Monday, June 11, 2007

Academic Boycott

One of the most fiercely held beliefs of academics world wide is in academic freedom. So it seems utterly perverse for a union whose function is to represent academics to choose to boycott all academic links with an entire country. That's what the UCU have done. I wrote briefly about this before, and the position is the same now, perhaps reinforced in fact, despite Sally Hunt's opposition.
I think Israel has made some horrendous mistakes in its foreign policy, but I can't see how an academic boycott will help them change their mind. I also fail to see the logic of choosing Israel rather than any number of other countries with far worse records - China, Zimbabwe, Burma...etc etc. Of course, unlike those countries, Israel is a democracy, and its academics are in the forefront of the opposition. And if the UCU really were being logical about this, then of course America would be the first to suffer a boycott. But that would mean no nice trips to conferences in New York, so that's not on, is it? When, exactly, did it become a badge of honour in left wing circles to hate Israel? Did I miss a meeting?
Update 14.6.07
The Stop the Boycott campaign placed ads in the main serious papers yesterday, with 250+ signatories. I don't think I've ever been in such distinguished company. Sally Hunt wrote to the Guardian today to reiterate that she wants a ballot of all members. If they overturn the decision, I can return to a union that doesn't think it's cool to claim solidarity with Hizbollah.