AUT update


The AUT "boycott" of two top Israeli universities was voted on without any opportunity to oppose it, on Passover night  by a handful of AUT's 46,000 members, and those bien pensants seem not to have decided exactly what it should entail. Nevertheless, it has already unleashed a backlash——as it should:
Under the heading "Suggested Guiding Principles," a document advises boycotters to "refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions." The Web site also calls for internationalizing the boycott, and advocates "a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions." In addition, Taraki writes about the promotion of "divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions." Taraki says that the boycott should target Israeli academics who disagree with her political stance, and this clause has been mirrored in the AUT resolutions.

However, the above "guidelines" appear to be in contradiction of the AUT anti—racism code, which pledges to ensure "full recognition for, and participation by, members of all racial and ethnic groups in the AUT, in universities, and in the life of society generally."

AUT general secretary Sally Hunt released a statement saying that "the executive committee will issue guidance to AUT members on these decisions."

The boycott motions have prompted the immediate resignation of two Jewish academics from the AUT. Jonathan Ginzburg and Shalom Lappin, professors at King's College London, wrote in an open letter: "We feel that we have no choice but to resign from the AUT immediately, and we call upon our colleagues to do the same. We also appeal to the administrations of British universities and to other labor unions, at home and abroad, to withdraw recognition from the AUT until it rescinds this motion." Plans to launch an international boycott of the union are currently being discussed by Jewish academics in Britain.

In a statement released Saturday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry denounced the decision as "scandalous" and hypocritical.

"The fact that AUT chose to target Israel, the only country in the Middle East that has complete academic freedom for all segments of the population and all political streams is scandalous," the ministry said.

The ministry singled out countries such as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia for suppressing academic freedom. The statement urged British academics to distance themselves from the boycott2

Clarice Feldman   4 23 05