Friday, June 08, 2007

Petition Against Boycott of Israel Academics

I recently go this email from Yoav Freund

On the 30th May 2007, a resolution to boycott all Israeli academic institutions was passed by Britain's University and College Union (UCU).


There is a nuance to the story- the Boycott has not been quite agreed on yet, see this news story, however this makes it even more important to sign it while there is time to head this off. The above is written presupposing that the boycott is a terrible idea and that the petition is a great idea. And that is what I believe. If you disagree then you can leave polite and intelligent counter-arguments in the comments.


  1. What is the reason of the boycott in the first place? (Because there must be a justification.)

  2. The reason for the boycott is the occupation of Palestine. The main argument against the boycott is that it goes against the idea of academic freedom. However, there is a valid case for the boycott too so it is (for me) difficult to decide whether to support it or not. For example,
    this story and this story give examples of how the occupation prevents Palestinians from getting the education they want and so restricts their academic freedom.

    In my opinion, it is fair to say that the Israeli academics should do more to support their Palestianian colleagues and protest against restrictions on Palestinian students, though not clear that a boycott is the right way to encourage them to do so.

  3. I am against any kind of ethnicity-based boycott, but the fact is that these kinds of boycotts are mainly political gestures and don't make any difference in the lives of Israeli academics, while visa restrictions that are of the same discriminatory nature, have been in place for many years and are making the lives of academics from many countries difficult (I know numerous examples of students who couldn't study in a university they had admission from for visa reasons, or couldn't go back to visit their family for 4-5 years. Right now one of my colleagues is waiting for her visa outside the US, and hasn't been able to come back to her job for about a month after attending a conference abroad). Unfortunately, except for individual cases I haven't seen any action against these kinds of restrictions.

  4. Why should we care about this in US?

  5. I support the boycott because Israel has been violating all norms of human decency for so long.

    It is time, the West, instead of aiding and abetting the Israeli outrage against humanity, send its clear disapproval of Israel as it did for South Africa.

  6. It seems strange to me that no similar boycott is suggested against Chinese academics (Tibet), Sudanese academics (Darfur), Russian academics (Chechnya), Iranian or Syrian academics (countless violations of human rights, international law as well as promoting terror).

    It seems that Israel is measured against different standards.
    When we hold a group to different standards it's discrimination.
    For other groups we call this racism.

  7. The reason Israel is different to Syria, Iran, Russia and China is that it is a democracy. This makes the Israeli academics more complicit in the actions of the state than in the other countries. Academics in Israel who vocally oppose their country's human rights violations need not fear that they will be imprisoned for speaking out, whereas academics in any of the other countries run serious risks if they are too critical of the government's policies.

  8. If you start boycotts for political reasons, you should probably also boycott the US. Isn't this a great reason to have no papers at FOCS/STOC?

  9. To 7, about the democracy issue.
    If I understand correctly your argument it goes approximately like this:

    Since in Israel, as in other democracies, the government does not impose on academics to support the government position,
    then we have the chance to apply pressure on Israeli academics to support the views we believe are true.

    I find your position astonishing.

  10. Number 7 - Am I to understand that an academic that lived some years in the US and then returned to China _should_ be boycotted?

    The point number 6 is making is valid - the groups that boycott Israel don't concern themselves with what's happening in Chechnya, Tibet, etc, and not only because Israel is a democracy.

  11. The calls for a boycott are pure anti-semitism, even if you feel that the actions of the Israeli government are wrong (I don't).

    Evidence for this is that no similar boycotts are proposed against other countries with far worse records (the Palestinian authority itself, for starters). The argument of anonymous #7 doesn't make sense -- does this mean that if Israel became a dictatorship then the boycott would be called off?!

    Other evidence is this: ask anyone who supports the boycott what Israel should do so that the boycott should be lifted. Other than ceasing to exist (which is the dream of most of the boycott supporters) I don't hear many concrete and workable suggestions.

  12. IMO the problem is whether the Israeli institutions are violating what "we" consider to be the mission of an academic institution ("we" being the people being asked to boycott). So if the Israeli institutions are practicing , for example, discrimination, such as the American, many European or the South African institutions used to do, then I think it is legitimate. Are Chinese, Sudanese, Iranian and Syrian institutions violating what we feel to be the mission of an academic institution? (this is not a rhetorical question)

    If we are being asked to boycott Israeli academics because we disagreee with their views (which I do), then I find it less legitimate.

    If we are being asked to boycott Israeli academics because we disagree with the actions of the Israeli government (which I do as well), then it is even less legitimate.

    Finally, if we were being asked to boycott the Israeli government because we disagree with its actions, then it would be completely legitimate.

  13. Why not also have a petition to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem by a fair partition of Palestine into two countries based on the ratios of Arab and Jewish populations as they stood in 1948 before the ethnic cleansing ?
    And I mean a fair partition -- not the UN sanctioned one, at a time when the UN was dominated by mostly white European countries.

  14. Firstly, I am not sure if a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is a legitimate or fair course of action, though I am highly critical of the actions of the Israeli government in the OT.

    Anon 9: A boycott is the act of abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some other organization as an expression of protest or as a means of coercion (from wikipedia). One would not boycott an organization if you felt you would be unable to have any influence on them. This what I meant when I said it is valid to propose a boycott of Israeli academics and not those from other less free countries also guilty of human rights violations.

    This is not to say a boycott is justfied, as I said I am not sure if an academic boycott is a fair and legitimate course of action (my position is closer to that of Anon 12). However, I don't think listing other countries and asking why not boycott them is a valid argument. The insinuation here is that the only reason people proposed a boycott of Isreali academics is anti-semitism as opposed to genuine concern about Israel's human rights abuses. In fact, some of the main proposers of the boycott are Jewish themselves so I would say this is hardly the case. This is a disengenous argument which avoids the real issues, such as whether it is the duty of the Israeli academy to show academic solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts and campaign for an easing of the restrictions on travel for students and academics.

    Is it wrong for universities in Israel to have links with colleges in illegal settlements?

    Is it part of the mission of academic institutions (as a countries intellectual elite) to act as the conscience of the country and speak out against governments guilty of human rights abuses?

    These are all valid questions in the debate and it should not be stifled by trite insinuations of anti-semitism. Racism is a very serious issue and the label anti-semitic risks losing its effectiveness by overuse in applying it to all criticism of Israel.

  15. As a good general "apology" for Israeli academics I'd read:

    Some Israeli institutions have done some mildly racist things, though not explicitly so. More or less on par with US institutions choosing to focus on sports instead of academic merit in accepting students in the 50's to limit the acceptance of Jewish students (only less so). In particular, several universities suggested accepting only students over the age of 20 for medical school. In a country where jewish students are generally forced to serve 2-3 years in the army after graduating from high school, this was seen as an assult on the liberties of non-jewish students. This was done, supposadly, to accept "more mature" candidates, but an exemption was proposed for students learning to be military doctors.
    Not the Israeli academy's brightest hour, but I've seen worse.
    In general, arab students are accepted to Israeli universities under the same conditions as jewish ones.

    Many acts performed by the Israeli government have, however, affected the lives of students, teachers and researchers in Palestinian establishments. While I don't think these acts were generally aimed at academics, they are certainly (in my opinion) unjust.

    While I disagree with many actions of Israel as a state, I don't think the Israeli universities are any worse w.r.t. human rights than those where all female students have to wear face-covers (such as Iran), or those where students are not allowed to wear religious insignia. I would certainly start by boycotting US military academies, where publicly stating that you're gay will get you expelled...

    Israeli grad student.

  16. Almost on topic: A few days ago I have seen in Haifa a Palestinian demonstration with the signs "liberate Haifa". So all other issues aside, no version of a fair resolution of the dispute is likely to end the hostilities.

  17. One Anonymous Commenter said:
    I support the boycott because Israel has been violating all norms of human decency for so long.

    It is time, the West, instead of aiding and abetting the Israeli outrage against humanity, send its clear disapproval of Israel as it did for South Africa.

    This comment reeks of self-rightousness and one-sidedness. It is exactly this kind of expression which shows how wrong and misguided the boycott suporters are.

    While another said: Academics in Israel who vocally oppose their country's human rights violations need not fear that they will be imprisoned for speaking out

    Indeed. And indeed a vast majority of academics in Israel oppose the occupation, many of which oppose it very vocally. It has the same amount of influence of academics in the US being against banning abortions or against teaching creationism: If only the people would grant some thought to what academics suggest, much will be better. But until then, the pro-coycott crowd should know that by boycotting Israel academics, one harms exactly the people who oppose the occupation.

    And, by the way, just to state the abvious: things are not as simple as "the Israeli outrage against humanity" and "human rights violations". Granted, the conflict here is not symmetric, but it is not one-sided either. If we were in war with the Swedish people, things would be much simpler, a peace accord would have been signed long ago, and we would be staring at Swedish sunbathers right now.

    Unfortunately, the only democracy in the middle east is trying to deal with multiple forms of guarilla warfare applied against it, and funded by Israel (and the free world's) enemies, such as Iran and Syria. It's really not as simple as it looks. Granted, Israel is taking away the Palestinian people's right to self-rule. But much of the "human rights violations" are done by the Palestiniasns against themselves. Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other such countries were at no point occupied by Israel, and let's just say that human rights violations are not a top priority there.

    All in all, as an Israel Academic, and as a human being, I am very dissatisfied with the situation in Israel (and I am very bleak about the chance of being able to change it for the better). But people from other places in the world that do not have in-depth knowledge of the conflict should hesitate before expressing an opinion about the conflict: it is more complicated than any other I've seen, and there is no clear answer. Clearly, thinking of Israel as Goliath seems to be a great oversimplification, if not a gross mistake.


  18. Granted, the conflict here is not symmetric, but it is not one-sided either. If we were in war with the Swedish people, things would be much simpler, a peace accord would have been signed long ago, and we would be staring at Swedish sunbathers right now.

    This comment encapsulates what the world find unacceptable about the Israeli public opinion -- including as we see those of Israeli academics. They want the Palestinians to be like the Swedes -- not like the Egyptians, Indians, Chinese or even the Ethiopians or Koreans. They want them to be like Europeans, and therein lies the root of the conflict. The Israeli-Palestine conflict is the world's last colonial conflicts -- and this is why, not because of any deep rooted anti-Semitism, it attracts so much attention.

  19. At first thought such a boycott sounded ludicrous. However, after pondering it a while I thought about many of my pro-Zionist colleagues from Israeli academic institutions. At conferences I politely keep my mouth shut while they demonize their neighbors.

    They are very complicit in Israel's actions. Although I would feel bad inconveniencing the few tolerant Israeli academics, they would probably be proud to give up a few trips to the US so that the Palestinians would be free from oppression.

  20. To Anonymous 6,

    How much do you know about Tibet? As far as I know, the people there have far better education opportunities than the majority in China. In fact, China has its own "Affirmative Action Act", and only more leftish.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. I am not so familiar with the situation of Israeli academic institutes. I don't know how fair they behave to non-Israeli students, or how much they are involved in anti-human actions. Considering that they are fair, do not violate human-rights so often and etc, I am strongly against boycotting them.

    That said, I must write about the situation of Iran since people mentioned something which were not quite right.
    In the comment #6, it is said that there was no similar boycott against Iran. It is in fact wrong. IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering) suspended most of its services to Iranian people a few years ago (they posted periodicals, but they do not allow Iranians to access to their databases, or other benefits from their memberships). Also in a period of time, IEEE journals did a very ridiculous thing: they did not send reviews of reviewers to the Iranian authors. They just told authors whether their paper had been accepted or not, but if the paper was conditionally accepted (which is usually the case), they did not provide reviews! I believe people in other fields than mine can say similar stories.
    However, at that time, just a few non-Iranian people concerned about this issue. Maybe the world is somehow biased against some nations, which is quite possible (and I somehow understand how politics goes on!)
    The other problem for Iranian academic people is visa problems. It is extremely difficult for them to get a visa, specially for a country like US. I know many Iranian students who had US university admissions but could not attend the university. Also this is true for conferences, so many of them do not even submit a paper to a conference which is going to be held in the US.
    I am sure everybody consider these actions as unfair.

    In the comment #15, one Israeli grad. students said that s/he did not think the Israeli universities are any worse w.r.t. human rights than those were all female students have to wear face-covers.
    Although I am against I.R. Iran government, I believe we should not be unfair to those people where are not actually doing anything wrong. The aforementioned statement has a few problems:
    1) Neither universities nor I.R. Iran government forces anybody to wear face-covers.
    2) I lived in Iran for many years, and I rarely saw any face-cover, and not even once in a university.
    3) What is forced in Iran is something like scarf (or head-cover) for females. This is a government rule and not universities rule. Many professors and students do not like this, but they cannot do anything about it, or they face sentences.
    4) Universities in Iran are among the most liberal parts of the society.

  23. I thoroughly disagree with the proposed boycott, and I'm mildly suspicious of the sentiments behind it. However, I don't think it's worth making a fuss over. How many real researchers will ever take it seriously? When one British journal editor tried to take such a boycott seriously a few years ago, the mere fact that anyone with any actual power or authority was involved was itself newsworthy. Israelis won't even notice this new "boycott", and there's no sense in inflaming the situation by arguing over a moot point.

    In fact, freaking out about the boycott just encourages the boycotters. They've got no realistic hope of changing anything, but seeing the community up in arms about their threats makes them feel powerful and influential. It's a form of theater, where the performance matters more than the final outcome. They'll continue with their bluster until there's nobody left paying attention, and the sooner that comes, the sooner they can get back to constructive pursuits.

  24. Number 22, my apologies. I did, indeed, blame the universities in Iran for something the government is doing. In my opinion, and in that of many people, forcing women to wear scarves is wrong, but the universities shouldn't be blamed for this.

    Number 18 - "...The Israeli-Palestine conflict is the world's last colonial conflicts..."

    Just before the 1967 war, the president of the Arab league explained that this is exactly the case, and once Israel was conquered all Jews who came from other countries will be sent back to the countries they came from, and those born in Israel will sadly have to be killed (no place to send them back to, you see. Just a technical problem). The few idealistic settlers that came to Israel in the beginning of the 20th centuary could, in a way, be considered colonial, but they purchased the land they lived on and not conquered it, and they generally had socialistic ideals. The ragtag that escaped Europe and either immigrated to Israel illegaly when under british rule or stayed in refugee camps untill Israel got it's independence are hardly a colonial power. Nor are jews who immigrated from arab countries to Israel (or are marocco, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, etc. the colonizing parties here)? Like all evil racist and colonial powers that try to bring in Africans and have them join the ruling classes, Israel went to great lengths to bring Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

    18:"This comment encapsulates what the world find unacceptable about the Israeli public opinion -- including as we see those of Israeli academics. They want the Palestinians to be like the Swedes -- not like the Egyptians, Indians, Chinese or even the Ethiopians or Koreans.."

    Actually, aside of N.Korea, the Palestinians (and commentor 18, aparently), israel is in peacful relations with all of the countries mentioned above. You try to make us out to be racist when we're simply not.

    I think many people suffer from what is a bit of moral confusion. The idea that one should give all people equal rights and that one should realize the limitations of ones point of view, does not mean all ideas or all cultures are equally moral and fair. In fact, these two ideas contradict (as they require the cultures that do not give people equal rights to be equal to those that do).

    The Israeli occupation of the Palestinians is wrong, and yet I _do_ look down on some of Palestinian society - this does not mean I think I'm better than any individual Palestinian. The fact that the only safe place for lesbian palestinians to meet was in Israel, under the protection of the Israeli police, speaks volumes.

  25. I propose to boycott all Arab and Muslim academics.


    1. Almost entirely all terror acts worldwide (!) are committed by either Arabs or Muslims.

    2. The Islam (unlike Judaism, for instance) is an imperialistic religion, which is to say, its overt goal is to force Islam on all humanity. (This is a theological fact. And such an interpretation of the Koran is common in most Muslim societies.)
    An example of the imperialistic nature of Islam is, of course, the El-Aksa mosque (built ~700 AC), that resides on the ruins of the holiest place for Jews, and marks the "superiority and victory" of Islam over other civilizations.

    3. The "Palestinians" (which is just a common name for Arabs that came to Israel in the end of the 19th century and the 20th century), are merely a branch of this Muslim imperialism. Arab countries (and Muslim countries like Iran) use the Palestinians as a weapon against Israel -- the end goal being the annihilation of any autonomic Jewish entity in the Middle East (again, this is an overt agenda of most Arabs and Muslim societies in the Mid-East; E.g., Iran).

    4. The Arabs in Israel ("Palestinians") -- over the last 100 years -- have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any Jewish
    entity in the Mid-east. And resorted to violent measures every time they were suggested a country of their own (1947,1967,2000).

    So, we should support any kind of pressure, like a boycott on Arab/Muslim academics for start, made in order to convince Arab/Muslim societies that using force against minorities (like the Jews in the Mid-east) will not succeed eventually.

    I hope you agree with me.
    I haven't yet organized a petition.

  26. I'm assuming 25 is just being facetious. However, the point is you could boycott tons of people.

  27. I'm assuming 25 is just being facetious.

    Of course, the boycott thing I suggested is not feasible.
    But, otherwise, I strongly stand behind the facts:

    1. There is no Israeli occupation, more than there is an Arab imperialism.

    2. Mideast Arabs refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel (due to their inherent imperialistic nature). And so the burden of guilt falls almost (nothing is absolute in politics) entirely on the Arab neighbors of Israel.

    3. "Palestinian" (i.e., Arabs in the west bank) refuse to have their own peaceful state (1947,2000)-- because they want all of Israel's land (namely, to destroy Israel as it is now).

  28. Anon - we don't agree about this, but while a political discussion about boycotts is on topic, this argument belongs somewhere else. We do agree a boycott of Israeli universities is wrong, which is as political as this blog is supposed to get.

    Anon 26, a.k.a Israeli grad student.

  29. Anon - we don't agree about this, but while a political discussion about boycotts is on topic, this argument belongs somewhere else.

    I respect your will not to delve into "political" issues here.
    But I do not agree that the facts I have written above are irrelevant.
    I believe that the boycott petition itself is a violent political measure, taken mostly by Arabs and Muslims (mostly in UK), that adhere to their imperialistic goal.

    If we say, "let's not discuss the political issue here, but rather talk about the abstract question of boycotting academics",
    then we in fact play to the hands of those who originated the boycott: We tacitly say that we agree with their claims, while we only think that the measures they suggest are inappropriate.

    This would entirely miss the point. The boycott itself is an aggressive political action, adding to the violent measures Muslim imperialism use against Israel (and in other places in the world).

  30. It's interesting how a boycott against Israel is considered "anti-semitic" by some, but comments of Anon 25, which is clearly racially biased and is against Islam as a religion, is not labeled hate speech.

    I see quite a double standard here.

  31. It's interesting how a boycott against Israel is considered "anti-semitic" by some, but comments of Anon 25, which is clearly racially biased and is against Islam as a religion, is not labeled hate speech.

    Great! So you DO agree that current criticism against Israel is based on antisemitic sentiments!

  32. It's interesting how a boycott against Israel is considered "anti-semitic" by some, but comments of Anon 25, which is clearly racially biased and is against Islam as a religion, is not labeled hate speech.

    Comment 25 was clearly just meant to be provocative. The fact that nobody's jumping up and down yelling "hate speech" doesn't mean we don't recognize that it is biased and exaggerated.

    On the other hand, I have no idea how racial bias comes into this. Cultural and religious bias, maybe, but I don't see the slightest sign that Commenter 25 considers Arabs or Muslims to be genetically inferior.

    I also don't see anything wrong with being against Islam as a religion. I am strongly against it (and also against Judaism and Christianity, for that matter). This is a perfectly reasonable intellectual position, and being opposed to Islam is not in itself a bad thing.

    I see quite a double standard here.

    I don't. If someone says the notion of a religious state is abhorrent, and therefore Israel should treat Judaism no differently from any other religion, then I would applaud this (and wouldn't consider it at all anti-semitic). If someone says orthodox Judaism is ridiculous, I would personally agree and wouldn't consider this anti-semitic either. If someone seems extremely concerned with Jewish bad behavior, with no personal connection to the situation and with no apparent interest in anyone else's bad behavior, then I have to wonder why. It's probably not conscious anti-semitism, but it could be influenced by old anti-semitic traditions.

    I don't mean to suggest that there's no prejudice against Muslims. Outside of the primarily Muslim countries, there's far more anti-Muslim bias in the world today than anti-Jewish bias. Anyone who treats Muslims differently because their culture is different, or out of unfounded fears of terrorism, is a bigot. However, criticizing their religion or culture is not necessarily bigotry.

  33. I am not sure expropriating land from the descendants of the Vikings is a very wise idea either...

  34. To make it clear:
    I certainly have no "racial-bias" against Arabs.
    I am also not against Islam or Muslims.
    Islam, as practiced by most Muslims and as was originated is an imperialistic religion. This is an empirical fact.
    But acknowledging the imperialistic nature of Islamic civilization (and specifically that of the Mideast), does not lead automatically to delegitimization.
    I acknowledge that Muslims are aggressive about their belief.
    At the same time I accept the right of Israel and the Jewish community in Israel to defend itself against their neighbors.

    We should all stick to the facts, before we jump into moral accusations.

  35. How idiotic. What if an Israeli computer scientist solves the P/NP problem? Everyone will read the proof of course.

  36. All religious states are bad.
    All undemocratic states are bad.
    All systems of coercion which impose a culture --- even on their own sons and daughters --- are bad.

    But the only way to move the world towards secular democracies that respect the right of everyone, including their own children, to choose their cultural practices and religious beliefs (if any), is to encourage the free flow of ideas.

    Therefore, this boycott is stupid.

  37. To Bill Gasarch:
    As an Israeli, I ask you, and other readers who do not support the boycott, not to sign a counter-petition and to maintain a sort of neutrality about it. I myself am not sure whether to support anti-Israeli boycotts.

    To #2:
    Israeli academia, on the whole, has served as ideological support for the Israeli government throughout the existence of Israel, with (notable, but) few exceptions. As for support for the Palestinian academic community - there's absolutely _zero_ of that as far as I am aware. Even to the level of failing to protest the disruption of operations of Bir-Zeit university in recent years. I and Professor Jacob Catriel held several (tiny) student-faculty protest vigils at the first day of several semesters at the Technion to decry the academic community's disregard of the plight of their counterparts in the 1967-occupied regions of Palestine.

    To #3:
    The boycott does not seem to be ethnicity-based, as there are many Palestinians (well, relative to their fraction in the population, there are few, especially in my department, but still).

    As for Visas, this has recently become a problem for some foreign faculty members teaching in Palestinian institutions; Israel has customarily had failed to grant residency status, and had repeatedly renewed Visas enabling one's stay, yet, recently, this has changed and some people cannot legally stay and teach/do research/etc. I don't have enough details about this, but you can contact Professor Emeritus Jacob Katriel: who has been more active in these issues.

    To #7:
    Academics in fields such as history, sociology, political science etc. who vocally express fundamental criticism of the Israeli state, the US, capitalism, imperialism or support for the Palestinian resistance, right of return etc. may not be imprisoned for speaking out, but they run a a good chance (sometimes very good chance) of not having their contracts renewed and/or not getting tenure. This is not the case in the exact sciences AFAIK, although as a Ph.D. student I can't speak with any authority on this matter.

    To #9:
    While it is essentially correct that views are not imposed on Israeli acadmics, there is 'emergency' legislature in place in Israel which makes it illegal to do things like criticizing in groups of more than 3 people and other such nonsense. This clause is never used but other ridiculous stuff is, like if you meet, say, political activists in the territories or an Arab country they might get officially labelled as 'foreign agents', even years ex-post-facto, and you can be tried for having contacts with them. People are serving hard time for this as we speak - although, admittedly, not academics.

    To #11:
    As a person, a Jew and a descendent of 2 holocaust survivers, I take offense at your claim that this boycott is anti-semitic. Specifically, what's wrong with suggesting that Israel cease to exist? I believe it should, and I don't even support the boycott (well, like I said, I'm of two minds about it). Actually, I think the Brittish wouldn't give a rat's ass about the fate of the Palestinians if the PLO were to sign some corrupt peace deal like the Camp David proposal of 2000 - they will probably decide everything's perfectly ok then. I do agree that Israel should not be the only focus of boycott actions, if they are at all used, but that would mean extending this kind of action, not foregoing it altogether...

    To #13:
    While the boycotters may think this is a fair solution (not sure about that), I would argue that a partition is wholly unfair. It was unfair in 1948, unfair in 1967 and it is unfair now. As for the 1948 partition - the Jewish colonists were about 33% of the population and owned under 10% of the land, the UN gave them 55% of the land and after the Rhodos truce agreements this went up to over 70%. Also, even in the territory alloted for a Jewish state, the Jewish majority within the population was not very significant. The partition plan was basically an invitation to perform the ethnic cleansing - as far as I see it, anyway.

    To #12, #14:
    An important question relating to what you brought up is, to what extent Israeli academia is complicit and/or supportive of the actions of the Israeli government. That's for you to judge.

    To #15:
    A point regarding Arab students: Their percentage overall is half their percentage in the population, and less than that in the exact sciences and in engineering. And when they graduate it is much harder for them to find employment (and not just because the war industries only hire Jews and an Arab would not apply for a position there anyway).

    To #16:
    I was holding that sign :-)

    To #17:
    "And indeed a vast majority of academics in Israel oppose the occupation" <- Maybe in the same sense of Ariel Sharon when he said, and I quote, "The Palestinians will always be our neighbors. We respect them and have no aspiration to rule over them. They too are entitled to liberity, a sovereign existence and a state of their own." So it's the kind of opposition to occupation in which 1-ton bombs are dropped on apartment buildings from time to time.

    "If we were in war with the Swedish people, things would be much simpler" <- Well, maybe because they would probably have the ability to drive you off their land before you do the same to them. Otherwise I don't catch your drift.

    "All in all, as an Israel Academic, and as a human being, I am very dissatisfied with the situation in Israel (and I am very bleak about the chance of being able to change it for the better)." <- When I read this, what I understand is that you have probably not done anything to effect change and have provided passive support for the status quo.

    To #24:
    Forcing women to wear head-covering is not exactly the right characterization of the situation in Iran. In the Shah's time, there was no government coercion of this, in fact, there were some anti-head-cover laws AFAICR, and most women still wore them (upper-class and/or educated women less so). The oppression here is rooted more in internalized social norms than in official action. See what happens in Turkey, for example - most (?) women cover their head in the street, but remove the cover during work hours since it's forbidden to do certain kinds of work while covered (e.g. bank tellers and teachers, I think).

    Also, I think it is telling you use the word 'we' when referring to Israel. If academia and the state are a single 'we', then perhaps 'you' are accountable as a single entity.

    And don't get me started on the gay freedom issues...

    To #25:
    Your facts are mostly-to-wholly wrong, just like your conclusion.

    Finally, I must say that, morally, I think a partial boycott of US academia is much more justifiable than a boycott of Israeli academia, as the crimes of the US are legion compared to those of Israel. Problem is, that's entirely impossible. So while the boycott is somewhat justifiable in itself, its somehow a game of "kick the main Imperalist power's weaker client".

  38. The Hebrew university offers a fast-track, 1.5-2 year BA as a perk for secret service recruits (the secret service forms the curriculum, the university gives the degrees):

  39. Tamara Traubmann,
    Haaretz, June 7 2007

    The Hebrew University board of governors approved Tuesday the appointment of former Shin Bet chief Carmi Gillon as vice president of external relations. Twenty-seven faculty members tried to block the appointment, claiming in a letter to the university's president that it runs counter to the humanistic values the university should promote, and would cause "certain damage." Several professors expressed disappointment at the choice. University administration stated that Gillon is "a worthy appointment to the academic community in terms of his character, personality and policies."

  40. Rights group goes to court over discrimination against Arab students in the allocation of dorms at the University of Haifa:

  41. Apartheid practices at Hebrew University swimming pool:

  42. The whole notion that one should consider an individual's nationality or ethnicity as a factor at all is repulsive. There is an essential immorality in judging an individual on these non-individual bases.

    Scientific ideas do not have a nationality. Use of nationality or ethnicity to judge these ideas (or the people who present them) just leads to Lysenkoism or worse.

    On the other hand, the boycott proposal is likely to get so little support in scientific disciplines that it has more of a negative impact to waste time discussing it than to simply ignore it.

  43. I'm an Israeli, oppose the boycott, and agree with most sentences in the petition. Still, I wouldn't sign it, since it contains no qualification that there are very legitimate criticisms of Israel's policy.

    I am also uncomfortable with the "double standard" defense of Israel, that other countries (China, Iran, etc..) are even worse. I think most people making these claims don't really research the situation in Tibet or Iran beyond that in the media. So, they are just as ignorant as people that decide that Israel is the devil incarnated based on British media.

    Also, generally I don't like the justification that "other people are worse" - if we accepted that then we'd never be able to fix anything.

    The political situation in Israel (as in China and Iran) is very complicated and not at all one-sided. The Israeli leadership is guilty of many crimes, as is the Palestinian leadership. There is no simple solution, but to me it's clear that the boycott's impact, if any, will be negative.

  44. "Eyal Rozenberg",
    you should be more specific and accurate when dismissing as wrong empirical facts about Islamic imperialism.

    Since you have not done that, I shall repeat some facts in short:

    1. There is no Israeli occupation of Palestine, as some commenter claimed. This is because, there was never a state called "Palestine".

    2. Arabs in the West bank and Gaza, do not constitute a nation at all. These are only descendants of Arabs from neighboring countries who came to Israel in the end of the 19th and 20th century, after the Jewish immigration into Israel started.

    3. The only "national" narrative of Arabs in Israel (aka "Palestinians"), is the total annihilation of the state of Israel.
    If you can come up with anything else that constitutes a sort of national narrative, please inform us ASAP.

    4. Islamic faith is one of an imperialistic nature. Namely, it aims at spreading the belief of Islam; and Muslims are encouraged to spread their belief by force. This is called "Jihad".

  45. To Bill Gasarch,

    As an Israeli Arab, I think the boycott against Israel is one-sided, unjustified, and I all heartedly encourage people to sign the petition to stop this ridiculous academic boycott.

    Israel is the only democratic state in the Mideast, and we should all support its battle against its totalitarian enemies, who try constantly to destroy it.

    As someone who comes from the Arabic society in Israel, I know that many Arabs (especially, non-Muslim Arabs) support what I'm saying.

  46. Eyal Rozenberg is yet-another-boring-anarchist, and so we should not take his words seriously.
    For his groundbreaking and deep philosophical thinking, see:

    If you find the merge between radical Islam and radical left anarchists really appealing, then I certainly encourage you to practice any boycott against Israel and the US.

  47. Title of blog:

    "Computational complexity and other fun stuff in math and computer science as viewed by Bill Gasarch."

    So Bill, do you view this as "fun stuff" then?

    Maybe it's computational complexity.

  48. So Bill, do you view this as "fun stuff" then?

    It's not fun, but it's important (e.g., to computational complexity) to stop any action that damages the scientific community, like this weird boycott.

  49. Anon 25 and 49. At first I thought you were joking, but now it seems you are actually serious. Your comments are either misleading, racist or false, and most of the time all three.

    1. Israel has, since 1967, occupied territories in the West bank and Gaza, leaving for 40 years about 2 million people in a "legal limbo" state of people without rights (since they are controlled by Israel, but not given citizenship by Israel nor any rights). This is one of the most extensive ongoing such occupations in the world. You can call it an "occupation of Palestine", an "occupation of Palestinians", or an "occupation of people who call themselves Palestinians but I prefer to call them by a different name". Anyway you call it, it's still an occupation.

    2. These Palestinians have been there for hundreds of years. Historical surveys of the territory known as Palestine (more or less Israel+west bank+Jordan) show the the Jews were minority until 1948.

    3. There is no "national narrative" of Palestinians just as there is no "national narrative" of Israeli Jews. Some Palestinians call for the destruction of Israel and some call for a 2-state solution. Similarly, some Israelis call for the forced deportation of all Palestinians, and some call for a 2-state solution.

    4. Islam as a religion is no more "imperialistic" than Christianity. Christian missionaries were and are still sent around the world to convert every non-christian, and Jews were forced to convert by the Spanish inquisition (while at the same time they were allowed religious freedom in muslim countries).

    p.s. I'm an Israeli, and I don't think Israel has the sole blame for this conflict, but that doesn't mean we have no blame at all.

  50. I meant anon 25 and 44. Didn't mean to plunge into the liar's paradox :)

  51. Your comments are either misleading, racist or false, and most of the time all three.

    I won't comment on your "racism" accusations, as they are evidently senseless and baseless. I prefer to correct your factual mistakes:

    1. A) Israel had the full right to "occupy" and liberate neighboring territories from which four massive armies tried to implement a "solution" of ethnic cleansing against it.

    B) Israel gave the Arabs residing in the territories full human rights
    (not including committing mass murders of Jews).
    Please do not confuse between basic rights and basic interests.
    The "limbo" state you are referring to is due to the refusal of the Arab world to acknowledge the legitimacy of any Jewish entity in the mideast (this stems from an imperialistic worldview which is both Arab-nationalistic and Islamic in nature).

    2. That's a mistake. Most Arabs in Israel came in the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, after Jewish immigration started to build basic modern infrastructure in Israel.
    See for instance Mark Twain's report on his 1867 trip to the holy land
    ("..... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent mournful expanse.... a desolation.... we never saw a human being on the whole route.... hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil,
    had almost deserted the country.")(The Innocents Abroad, p. 361-362).

    Of course, there were some few Arabs (not "Palestinians") in Israel before, as well as a constant Jewish community, the Jews being there thousands of years.

    3. Another mistake. Jewish community in Israel has a rich and thriving national identity and culture pertaining to their ancient heritage. What you describe about Israelis ("deportation…" etc.) are just ad hoc political views.
    In contrast to this, Arabs in israel ("Palestinians") have no unique national nerrative/memory/culture uniting them whatsoever - except their sincere (and I would say, pathological) desire to destroy Israel, to come back to "their old houses" and take over the whole of Israel. Again, if you know of anything else (i.e., something positive, and not against the Jews in Israel) belonging to the collective memory of "Palestinians" please inform us ASAP.

    4. Good. You agree with me that Islam is an imperialistic religion.
    We surely agree that current Islamic trends are more violent than current Christian trends.

  52. Well, I hope that this isn't too late to the discussion and doesn't get lost in the volleys of point-by-point arguments as to why It's All the Other Guy's fault....

    It would do more good (and be more appropriate to the spirit of this blog) to petition for more positive scientific contacts (in TCS and elsewhere) between Israel and the rest of the nations of the middle east.

    I remember once I got to see an Iranian student of logic meet Saharon Shelah for the first time when both were visiting the United States. It was all about the math - nobody was fighting about politics.

    Unless I am mistaken (and I certainly could be!), there are no "middle eastern" tcs conferences or workshops that bring in significant audiences from both Israel and the Islamic countries (loosely defined) of the region. This is a disservice to the students of the region, and science in general.

    The world needs more openness, not less.

  53. That's a mistake. Most Arabs in Israel came in the end of the 19th century and in the 20th century, after Jewish immigration started to build basic modern infrastructure in Israel.

    Actually anon 49 is right, and enlightened Israelis are starting to have problems with the unusual circumstances by which their country was created. One of the ways they seek to soothe their self-doubts is by propagating the recent myth that there were no Arabs in Palestine to start with. Hence no one was kicked out of their houses during the war of independence and we are all cool. Many in Israel today cling to this belief.

    This is the same psycological principle behind Holocaust deniers. They too have problems with the magnitude of that crime, and they deal with it by claiming it never happened.

    By the time of partition there were substantial Jewish and Arab populations, and partition was a reasonable compromise. The Arabs lost a historical opportunity by opposing it. Ironically all Arab countries as well as most palestinian leaders today have explicitly said that they would be satisfied with a solution that is very similar to what the original partition planned. Had it not been for the war of independence, which uniquely rallied the world jewish community around an idea, Israel today might not be any more notable than, say, the upper side in Manhattan or any other city with a large jewish community.

  54. There's very little point in continuing to debate who is to blame for the problems in the area. Surely, whichever side you are on, you can see that all the main points have already been laid out, and whoever still clings to the other side has such an emotional commitment to their theories that they cannot be rationally convinced of the truth? I doubt there are a lot of undecided readers of this blog, waiting to hear the next compelling argument.

    We can probably also agree that being a Palestinian sucks nowadays, regardless of whether this is due to Israeli oppression or the corruption and shortsightedness of the Palestinian leaders.

    My question is what we can do (as individuals or collectively as an academic research community) to help make things better for the Palestinians. For example, by creating academic connections, not by pressuring Israel. Whichever side you are on, integrating the Palestinians more thoroughly into the rest of the world can only improve the situation.

  55. This is the same psycological principle behind Holocaust deniers. They too have problems with the magnitude of that crime,

    No, my friend. What you do has the same psychological origins as that of Holocaust deniers. Since you cannot tolerate the fact that the world acknowledges that Jews were prosecuted all through history, you cook your own "Jewish-made-Holocaust" for your own taste.
    If this is not antisemitism, I don't know what is.
    (And please, don't come up with the usual, "I have Jewish origins/I am Israeli...." stuff).

  56. Anon 53, I see you are a bit confused with the dates. In 1948 there were many Arabs in Israel. As I said, these were descendants of Arabs that mostly came to Israel starting from the end of the 19th century. Mark Twain's testimonies are only partial evidence for this.
    And yes, we agree, a big crime was committed: the Arab world refused to accept the UN resolution, and launched a war against Israel, killing 1% of the Jewish population of Israel.

    That said, I accept previous anon suggestion, and quit from this debate.

    Have a good day

  57. Now that we've gotten to the "You think like a Holocaust denier"-"No, you do" stage, I would like to invoke a "This is supposed to be about math and science" version of Godwin's Law, and declare the "Who's At Fault?" topic officially closed.

    The questions of Anon 52 and 54 are the key ones to address, if we want to tackle the question, "How can we improve computer science worldwide?"

    And a quick note for anyone trying to convince me of their position: if you include the words "Holocaust," "anti-semitism," or variations, in your comment, I will conclude your statements are coming from kneejerk reaction, not mature analysis. Ad hominem attacks are the last refuge of those who lack clarity and rigor.

    Godwin's Law:

  58. 1. I don't accept this idea of posting anonymously. If you have provocative things to say, have the decency to identify yourself.

    2. To get things right: I was imprisoned (for 22 days) for refusing to serve as a reserve soldier in the occupied territories, during the time I was an undergrad. So we Israelis do pay some price for opposing our government. But the truth is I hardly see it as a big sacrifice. People around the world all over the history have paid much higher price for opposing their government.

    3. Truth has to be said: the reality in the occupied territories is apartheid de facto. Just a short list of examples: there are roads where only Jews are allowed to drive. There are house demolitions only of Arab houses. Generally, there are two law systems: for Jews and for Arabs. New settlements are allowed only for Jews in the OT. I could go on and on. Whoever tries to claim this is not apartheid de facto is simply misleading, or lying to himself (and others). Fact is Israel is not a democracy, as it eliminates the basic right of voting for the parliament, from one third of its population, namely, the Palestinians in the OT. So either it can stop the occupation, or at least give the Palestinians the same rights Israelis get. As long as Israel maintains the settlements in the OT, and furthermore, keeps on investing in them, it cannot claim it holds the OT for "security reasons".

    4. This argument whether there is a Palestinian people is stupid. there are Palestinian people. They live under occupation. Save me the formalities. For the same reason the fact they are not citizens of Israel and thus it's "okay" Israel prevents them from voting is irrelevant. What matters is the reality under which they live.

    5. I as an Israeli, am very ashamed of what my country does in the OT. It involves war crimes on a daily basis. Had I thought the boycott could stop the occupation, this entire dispute would seem immoral and righteous to me (and in particular the intentions of the people originated it). Because 3.5 million people living under occupation for 40 years (just today. Happy birthday!), don't give a damn about this academic symposium. They just want to stop the occupation. But the truth is some (not to say _most_) of the opposition to the occupation comes from the academia in Israel. Thus, the boycott is aimed at the wrong target.

    Noam Livne, Weizmann, Israel.

  59. A. Oh, my god. Where is the complexity world?
    B. You don' t know? There is a boycott!!!
    A. By whom? For what? When?
    B. I am not familiar with the details, but I don't care anyway. The important thing is that someone is against the Israelis. Again! We should help.
    A. Of course we should help. They are in a very difficult position. Any idea, where to start?
    B. Yes, let's start from here
    A. Great idea. I will write to Bill to post in his blog.
    B. Excellent.


  60. Since you cannot tolerate the fact that the world acknowledges that Jews were prosecuted all through history, you cook your own "Jewish-made-Holocaust" for your own taste.

    I did not equate the occupation with the Holocaust, that is your own canard. I did equate the mechanism of denial-through-propaganda of a crime. Many other countries do it to. For many years the Americans soothed themselves from the native american massacres by saying "they were uncivilized anyhow". You are attempting to sell the same set of false goods. "There were no Arabs in Palestine in the 19th century" is false, plain and simple. Yes Palestine was rather empty back then, but the few who were there were undoubtedly majoritarily of Arab origin.

    don't come up with the usual, "I have Jewish origins/I am Israeli...."

    I'll do you one better. I'm Jewish and fully support the existence of Israel. It just so happens that I have a low tolerance to BS that is tried to pass as historical fact.

  61. I don't accept this idea of posting anonymously. If you have provocative things to say, have the decency to identify yourself.

    I'll go a step further and ask all contributors to please fill out the following short identification form.

    Social security number (if US citizen):
    University affiliation (if any):
    List of all academic degrees awarded:
    E-mail address:

    Please rate the following on a scale from 1 to 10, according to how much you like or approve of them:
    academic boycotts
    religion in general
    the Holocaust
    anonymous posting
    privacy in general
    the war in Iraq
    the death penalty

  62. Noam Livne,
    your views are rather boring,
    and your funny suggestion against anonymous comments sound more like disguised McCarthyism.

  63. About anonymous postings: I believe these are justifiable in this case. Since after all it is a para-academic discussion (or some would even say an un-academic one), posters don't want to mix their academic persona with their political one. Especially that it is in essence a lose-lose debate - no matter what is your opinion on the Israeli-Arab conflict, there are at least 20% of the readers that will downright hate you for it :-)

  64. To #63:

    My views are boring?! Indeed an interesting response. So what do you suggest, altering them as to be more surprising/exciting? My answer to you is that your font is not aesthetic.

    Concerning the so-called "McCarthyism", I'm not sure it is worth any response, but just to make things clear. Are you sure you want to draw that ragged flag? You really don't see the difference between disallowing certain opinions, and asking people to identify when they say their opinions? So according to you, it's okay, for example, to declare publicly and anonymously "X is a pedophile"? Moreover, McCarthyism was something done by a state. I'm just a humble PhD student asking commenters to identify, so give me a break…

    And one last thing: ask yourself if you would allow yourself to express yourself in such unpleasant and unmannered tone had you not be able to hide behind your anonymousity. I bet you wouldn't.


  65. you would allow yourself to express yourself in such unpleasant and unmannered tone had you not be able to hide behind your anonymousity?

    Why not? You seem to do exactly that.

  66. I wonder how many fail to notice that the mere idea of a boycott as a response to collective punishment with nationalist basis is kind of like... Collective punishment with nationalist basis? And that's without considering the validity of the specific case. I think Scott Aaronson captured it beautifully in his post:

    I wonder why the UCU preferred to boycott Israel over countries such as Syria, Sudan or Indonesia that perform genocides, or Iran who openly defies the world and produces weapons of mass destruction.

    I also wonder how many fail to notice that a British boycott as a response to an occupation is the utmost hypocrisy, seeing as the UK is one of the largest occupiers in the world today (N. Ireland, Gibraltar, Iraq, etc.) and probably the largest occupier in history (North America, South Africa, India, HK, Middle east etc.)

  67. To 58 (Noam Livne) - you said that the occupation is an apartheid de-facto. Well, that is somewhat true, but this is also the case in Iraq. Iraq is under US occupation, yet Iraqis are not allowed to vote in the US elections. Why is that?

    Fact is, there is no solution which the Palestinians agree on, that does not include the destruction of Israel. The occupation was imposed on Israel by them, and they pay the price and will continue to do so until they change their demands.

    The main reason there is occupation of the Palestinians today is divided to two:
    1. Israel did not annihilate the population, which is what most other nations did in similar cases (US as the best known example), getting it stuck deep in mud.
    2. The Palestinians refuse to surrender (in the war they started in 1948), up to this day. Consider the case of WW2. German and Japanese civilians where bombed until they surrendered. If Germany and/or Japan refused to surrender but had no more firepower to resist the allies, it would probably have been occupied today. The only reason they have prosperous free nations is that is has surrendered, accepted the terms imposed by the allies (including Germany giving up lands).

  68. Wow! Lots of discussion. Not always the height of intellectual discourse, but that's cool.

    I write only to share my view on anonymous posting: I didn't read anything that was posted anonymously. I'm sure that many others do the same.


  69. I didn't read anything that was posted anonymously. I'm sure that many others do the same.

    I read mostly what is posted anonymously, as I'm sure that the views conveyed by anonymous posts are probably the most authentic ones (which cannot be said otherwise).

  70. An orthogonal comment to the rest of the discussion. The UK academic union has previously held a boycott against Israel, until it was repealed. I think this was around 2005 or thereabouts. My guess is that no one even noticed!

    In my UK institution, only about 10-15% of CS faculty even belong to the union. Don't know the stats for other subjects. All the same, I wonder what fraction of union members even bother to participate in these votes (though as the discussion here shows, maybe they should). In any case, a "union boycott" of Israel carries no authority of any kind for University decisions on academic issues. In practice, a boycott will make no difference.

    This year there have been a few excellent Algorithms & Complexity workshops held in the UK. I think many Israelis attended these and hope that won't change.

    -- in the UK

  71. I didn't read anything that was posted anonymously.

    Considering that anyone can type in any name they want, I can't imagine any reason to ignore the people who are at least open and honest about their anonymity.

  72. Good point, Bob.

  73. On a unrelated note (but arguably more in spirit of lance's blog), will there be a report on the ongoing FCRC conferences?

  74. One thing I always like to point to in such discussions is the surveys linked below. On both sides of the conflict, a clear majority hopes for a two state solution. Somewhere on this website I also remember seeing another interesting statistic: a majority of people on both sides of the conflict believes the other party is uninterested in peace. Its worth rememberring that.

  75. Who cares about the FCRC and the Arab-Israeli conflict? I would like to see this blog discuss the much more pressing matter of Paris Hilton.

  76. (cross-posted on Scott's blog)

    Dear colleagues:

    I oppose the UCU boycott. It targets the very elements
    of Israeli society that are in fact the most likely
    to contribute to lasting peace in the region.
    It’s got dumbass wankery written all over it,
    with a smidgen of antisemitism added for fragrance.

    That said, I’d like to propose an “anti-boycott”
    specifically tailored to address the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Here is an announcement:

    I am seeking Israeli (and US) academics to join me in a series of public lectures in CS in Israel and in Al-Quds, Bethlehem, or maybe even (though probably unfeasible) Bir Zeit. Think of it as an academic boycott in reverse and a slap in the UCU’s face.

    No doubt the more compassionate among you will say that life inflicts enough misery on the Palestinians without adding, on top of it all, a lecture by me…

    Fair enough. I am under no illusion that peace in the region
    hinges on a better grasp of universal Turing machines.
    I know some Israelis will deride this project
    as appeasement. I know some Palestinians will laugh it off
    as feel-good narcissism (and, frankly, wrong though they may be, I could hardly blame them). I know everyone will think I am out of my depth — at least that part is true.

    The only political premise of this project is that
    one needs more dialogue, not less.

    Plus, for me, this beats sitting on my butt, watching my friends trade insults on CS blogs, and hoping –against all hope– that all the crap in the Middle East will just go away if only we shout loud enough.

    Email me if you’re interested or if you have better suggestions. (No need to discuss this further on this blog.)


    Bernard Chazelle

  77. Bernard,

    What is relevant now is anti-occupation activities. Anti-boycott activities, especially by people who never did anything against the occupation, are implicit support for the status quo.

  78. What is relevant now is anti-occupation activities. Anti-boycott activities, especially by people who never did anything against the occupation, are implicit support for the status quo.

    Much like lobbying to abolish capital punishment is implicit support for murderers.

  79. I think an initiative of lecture on TCS in Palestinian universities is a nice gesture, I don't think it would be a "slap in the face" of the boycott, though - exactly the opposite. If, due to the boycott, there begins some exchange between Israeli and Palestinian academics in CS, then the boycoot has had a positive influence.
    As for guests lecturing on CS in Israeli universities, that happens all the time anyway... also, regarding Bir-Zeit, the 'unfeasiblity' Bernard mentions has very specific causes, you know - see Bir-Zeit's website about the trouble they've been having:

    BTW, here are some links regarding CS in Palestinian universities:

    Another issue which has come up again in the discussion is the place of Israeli academia in resisting and opposing the mistreatment of Palestinians (collectively and individually). Noam Livne says that "some (not to say _most_) of the opposition to the occupation comes from the academia in Israel" - and I don't think that's true. I mean, sure, there are left-leaning academics, but no part of the academic establishment - that I am aware of - is involved in trying to countermand anti-Palestinian government policies. I also fail to see why Bernard believes that Israeli academia is more likely than other section of Israeli society to contribute to a lasting regional peace (which, by the way, is not at all the same thing as resisting the occupation and anti-Palestinian racism). Compare, for instance, with Iranian academia, especially the student movement(s) - over there the government has to crack down hard - with semi-military force sometimes - to silence opposition (that's a partial answer to Ran, by the way):,0,3578330.story

  80. Yet more links:
    The Guardian's Education section has news coverage of the boycott proposal and opinion pieces (for and against):
    The boycott campaign's main Palestinian site:
    Israeli court upholds ban on Gaza residents studying in Israel:

  81. NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman weighs in.

  82. "Eyal Rozenberg",

    Would you please stop spamming us with your silly Palestinian propaganda.
    You're making a fool out of yourself.

    Thanks in advance,
    a (partially) amused surfer

  83. As a citizen and resident of Israel and member of its academia, I feel odd to express an opinion on whether or not non-Israelis should boycott Israel (and specifically its academia).

    I also did not real all comments...

    Still I want to express the opinion by which the issue is highly non-trivial. On one hand, there is the principle of trying to decouple science from politics
    (as if that's at all possible -- in many other aspects...). On the other hand, there is the unacceptable realities of the Isreali occupation of palestine.

    I also wish to object the harsh anti-botcott sentiments (esp., those escaping the issue by blaming the boycotters of antisemitism and other ctimes...).
    Let me ask the purist if they'd not agree to a boycott on NAZI Germany. Yes, we (Israel) is not there yet; especially if one considers the NAZI regime of the latew 1930's. But still, would such a boycott be justified in 1937? What about in 1933? Etc...

    In short, I think the issue is of balancing between conflicting moral calls: a moral call to act against the occupation, and a call to minimize damange to innocent.
    And there is also a balance of reality: the expected benefit of a boycott vs the harm it causes.

    Oded Goldreich
    Weizmann Institute

  84. #83, your comment is not in the spirit of any scientific process I have ever seen. Not only is Eyal Rozenberg the commenter's real name (as he confirmed both here and in Shtetl-Optimized), but the "Palestinian propaganda" you refer to includes an article by the LA Times, an opinion piece opposing the boycott, and multiple official university web sites.

    By contrast, your own contribution to this discussion is limited to calling one of the few non-anonymous posters a bad name.

    As Bill posted recently, there are already people who email comments but don't want to make them public because they are afraid they will be accused of being on crack (or making a fool of themselves??). I can't see how your type of comment does anything to improve this blog.

    If nothing else, this long thread is giving me a better sense of who are more interested in educating others, and who are just run by emotions. I don't think it's an accident that researchers with a long history of success (e.g., B. Chazelle, O. Goldreich) are taking temperate positions, and are willing to go on the record.

    For the record, I'm opposed to the boycott, and I have emailed B. Chazelle offering assistance to his nascent project to have more intercomunication with Palestinian universities. Not enough, to be sure, but it's a positive, material step.

  85. Eyal Rozenberg Said: I mean, sure, there are left-leaning academics, but no part of the academic establishment - that I am aware of - is involved in trying to countermand anti-Palestinian government policies.

    Well, that's because you've been hanging too long at the Technion -- a technical institute where political activism is more rare. The humanities faculties in Tel Aviv University are a huge pocket of anti-occupation movement, and the Gilmann building can perhaps be marked as the biggest and most vocal center of leftism in Israel. Jist a few names:
    Gadi Algazi (I recommend his great paper called Offshore Zionism), Anat Matar, Anat Biletzki, and many many more. See here for a website "Exposing and Monitoring Anti-Israel Activities of Israel Academics". I see the mention of all of the above, and many more, as honorable mentions.

    And I'd like to repeat my point. Israel academia is the most important center of anti-occupation activism.

    This doesn't mean that Israel shouldn't be boycotted. On the contrary -- many of the above-mentioned Israeli academics support the boycott. It's a difference of views between humanities and sciences. Humanities academics don't think that academia and politics are separate. They think they're very much intertwined (e.g. the rising position of gender studies). Scientists, on the other hand, believe that separation of academia and politics is a necessity. That's why Eyal, who's at the technion, has never seen a left-activist academic. (you should come to Tel Aviv. We don't bite).

    I could tell you about the time that Itamar Rabinovitch, who is a physicist, and was the president of tel aviv university at the time, was introducing Judith Butler (a famous gender-studies/philosophy scholar, and a big supporter of the academic boycott on Israel) when she gave a talk in tel aviv university. He didn't really understand who is in front of him, and he gave a passionate speech against the connection of academia to politics. He got aggressively `boo'ed from the audience, and virtually got chased out of the lecture hall, and didn't complete his speech. That's Tel aviv university for you. And I love it exactly this way.

  86. I was a student in Tel-Aviv (in exact science, thank god), and I can confirm that there is a radical left monoculture in the humanities departments there. In fact I know of at least one person who decided not to study in a humanities department there because among other things he/she was not of the left.

    The mathematics department on the other hand was split among left wing and right wing (people who think that continued occupation is the less immoral option, to be honest no current option is fully moral). But mathematicians unlike their brethren from the humanities generally do not support the boycott. Sometimes I believe that it is simply because they stand to lose more, as they are more internationally active within their discipline (with exceptions of course).

  87. Israeli academics come mostly from the same `higher-class' socio-economical background. These are mostly, but not solely (as earlier commenter wrote), far left supporters (with some socialist or even communist background). They represent approximately 2% from the Israeli public, and they hardly represent the majority of Israelis who support their country and the IDF in its war against their enemies.
    That's why people outside Israel should be very skeptical about political views expressed by Israeli academics.
    It's like learning about the US from a typical Berkeley student.
    It's meaningless.

  88. I could tell you about the time that Itamar Rabinovitch, who is a physicist...

    Good to know Rabinovitch is a "physicist". I always assumed that he is an expert on contemporary Middle Eastern history.

    Is this the reliability we should also attribute to your political views?

  89. To #86:
    Thanks for the invite :-)
    Actually, I'm (somewhat) acquainted with all of Gadi Algazi, Anat Matar and Anat Biletzki and their political activism. But they are active as individual academics, it's not their department with its bureaucratic apparatus and official bodies of students and faculty that are active. I would guess this is part of the reason some Israeli academics like them might support the boycott - despair with the prospects of mobilizing resistance from within. I could still be wrong, but what you've said doesn't contradict my knowledge so far.

    To #87:
    I wouldn't say a noticeable minority of Hadash-supporting social-democrats make for radical monoculture. But then, I usually get scolded by Hadash people as an ultra-leftist.

    To #88:
    I wonder why you forget the Palestinian 20% of the citizenry who don't support the state, its army or the frequent wars when you count the Israelis... ok, that's a lie, I don't wonder at all, they're kind of, like, 'non-people' to you. This sort of attitude is another motivator for a boycott.

    I'm not touching the Nazi Germany analogy with a 10-foot pole thank you :-(

  90. I wonder why you forget the Palestinian 20% of the citizenry who don't support the state,

    Answer to the point, please.
    Those 20% Arabs are not represented by far left Jewish radicals in the Israeli academia. Far left radicals represent a certain sub-culture and a certain liberal way of life which is alien to the Arab citizens of Israel.
    So the figures stand still:
    Dominant political views of Israeli academics represent the views of some 2% of the Israeli public.
    Listening to them is then almost meaningless.

  91. To the brave Anonymous #91:

    is listening to this allegedly 2% minority like listening to Copernicus/Einstein/Darwin/Pasteur/Columbus and other people whose opinions were supported by similar minorities in the past?

    Are you implying the following: views held by small minorities are wrong?

    And, finally (look Eyal, no 10-foot pole), are you implying that Nazi oposers were wrong in the 30's in Germany?

  92. Are you implying the following: views held by small minorities are wrong?

    Israel's far left academic radicals come mostly from the same upper-class socio-economical group. The great people you mentioned were individuals, and their thought didn't reflect the collective political interests of some homogenous class that holds monolithic (and quite banal) ideology.
    So in this specific case, listening to this group is almost useless.

  93. Just more comments to go !