Sent: Thursday, April 28, 2005 11:12 AM
I agree with your position regarding Bar-Ilan and Haifa, but think that it is
impossible to avoid a discussion of the issue. Academic and political issues cannot really be kept apart. I think that it is our responsibility as academics to make a public stand about the boycott, as well as about the related issue of the academic freedom of the Palestinians in the territories that we have occupied. I think that it is a moral sin not to condemn the lack of freedom imposed by curfews, closures, roadblocks and systematic harassment of the Palestinian population. I think Avnery's letter was informative and honest, and I agree with it. The case of Haifa is, as I see, it different. Although the attempts in the past to get rid of Dr. Pepe had a bad smell, and like many others in this country and abroad I signed a petition to keep him in the university, I am in no professional position to judge the academic aspect of the issue. What I do understand suggests that it is far from straightforward. I am very glad that Dr. Pepe remains in the university and that it is committed to allow him to work with full academic freedom. As far as I am concerned this is the end of that matter.
As you may know, my position towards the boycott is complex. I am against a full academic boycott because I think that basic channels of communication should be kept open, but I think that a restricted set of sanctions (both economic and academic) is legitimate.
The original British petition that called for the deprivation of the special
privileges of Israel in the EU (thus making our position equivalent to any other
non-European country) seemed to me appropriate at the time, and I publicly approved of it. There were many problems with its subsequent interpretations, and many of them were unfortunate, silly and counterproductive. Clearly, the boycott issue is exceedingly complex because one has to balance the local and universal aspects of
our activities as intellectuals and scientists. The present AUT decision (although I do not agree with all parts of it, as I have made clear) is directed specifically to what they judge as political activities of universities that encourage the illegal and immoral state of occupation.
I am sick and tired of hearing that the critical and concrete decision of the AUT and similar decisions are anti-Semitic. We are singled out from all other countries because our culture, our religion and our political position do make us very central and special for the rest of the world. We also claim moral superiority and demand high moral standards, so these, in turn, are demanded from us. The assertion that every condemnation of Israeli government policy is a sign of anti-Semitism, unless in the same breath the evils in other parts of the world are also condemned, is both ridiculous and cowardly. It absolves us from responsibility and leads to a complete paralysis of action, feeding and legitimizing the unacceptable policies of our government. Like many others in Israel, who have a rather close connection with the holocaust, I do not need to be preached at about this issue. I understand very well the sensitivity and paranoia of people who, like me, had families who perished and parents who still suffer the scars of this past, but I am also very worried about the political and moral misuses of our tragic history.