How Academics Can Counter the British Academic Boycott

Categories: Personal Stories of Zionism, Israel and Progressive Identity
By Jeffry V. Mallow, Phd.

The British union of academics’ AUT council briefly endorsed a boycott of Israeli acdamic institutions, teachers, and students two years ago, but when the members thought the issue through, it changed its mind. The Universities & College Union (UCU), into which the AUT was absorbed, has now called for a similar boycott.

In response, numerous prestigious universities have opposed the boycott. Here’s what individual teachers can do: simply affiliate yourself with one of the Israeli universities. Two years ago, when the targets were specifically Haifa U. and Bar Ilan U., many professors wrote to the presidents or provosts of schools, attached their CV’s and asked to be listed as Affiliated Faculty. The responses were immediate and grateful, and the affiliations have been automatically renewed.

What are the advantages? First of all, this action is not a counter-boycott; it is an anti-boycott. It becomes the responsibility of the British universities to face the prospect (as is already happening) of professors around the world replying to invitations to British universities and conferences with a polite “No thanks; I’m affiliated with an Israeli university, and therefore not welcome.” Second, you can list it as part of your web address, and on any talks you give, especially in Europe. Third, it does not contradict support for and end to the occupation and a peaceful two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; on the contrary, it supports that segment of Israeli society that has worked the most for these goals.

Here is a sample letter of invitation to affiliation from Ben Gurion U. But you can choose any institution, or several, to offer your affiliation. This action will compel British academia to reverse the boycott decision, or face the prospect of empty conferences and a dearth of academic exchanges: a situation provoked by them, not by the Israeli-affiliated faculty.

Letter of Affiliation

As Rector of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel, I would like to thank you for your warm support of Israeli universities in connection with the unreasoned and biased academic boycott on the part of the British UCU.

It has been brought to my attention that you might wish to align yourself academically with an Israeli university as a form of individual protest against this boycott, in the same spirit as wearing the Star of David in Denmark during World War II, and JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner!”.

Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that the University Senate has agreed to provide the mechanism should you want to be proactive in supporting academic freedom, and we will be happy to affiliate you with Ben Gurion University.

So that we can start a formal procedure to appoint you as an honorary faculty member of BGU, please send your CV, including a list of publications, to:

Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt
Ben Gurion University
POB 653
Beer Sheva, Israel 84105

Please note that our committees are now on summer recess, and will resume in October 2007.

We are grateful for your taking a stand on this issue.

Best regards,

Prof. Jimmy Weinblatt
Ben Gurion University
Beer Sheva, Israel              

About Jeffry V. Mallow Ph. D., Immediate Past President

Jeffry V. Mallow is Emeritus Professor of Physics at Loyola University Chicago. He does research on science education and on quantum physics. He is a member of the Forward Association and honorary chair of the Chicago YIVO Society. His articles on Jewish themes have appeared in numerous publications.  He is the author of Zionist Diarist and Other Polemics. He is also a standup Jewish comic.
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