discourse. References were made to ‘rich and powerful Zionists’ and certain well-known Palestinian leaders and academics were described as ‘collaborators.’ While of course this was background and the opinion of individuals, it was, I thought, instructive and I broke any connections with these people, although it was suggested that I had ‘come under pressure.’

‘I feel that we may have not offered you enough support and that grieves me, because pressure experienced alone can be really horrible.’ I quote the email I was sent indicating the dubious and patronizing nature of a sect-like group. Sue Blackwell’s published views in the Guardian leave no doubt in my mind, that in the main, the people behind the AUT boycott campaign are rather crude Anti-Zionists. Blackwell says that Israel is an ‘illegitimate state’ and goes on to denounce Israeli academics for serving in the IDF, which is compulsory. Other little clues include comments that Israeli Universities have not denounced the occupation. But neither have British Universities denounced the occupation of Iraq. Nor did they denounce internment in Northern Ireland. I think that this group is attempting to use widespread and justified opposition to the Israeli occupation to be mobilized for another agenda.