UK teachers’ boycott may be overturned

Good news, folks. The backlash to the decision of Britain’s Association of University Teachers to boycott Haifa and Bar Ilan universities has continued to gain pace this week, as further protests, resignations, and calls for a national emergency session to overturn the boycotts have been issued, denting chances that the boycott resolutions will survive long enough to be implemented.

Chris Fox, lecturer in Computer Science at Essex University, told The Jerusalem Post that the 25 signatures by AUT local association members required to submit a motion calling for the repeal of the boycott resolutions were being collected. The motion would be heard in an emergency national meeting. Fox said that if the executive failed to call such a meeting, the AUT could expect further resignations.

“I will be resigning in the next few days if the national executive of the union fails to indicate an intention to act directly to reconsider or rescind the boycott,” said Fox, adding that “many people here have resigned from the union.”

The first academics to resign from the AUT, Shalom Lappin and Jonathan Ginzburg, have circulated an open letter calling on members to join them in breaking away from the union.

“For the past several years an ugly campaign of anti-Jewish provocation has been building on the margins of the Israel hate-fest that the boycott supporters have been promoting on campuses throughout the UK,” they said in the letter.

“There comes a time when an organization discredits itself to the point that it can no longer be taken to stand for the values that it purports to represent. When this point is reached, one has no alternative but to disassociate oneself from it.”

A letter from the New York Academy of Sciences told the AUT that its resolution, “by selecting individuals and universities for boycott, is a very clear reminder of ‘McCarthy-like’ tactics of accusation.”

The letter concluded: “We call upon the AUT to take immediate steps to rescind their regressive vote and join forward-looking academics the world over in voting for cooperation and not boycott.”

Author and columnist Howard Jacobson said that the boycotts underlined the fact that “Anti-Zionism is, after all, anti-Semitism.”

Referring to Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham University lecturer who tabled the boycott motions, Jacobson said that “For Blackwell, the argument of history is only circular anyway. It is no defense of Israel that it has had to fight against being driven into the sea, because the sea, in her view, is where it belongs.”

Howard also said that Blackwell’s “feverishly pro-Palestinian Web site is under investigation by a Common’s Committee [for] possible links with a site blaming Jews for 9/11.” Blackwell later said that her Web site had included the link “inadvertently.”

Blackwell has posted a triumphant message on her Web site, entitled: “Victory to the academic intifada!” Underneath a photograph of herself wearing a dress made from the Palestinian flag, and flashing a victory sign, the lecturer told readers: Yes folks, we won.

“Anti-Zionism, now, is anti-Semitic,” said Jacobson, “because by the actions of its members, the Association of University Teachers has made it so.”

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, of the Middle East Center at St. Anthony’s College at Oxford University, has written to AUT general-secretary Sally Hunt requesting to be included in the boycott.

“Oaths of political loyalty do not belong to academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes,” wrote Ottolenghi. “Based on this, the AUT’s definition of academic freedom is the freedom to agree with its views only. Given the circumstances, I wish to express in no uncertain terms my unconditional and undivided solidarity with both universities and their faculties.

“I know many people, both at Haifa University and at Bar Ilan University, of different political persuasion and from different walks of life. The diversity of those faculties reflects the authentic spirit of academia. The AUT invitation to boycott them betrays that spirit because it advocates a uniformity of views, under pain of boycott.”

“In solidarity with my colleagues and as a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of a free academia, I wish to be added to the boycott blacklist. Please include me. I hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me,” Ottolenghi concluded.

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