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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 15, 2003

Against the Israeli Academic Boycott
An interesting article by Neve Gordon, professor of politics at Ben Gurion University. He is more often than not highly critical of Israel, and this piece appears in The Nation, also highly critical of Israel. And yet, the writer argues, Israel is a democracy where he can write critically of his country, and therefore boycotts of intellectuals is counter-productive
[...]During a casual encounter with a university official, I learned that the administration has been receiving incensed letters from abroad by people who have read newspaper articles in which I criticize Israel's neoliberal monetary policies, the ongoing discrimination of its Palestinian citizenry and, most important, the government's draconian policies in the occupied territories. Some of the letter writers were unhappy with the fact that an Israeli academic institute continues to employ me, and they are even considering stopping their annual donations to the university.

Ironically, intolerant reactions of this kind--whether articulated within Israel or abroad--are a reminder that in Israel, academic freedom still exists, much more so than in many other countries. They also suggest, however, that this freedom should never be taken for granted and that it is currently being challenged.

Unwittingly, American and European supporters of the academic boycott against Israeli universities are aiding this attack. They certainly have not taken into account some of the realities inside Israel, particularly the internal offensive against the universities as well as the anti-intellectual atmosphere that has colonized the Israeli public sphere.[moire]