UK Politics

US physicist cancels UK speech due to boycott

The UCU’s vote to recommend a boycott of Israeli academics has produced one rather sad result.

The American Jewish theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize with his Pakistani Muslim colleague and friend Abdus Salam, has canceled a speech he was scheduled to deliver at Imperial College London in honor of Salam, who died in 1996.

I’m sorry Weinberg felt compelled to cancel his appearance. But I think it’s a principled decision. As Kenneth Stern wrote on the American Jewish Committee blog:

Today, the first step must be to emulate the powerful statement made by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who said that the UCU “should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.”

The move to demonize and exclude Israelis will continue as long as other universities remain silent instead of emulating Columbia. And as other institutions (physicians, architects, labor, journalists) are considering boycotting Israel too, their own Lee Bollinger’s need to find the same courage and moral compass to say clearly: If you’re going to treat our Israeli colleagues this way, then treat us the same way too.

Maybe it’s time for decent (there’s that word again) people to declare that– when it comes to one-eyed exclusionary boycotts– we are all Israelis.