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AUT Israel Boycott Resources
The Inter-Senate Committee of the Israeli Universities for the defense of Academic Freedom

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The Inter-Senate Committee of the Israeli Universities for the defense of Academic Freedom

Composed out of representatives of the Israeli Universitiesí Senates

Prof. Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Department of English Language and Literature, University of Haifa

Prof. Michael Ben-Or, School of Computer Science and Engineering, The Hebrew University

Prof. Micha Berkooz, Particle Physics Department, Weizmann Institute of Science

Prof. Avraham Gover, Electrical Engineering Department, Tel Aviv University

Dr. Ilan Gur-Zeev, Department of Education, University of Haifa

Prof. Yair Zakovitch, Faculty of Humanities, The Hebrew University

Prof. Akiva Cohen, Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Avidov Lipsker, Department of the Literature of the Jewish People, Bar Ilan university

Prof. Michael Mond, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ben Gurion University

Prof. Avraham Sidi, Computer Science Department, Technion

Prof. Yaacov Iram, School of Education, Bar Ilan University

Dr. Lea Kacen, Department of Social Work, Ben Gurion University

Prof. Yosef Steinberger, Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University

Prof. Yechiel Shai, Biological Chemistry Department, Weizmann Institute of Science

Prof. Giora Simchen, Faculty of Sciences, The Hebrew University

April 12, 2005

To: Members of the AUT

Subject: Calls for boycott of Israeli Universities

The inter-senate committee of the Israeli research universities was formed four years ago to safeguard the academic freedom and autonomy of Israeli Universities. Over these four years, we have joined forces to oppose any kind of political pressure on the Israeli Higher Education system and to promote education for all. In many cases, we coordinated our efforts with those of concerned academics abroad. Overall, we have been successful in our efforts, although challenges remain.

We are, therefore, surprised that the AUT is considering proposals to boycott Israelís Universities. We would like to emphasize that the Israeli research universities as formal institutions are not affiliated with any specific political ideology, whether on the left or on the right. Within this a-political environment, each faculty member follows his/her political path. But as the most cursory survey of press archives would indicate, our conception of academic and civil freedom dovetails with a commitment to the building of bridges rather than barricades on all fronts. We are concerned that the AUT activity along the latter lines, will only serve to demoralize and subvert the efforts for collaboration and understanding.

As an organization devoted to academic freedom and accessibility to all parts of society, we believe that boycotts are not acceptable within the academy. We do not see any possible outcome to the calls for boycott, other than potentially weakening the independence of the Israeli academic system, with no effect along the lines that boycott proponents may be hoping for.

We urge the AUT to study the collaborative efforts between Israeli, Palestinian and Arab scientists and educators as part of its policy on the Middle East conflict, such as the one attached to this letter (co-signed by heads of Palestinian and Israeli universities, including ones you wish to boycott), or http://www.sesame.org.jo. We are sure that the AUT and its members can play a more constructive role within such joint academic projects, which may pave the way towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

We would also like to note that the AUTís discussion of a boycott is occurring while processes are underway in the area, which we all hope will constitute a substantial step towards peace. At the time when Egypt and Jordan are returning their ambassadors to Israel, does the AUT wish to become an extreme entity that promotes a boycott? At the time when there is a critical international effort to promote mutual trust, does the AUT wish to widen the rift?

The call for boycott includes a clause stipulating that Israeli academics expressing reservations of Israelís policies will be exempt from the boycott. It is hardly necessary to point to the incongruity of this clause, and indeed of the call to boycott, with any conception of freedom of expression and thought. Would that mean that special, McCarthy style, commissions would be set up within the AUT to examine each of the 5000 professors at the Israeli Universities? Would the thought-police monitor the lives of the people involved? Perhaps the supporters of the boycott relish such a process, but we are sure most people do not.

Finally, the details in the three specific points raised in the call for boycott are questionable. Inquiries we have made find them in the best of cases full of errors and misleading. If the AUT has any evidence to substantiate these claims, both the relevant universities and the ISC would be grateful to hear it. If not, does the AUT wish to associate itself with slanderous hearsay? In all of these cases, we are not aware that at any stage the proponents of the boycott approached any of the universities requesting a response.

As an inter-university organization, we are devoted to ensuring academic freedom, academiaís independence from politics, its quality and its accessibility to all parts of society, including ethnic and political minorities. As such, we call on you to reject all calls for boycott, and join the growing international community that is working towards fostering trust, goodwill and hope for a peaceful resolution in our region.

Sincerely,

The Inter-senate Committee for the defense of Academic Freedom

 

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