To Whom It May Concern,
Ghil'ad Zuckermann's objection to Mona Baker and the academic boycott against Israel (THES August 15, 2003) demonstrates more of an emotional reaction than one that is well thought through. In reference to the boycott he makes several factual mistakes: 1) the academic boycott is not an "internal European affair." I am sure that Professor Zuckermann will be disappointed to learn that it has spread to the United States and elsewhere. 2) It is not a movement that is detached from those "actively involved" in Israeli affairs. Indeed, there are Israeli academics (Ilan Pappe, Rachal Giora, etc.) who publically support the boycott, have called for the boycott, and see it as an important "supportive gesture" in the struggle to end Israeli occupation. 3) The boycott is a decentralized affair and each supporting individual makes his or her decision as how to pursue it. Mona Baker's stand was that Israelis should not serve on the board of her privately owned translation studies journals. This was perfectly legal and not at all anti-Semitic. Professor Baker continues to work closely in other ways with Israeli academics who actively oppose the occupation. Others might chose not take on Israeli students where the policies of their institutions make that possible. Given the systematic destruction of Palestinian academic institutions by the Israelis, such a decision seems quite in proportion to the situation created by Zionist policies.
All of Professor Zuckermann's arguments claiming that the boycott has "infected academia with discrimination, weakening its ability to serve as a global model for independent thought," have been heard before. It is possible, however, that he is the first to use hyperbolic medical terminology in this light. However, once more he is playing loose with the facts. Academia has, in truth, never been a model of independent thought. The academic institutions of nation states have always, and are now, reflective of the ideologies and interests of their countries (or at least the elites that run the countries). Maybe it should not be that way, but it is. Thus, in the United States, both during the Viet Nam War and the present "war against terror," academic institutions and their employees have been successfully recruited to the war effort. To actively work against the wars mentioned did, and still can, get you disciplined and fired. Just so in "democratic Israel." Israeli academics work to promote and sustain the occupation. They do so both actively and, more often, passively. Very few protest against it. And those who do are under enormous personal and professional pressure to stop such actions. Finally, it should be pointed out that the Zionist establishment, both in the U.S. and Europe, held a fifty plus year monopoly on the interpretation of events in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. During that time, and still today, they vilify those who took the Palestinian side, attacking them as anti-Semitic, and otherwise make ever effort to shut them up. Today they are losing that monopoly and so, with the academic boycott, they hypocritically cry foul.
For those readers who wish to see a comprehensive defense of the academic boycott, one that takes up all objections, including those offered by Professor Zuckermann, presented to date, this can be found at http://www.monabaker.com/InDefenceoftheBoycottofIsraeliAcademicInstitutions. htm
Professor of History
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 10383
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