With the decisive overturning of the AUT boycott of certain Israeli universities looking more and more likely, the President of Al-Quds University and the President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have issued a joint statement condemning boycotts in principle and endorsing co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians as a path to peace and justice in the Middle East. We reproduce the statement in full below. The Hebrew University is one of those threatened with boycott by the AUT.
If the specific academic boycott motion is overturned on 26 May, it is fair to say that the extremist tactic of urging academic boycotts of universities will be dead, in principle and in practice, for the forseable future. That is as it should be.
To seek to prevent academics from engaging in discourse with their fellows in any circumstances is fundamentally incompatible with academic freedom. It would, of course, be as wrong to argue that advocates and campaigners for academic boycotts should be dismissed from their posts in universities, as it would be to campaign for academic boycotts. Even a person who seeks to deny academic freedom to others is entitled to that freedom themselves.
However, I do wonder whether people who see nothing wrong with boycotting have a mindset which is compatible with academic life. I know little about the quality of research of Sue Blackwell, or the Professors Rose. Perhaps they are well respected in their disciplines. I do not know. However, I would instinctively suspect the conclusions of any academic who supported a boycott. By expressing such support, they would in effect be shutting themselves off, in whole or in part, from a portion of the learning in their discipline.
In particular circumstances, that conscious self-handicapping will perhaps not affect the quality of their research. However, it will always be difficult to determine whether their approach has skewed their conclusions. More importantly, by endorsing a boycott, a researcher will have demonstrated that they do not care if their learning is incomplete or deficient in some important extent. An academic endeavour will have been subverted into a political one. Its quality will have been inevitably compromised.
Accordingly, it might be proper for research staff in universities who advocate academic boycotts to refrain from describing themselves as “academics”.
JOINT HEBREW UNIVERSITY – AL-QUDS UNIVERSITY STATEMENT ON ACADEMIC COOPERATION
Cognizant of the moral leadership universities should provide, especially in already turbulent political contexts, we, the President of Al-Quds University and the President of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have agreed to insist on continuing to work together in the pursuit of knowledge, for the benefit of our peoples and the promotion of peace and justice in the Middle East.
Our position is based upon the belief that it is through cooperation based on mutual respect, rather than through boycotts or discrimination, that our common goals can be achieved. Bridging political gulfs – rather than widening them further apart – between nations and individuals thus becomes an educational duty as well as a functional necessity, requiring exchange and dialogue rather than confrontation and antagonism. Our disaffection with, and condemnation of acts of academic boycotts and discrimination against scholars and institutions, is predicated on the principles of academic freedom, human rights, and equality between nations and among ndividuals.
We therefore call upon academics here and worldwide to act in support of our mission, as one which might allow for ending our shared tragedy rather than prolonging it.
President of Al-Quds University
Prof. Menachem Magidor
President of Hebrew University
London, May 19, 2005
Hat tip: Engage
More thoughts on the boycott by Prof Norm here.