Last month, 61 academics in Ireland published a letter in a newspaper calling for funding for Israeli universities from Dublin and the European Union to be withdrawn.
In the letter to the Irish Times, they said the boycott was a response to Israel's "violent repression" of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and "aggression against the people of Lebanon".
When living in Saudi Arabia, some of the nicest people I met were Palestinian Arabs. However, I'm not going to get into the complexities of Israeli-Palestinian issues here. However, what strikes me in relation to this boycott is how both so-called educated people as well as others appear to only react to issues when they receive prominent attention in the media.
The Financial Times reports that academics in the UK have caused acute concern to Israel since activists in higher education unions began agitating for boycotts.
In May, members of the Natfhe union passed a motion to boycott Israeli lecturers and academic institutions that did not disassociate themselves publicly from Israel's policies.
The move was widely condemned, with Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, saying it was anti-Semitic for singling out Israel.
Last year, the Association of University Teachers also voted to boycott two institutions, one of which was accused of building illegally on Palestinian land.
The motion was overruled but is expected to be debated again by the University and College Union created after the merger of Natfhe and the AUT.
Steven Rose, a neurobiologist at the Open University and a leading boycott advocate, said it was "absolutely certain" the debate would be reopened when the UCU has its first conference in June.
The FT also says that academics in Canada are also beginning to organise themselves.
The FT reports Professor Rose as saying that a boycott was an effective tactic because it hurt Israel's financial interests and its self-image as part of the Europe's "academic community".
He said: "Boycotts are a moral act and one way that academics can take positive action that gives support to Palestinians and expresses their repugnance at the behaviour of Israel."
Guy Beiner was formerly at UCD and TCD and is currently a lecturer of modern history in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel wrote in the Irish Times:
I honestly fail to see how boycotting Israeli universities could meaningfully contribute to achieving the professed goal of ending the occupation of Palestinian territories. Nonetheless, if boycotting academic institutions is to be introduced as a tactic to address international violations of human rights, then following this path to its logical conclusion should lead to a boycott of all US and UK universities and colleges until we see an end to the devastating occupation of Iraq; a boycott of all Russian universities until the cessation of the brutal repression of Chechnya; a boycott of China until the long-standing occupation and repopulation of Tibet is reversed; and the list would go on and on.
Irish academics would then soon find that they are in fact boycotting themselves into isolation.
I assume that some react because of the American connection. China gets an easy pass despite its running of the Sudanese oil industry while black African Muslims are being massacred in their thousands in Darfur. It's of course a non-issue also for Arab Muslims who prefer to promote the image of brotherhood. China is also promoting its interests in another forgotten country called Burma or Myanmar and the list goes on...What happened all those people whose houses were destroyed by Mr. Bob in Zimbabwe...Maybe a little pressure on South Africa may help or is "constructive engagement" working?
Just back to Darfur and I'm not talking about history after about 250,000 deaths:
The Financial Times carried the following report today:-
The United Nations human rights office yesterday called for an independent inquiry into a series of attacks in late August by armed militia supported by the Sudanese government that may have left hundreds dead in southern Darfur.
The call followed a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights putting the death toll far higher than the 38 it originally estimated.
"The attacks appear to have been conducted with the knowledge and material support of government authorities, and the death toll is estimated to be as many as several hundred civilians," the office said.
The report, based partly on interviews with survivors, said 300-1,000 Arab militia mounted assaults on about 45 villages near Buram in south Darfur in late August and early September. Villages were burnt and looted, forcing the 10,000 population, mainly of African origin, to flee their homes.
So Irish academics, get real and lets have a more intelligent response rather than reacting to current headlines primarily generated by tourist journalists. The world is a more complicated place than you appear to understand.
TEXT OF LETTER WITH SIGNATORIES
Madam - There is widespread international condemnation of Israel's policy of violent repression against the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and its aggression against the people of Lebanon.
The Israeli government appears impervious to moral appeals from world leaders and to longstanding United Nations resolutions. We feel it is time to heed the Palestinian call to take practical action to pressure Israel to comply with international law and basic human rights norms.
Many national and European cultural and research institutions, including those funded by the EU regard Israel as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts.
We call for a moratorium on any further such support to Israeli academic institutions, at both national and European levels. We urge our fellow academics to support this moratorium by refraining, where possible, from further joint collaborations with Israeli academic institutions.
Such a moratorium should continue until Israel abides by UN resolutions and ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.
- Hounaida Abi Haidar, Department of Geography, TCD
- Dr Kieran Allen, School of Sociology, UCD
- Professor James Anderson, School of Geography, Queen's University Belfast
- Professor Ivana Bacik, School of Law, TCD
- Ken Bond, Department of Zoology, Ecology & Plant Science, UCC
- Professor James Bowen, Department of Computer Science, UCC
- Dr Barbara Bradby, Department of Sociology, TCD
- Harry Browne, School of Media, DIT
- Noreen Byrne, Department of Food Business & Development, UCC
- Dr Joseph Cleary, Department of English, NUI Maynooth
- Professor John Coakley, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD
- Dr. Steve Coleman, Department of Anthropology, NUI Maynooth
- Denis Condon, Centre for Media Studies, NUI Maynooth
- Dr Laurence Cox, Department of Sociology, NUI Maynooth
- Dr Colin Coulter, Department of Sociology, NUI Maynooth
- Professor Seamus Deane, Institute for Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame
- Mary Eldin, WERRC, School of Social Justice, UCD
- Dr Nazih Eldin, Head of Health Promotion, Dublin North East
- Dr Adel Farrag, Department of Electronic Engineering, Institute of Technology Tallaght
- Professor Tadhg Foley, Department of English & Chair of the Board, Centre for Irish Studies, NUI Galway
- Catherine Forde, Department of Applied Social Studies, UCC.
- Dr Kathy Glavanis, Department of Sociology, UCC
- Professor Luke Gibbons, Department of English, University of Notre Dame
- Dr Brian Hanley, Department of Modern History, TCD
- Dr Deanna Heath, Department of Modern History, TCD
- Conn Holohan, School of Media Studies, University of Ulster
- Marnie Holborow, School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies, DCU
- Dr Kevin Hourihan, Department of Geography, UCC
- Dr Carole Jones, Department of English, TCD
- Sinead Kennedy, Department of English, Mater Dei Institute of Education
- Dr Heather Laird Department of English UCC
- David Landy, Department of Sociology, TCD
- Dr Steve Loyal, School of Sociology, UCD
- An Dr. Seosamh Mac Muiri, Rannog na Gaeilge, Roinn na dTeangacha agus an Leinn Chultuir, Ollscoil Luimnigh.
- Dr. Breandan Mac Suibhne, Institute for Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame
- Professor Brian Maguire, Faculty of Fine Art, NCAD
- Professor John Maguire, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, UCC
- Dr Sandra McAvoy, Women's Studies, UCC
- Piaras Mac Einri, Department of Geography, UCC
- Dr Conor McCarthy, Department of English, NUI Maynooth
- Dr Cathal McCall, School of Politics, International Studies & Philosophy, Queen's University Belfast
- Caroline McHugh, Department of Geography, NUI Galway
- Dr Des McGuinness, School of Communications, DCU
- Dr Bill McSweeney, Irish School of Ecumenics, TCD
- Montserrat Fargas Malet, School of Social Work, Queens University Belfast
- Dr John Nash, Department. of English, TCD
- Dr Emer Nolan, Department of English, NUI Maynooth
- Dr Feilim O hAdhmaill, Department of Applied Social Studies, UCC
- Garrett O'Boyle, Political Scientist
- Dr. Eamon O Ciardha, School of Languages and Literature, University of Ulster
- Gearoid O Cuin. Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway
- Dr Ruan O'Donnell, Historian
- Professor Patrick 0'Flanagan, Department of Geography, UCC
- Professor Denis O'Hearn, School of Sociology, Queens University Belfast
- Dr Lionel Pilkington, Department of English, NUI Galway
- Jim Roche, Department of Architecture, DIT
- Dr. Ailbhe Smyth, WERRC, School of Social Justice, UCD
- Dr Andy Storey, Centre for Development Studies, UCD
- Dr Gavan Titley, Centre for Media Studies, NUI Maynooth
- Dr Hilary Tovey, Department of Sociology, TCD
- Dr Theresa Urbainczyk, School of Classics, UCD