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January 20, 2003

The idiocy of the academic boycotters now fully confronted as leading Oxford scientists condemn academic boycotts targeting Israel.
LONDON, Jan. 17 (JTA) — As debate rages across Europe over efforts to boycott Israeli academics, a group of leading Oxford University scientists plans to condemn academic boycotts based on citizenship.
In an article in the journal Nature that is to be published on Jan. 23, the group will say it is unequivocally opposed to such actions.

Two of the scholars, Richard Dawkins and Colin Blakemore, previously have been associated with calls to boycott Israeli academics.

They wrote last month in England’s Guardian newspaper that they were “dismayed to be implicated, entirely against our intentions,” with the boycott.

The two met fellow scholars Michael Yudkin and Denis Noble for a series of discussions on the principle of academic boycotts, feeling it was “unhelpful to concentrate on a particular proposal.”

Yudkin, an Oxford biologist who is Jewish, told JTA that he “was prompted to set up the study group” that produced the paper “by the call for an academic boycott of Israel last spring.”

Separately, two Israeli scholars based at University College London prodded a section of the Linguistic Society of America to pass a strong anti-boycott resolution at the beginning of January.

Shalom Lappin and Jonathan Ginzburg have collected more than 225 signatures on a petition “calling on our colleagues to oppose this and all other academic boycotts.”

The Linguistic Society currently is balloting its entire membership on the anti-boycott motion, Lappin told JTA.

The controversy began last April, when more than 100 academics signed a letter proposing a boycott of Israeli scholars, to protest Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

Steven and Hilary Rose, a husband-and-wife team of academics, started the boycott movement with a letter in the Guardian.

After simmering quietly for several weeks, the issue burst into flame when Mona Baker, a professor of translation studies at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, sacked two Israelis from the editorial boards of journals she edits.

As a supporter of the boycott she felt compelled, “with regret,” to ask for “the resignation of Miriam Shlesigner of Bar-Ilan University and Gideon Toury of Tel Aviv University,” Baker later wrote. “When they chose not to resign, I had no choice but to remove them from the boards.”