I signed this petition: Oppose the Blacklist of Israeli Academics Petition.
I don’t know if I would personally have voted for the boycott if I was in the AUT. And after doing some research I might have lobbied to have it narrowed some more, if I was an AUT member. I’m not.
But I am an academic and I do care about academic freedom. But I also believe in unions’ right to speak and act on behalf of their members for good causes most of their members agree with.
There is one thing that makes this situation different from some other academic freedom cases. It was a choice of the union representatives of the professors themselves to blacklist the faculty of Haifa and Bar-Ilan. And in one case the AUT at least presents the boycott as an effort to apply outside pressure for more academic freedom within Israel.
Even if the AUT later reverse themselves under pressure, it seems likely that they better represent what the academics in UK colleges and universities believe about the Israeli occupied territories issue than a body representing U.S. academics (AAUP). So take AAUP’s recommendation in with that in mind.
The original post omitted the specific reasons AUT gave for the boycotts of Bar-Ilan (begin quote)
* That Bar Ilan University supervises degree programmes at the College of Judea and Samaria in the illegal settlement of Ariel, near Nablus, in the occupied West Bank. * That it is thus directly involved with the occupation of Palestinian territories contrary to United Nations resolutions.
(end quote) (http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1203)
* That on May 15, 2002 Dr. Ilan Pappe, senior lecturer in Political Science at Haifa University, was sent a letter notifying him that he faced trial and possible dismissal from his position. The charge was that he had violated ‘the duties of an academic member of staff’, that he had ‘slandered departments and members in the humanities faculty, damaged their professional reputation and endangered the possible promotion of some of them.’ * That these accusations related to Dr. Pappe’s efforts to defend a 55 year old graduate student, Teddy Katz, whose Master’s thesis was under attack by an Israeli veteran’s organization because it documented a massacre of 200 unarmed civilians by the Haganah (the pre-state army of Israel) at a village called Tantura, near Haifa. * That the recriminations are still continuing and Dr. Pappe’s job is still being threatened.
(end quote) (http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=1202)
See also http://www.aut.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=122
Readers should do their homework and make their own judgements about the extent to which 1. the presence of Haifa campuses in an illegal settlement substantially harms the peace process by helping the Israeli settlers’ political position 2. the faculty of Haifa and Bar-Ilan deserve responsibily and to be shunned for their institutions’ actions (or if the greater good is served by applying pressure on the faculty to get them to change their employer’s policies, independent of personal responsibility) 3. it is fair for a professor’s union to require union members to break or avoid contact with the people at those institutions, even when the member disagrees with the AUT’s politics or some union member’s research would be harmed 4. AUT has the ability (or not) to harm its members employability in the UK by revoking their membership, and whether such action is ever likely if the boycott continues.
People and organizations have the right and the duty to do what is in their power to try and help end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and counter the power of Israel’s hardliners in peaceful ways. And that is what the AUT representatives seem to think they were doing on behalf of their members.
I don’t know the answer to those questions. But I think someone should try answering them before deciding that it’s right to petition the AUT to end the boycott.
One of the milder reasons for the boycott, apparently: according to a letter to the UK Guardian, 70% of Israelis are non-European, but at the two universities non-Europeans make up only 10% of the professors and 20% of the students.
The context is (apparently) in Israel it makes a difference whether you are Mizrahi or Ashkenazi.
One letter stated: “Israel’s Ashkenazi “post-Zionist” professors, brandishing their progressive politics as they use Mizrahim and Palestinians for grantsmanship and as career advancement tools, are just the cynical tip of this apartheid iceberg.” [referring to the occupied territories (not counted in the numbers above)]
ok, i’ve read this article and i’ve read the petition, and i, for one, don’t see: 1) how this affects israel or its universities in the slightest. how are they affected by this? 2) how an AUT boycott is meant to advance their goals? 3) how israel can keep ignoring the fact that it is at least SOMETIMES not the perpetual underdog that it wants to be? see the bbc news article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3740649.stm for example. (short paraphrase of article: israeli justice minister provoked a huge backlash when he implied that an old arab woman picking through the rubble of her israeli-destroyed home was like his grandmother picking through the rubble of her nazi-destroyed home.) 4) why the united states continues to give israel approximately 3 billion dollars a year in loans and other foreign aid. not precisely on target with respect to the cited article, but similar: go find out for yourself how much money the US gives to israel per year. loans or otherwise. google it. or whatever. find an objective source. how much money do we give israel? now go look around your local public high school. isn’t it a teensy bit odd to give money to a foreign country, no matter how important to us, when our own country is so obviously lacking?
Probably people in general and specifically discourse.net readers aren’t very happy to hear that last point. But can you really justify the contribution to foreign nations while we have American schools in which teachers sometimes have to pay out of pocket for supplies?
Professor Froomkin; I’d be interested in your answer to a hypothetical question related to part of this controversy. If the AUT had voted only to boycott interaction with Haifa University, and only in response to policies like those that led to the Pappe/Katz case, would you still have opposed the action? (And I realize that this can’t be anything but a hypothetical because there are numerous other issues and agendas involved.) In other words, can restrictions on academic freedom be legitimate in an attempt to stop even greater restrictions on academic freedom?
Generally I think it’s a bad idea to punish faculty for administrative decisions. We faculty don’t get to tell them what to do very often. I’m sure there is some set of facts where the act is so egregious, or the faculty so complicit that this rule doesn’t hold — firing all the faculty of one race/religion/whatever might do it — but I imagine it’s rare.
First of all, the only thing that gets in the way of the AUT justifying its Boycott and deciding whether to support or protest the Boycott- is the truth. The truth is always the first casualty. The truth is that Ilan Pappe still works at Haifa University and has never been disciplined by it for his views. The truth is that Ilan Pappe acted in a way that would almost universally be considered unprofessional with regard to the issue which brought him his fame or noteriety. As for Bar Ilan University- since when is having contact with another insitution of higher learning a bad thing? I guess in the eyes of the AUT – Judea and Samaria- which for you AUT members who don’t know, is the West Bank, should be judenrein- free of Jews- you know, something straight out of Hitler and Geobbels. The truth is that the AUT member who voted never studied the issues upon which they voted. A few completely biased instigators such as Sue Blackwell and Sheree Benjameen orchestated this event and Sally Hunt either fell for it or went along for the ride. They were not objective and they lacked the basis on which to vote. But why take up only this issue? Why not vote on all issues at all universities throughout the world? Set up the mechanism which allows the AUT to judge all others and then apply the standards universally. Don’t ignore the Arab world simply because they dont follow western rules for academic freedom. Obivously the AUT and its boycott voting and approving members are better than all others? Or are they?
Here’s an article in the Jerusalem Post which is pretty critical of Pappe, as if they were out to discredit him.
Whether it is okay if Katz’s thesis was rejected depends on whether Katz did, as charged, falsify interview data. I’d want to know more than the Jpost said or the claim of one academic to judge that. I’d also want to know if Katz was held to a much higher standards of evidence by his committe than other students with less controversial theses that didn’t lead to political pressure on his university.
I thought it unusual that the court’s findings in a civil trial involving Katz seemed to drive the later academic evaluation of the quality/accuracy of Katz’s scholarship. Shouldn’t scholars on his committee be making independent judgenments about the research behind the thesis?
As for Pappe I think the disagreement between him and Katz about how many times Pappe read drafts of Katz’ thesis could easily be explained by Katz thinking Pappe was really reading drafts he gave him when in fact he wasn’t. My own grad school experience says many professors dislike reading multiple drafts of student work. And they don’t often say if the failed to read a draft unless pressed. Of course Katz could have lied to Pappe at the time or (as the Jpost suggests) be lying to reporters now.
On whether Pappe’s job was threatened, while the threat was due to the action of a professor in the university acting as an indivudual, it does seem the process wasn’t as far along as the AUT suggests, since the university told the Dean to take his case to civil court. I would guess if the Dean did that and later won then Pappe’s job could be in danger (see what happened when a court ruled against Katz). If I was in Pappe’s shoes I’d like strong reassurance on paper that there was no more threat to my job. Something he hasn’t gotten. A statement by his chair that he believes there’s no more threat to Pappe’s job is nice, but not the same thing as a very clear letter from the top of the university administration.
Pappe does come across (based on the Jpost’s attack story) as a troublemaker, someone with strongly held minority views that will try and spin the press for his own pro-palestinian agenda. But even if all that is true I want to give him and Katz the benefit of the doubt because what they say in their scholarship and public statements probably makes so many people in Israel angry that have the power to damage or destroy these people’s careers.
Note that the JPost piece says nothing about the other boycott relating to the campus in the illegal settlement in Ariel.
Interestingly, Haaretz, where I looked for a different perspective, has no article on their web site about Pappe or Katz+Haifa or a Bar-Ilan boycott. Just an editorial saying the boycott will be ineffective.
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