I'm rounding up a number of recent links on the question of the AUT boycott decision. There's a statement here by Adam Logan, lecturer in Maths at the University of Liverpool:
I reject this resolution because it is connected with a movement that promotes the destruction of a sovereign, independent country; because it is inconsistent with the basic principles of academic freedom; because it is based on statements of fact which are incorrect, strongly contestable, or irrelevant; and because it was adopted by an undemocratic procedure.Read the rest. From a report in the Times Higer Education Supplement:
Jocelyn Prudence, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers' Association, said: "Early indications are that (the boycott) would appear to run contrary to contractual law, race and religious discrimination law, and academic freedom obligations that are built into the contracts of staff in pre-1992 universities."Paul Anderson at Gauche:
For the first time in a working lifetime of trade union membership, I'm seriously tempted to tear up a union card...From the Jerusalem Post:
I think I am probably in breach of the boycott at the moment - though I can't be sure because I have not yet received details from the AUT of what the boycott is to entail. Several of my students at City University are here on scholarships organised by the Olive Tree Educational Trust in collaboration with Israeli and Palestinian universities to foster dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a great scheme to which I am fully committed, and I'd rather leave the AUT than endanger it.
But it's not just my personal interest in this particular project that is making me think about resigning from the AUT. I'm against the boycott on principle and think that it's a disastrously stupid course of action to pursue.
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.From Haaretz:
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."
Michael Green of Cambridge University, one of the world's leading physicists, is one of the members who resigned from AUT. "I would condemn many actions of Israel's government," Green told Haaretz, "but (a boycott) contradicts academic freedom." He called the decision "outrageous," saying it exceeded the agenda of a trade union. "Why is such a step taken against Israel, and not applied to many places in the world, such as Russia, for its policy in Chechnya?" Green said three or four other people told him they would resign from AUT as a result of the boycott.Ditto:
The higher education system does not operate in a vacuum. It needs not only congresses and sabbatical years. It is in much more urgent need of international contacts, publication in various countries, confirmation and scientific inspiration from important colleagues. In effect, it is not the universities in England that will now boycott Israel. The universities will, if they wish, continue to invite talented Israelis to lectures, sabbaticals and doctoral studies. The AUT - in acceptance committees for publications and congresses, and everything that is essential for the existence of freedom of expression, research and academic development - will be the one to distinguish between the "collaborators with the authorities" (for example, anyone who was in the army or whose son was in the army?) and people who are "all right," and thus they will create a new ranking of who will succeed in penetrating the international community, and who will be forced to make do with expressing himself in Hebrew only.Meanwhile, Engage has carried a second post (for the first, see here) disagreeing with the view that Jewish academics should resign from the AUT. I would like to comment.
Speaking for myself - though my guess is that this view would be shared by others who have resigned - I have said more than once that there are different ways of opposing the boycott decision, with resignation only one of these. Applying pressure and registering protest from outside is another, and fighting within the AUT to get the decision reversed another. I've also said that I can see why there will be people who choose not to resign, and that I respect their reasons. On the other hand, those at Engage who disagree with resignations by Jewish members make no concession whatever - not in anything they've so far said - to why some Jewish academics might feel that they don't want, even temporarily, to stay in an organization publicly committed to an anti-Semitic policy. I have to say, for all that the work now being done by Engage is crucial, which is why I support it, I find this reaction narrow, and I would even go so far as to say cramped. Members of a minority (ethnic, religious, etc.) whose union has adopted a policy they see as prejudicial to their interests or identity and who choose to stay in and fight against it - well, that is their right. But it shouldn't take too much imagination or experience of the world to grasp why some others may not find this either congenial or dignified.
It is also interesting that Engage should twice have seen fit to make a statement against Jewish resignations, a statement directed at people actively supporting the effort to get the AUT decision reversed, when one might have thought they should be focusing this energy on more relevant targets: on opponents in fact; people who have hijacked their union in the service of a noxious policy.
Still, the effort of Engage is to be applauded and actively supported. There are different and complementary ways of fighting, and this is a common battle.