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Following the failed effort to stop the NATFHE vote to boycott "Apartheid" Israel and to support the genocidal Hamas movement instead, the Guardian added insult to injury by publishing an article (June 20) essentially advancing the claim that nobody had a right to interfere with NATFHE, and that opponents of the boycott were somehow interfering with academic freedom.

The article cited a few improper and racist messages received by NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney as the reason why the boycott was adopted. The article misleadingly claimed that Mackney made an impassioned plea against the resolution. In fact, Mackney used those hysterial messages and the email campaign as an excuse to generate anti-Israel sentiment. He opposed these particular resolutions for entirely tactical reasons.



This is what Mackney told union members:


1. I do not want our policy to be made on the basis of an email campaign mostly from the USA and many of them offensive and harassing officers and NATFHE staff.

[Sorry we don't have point #2==A.I.]

3. Most of us are very angry about the occupation of Palestine and want to find ways by which we can assist in building civil society in the occupied territories.

4. I want us to develop a sustainable policy of support for the rights of Palestinians. For example campaigning to stop the sale of arms to the Israeli Government until the occupation is over.


That doesn't sound like an impassioned plea against the resolutions, does it? That doesn't sound like a friend of Israel and the Jews, as Mackney portrays himself, who is simply concerned about the occupation. An arms boycott of Israel of would rapidly result in a genocidal war. That is what Mackney advocated in his supposed plea against the resolutions.

A boycott against individuals that affects their professional advancement is much more than interference in "Academic Freedom." It is the grossest sort of distatorial interference in freedom of thought and expression, worthy of totalitarian regimes and Fascist witch hunts. The boycott proposed by NATFHE is no different from the blacklists of the McCarthy era, and it is odiously reminiscent of the Test Act enacted in Britain in the reign of Charles II.

It is absurd for a union that meddles clumsily in international affairs to proclaim disingenuously that their resolutions are not the business of outsiders. If Mr. Mackney and his union had confined themselves to resolutions about workers benefits and wages, then of course their procedings would be only their affiar. However if NATFHE or UCU decide to pass resolutions supporting genocidal terror groups and boycotting people who disagree with their Fascist views, it is the business of every concerned citizen, and they can expect to hear from everyone who doesn't like terrorists.

Of course, university lecturers don't all go around thinking about Israel and the Palestinians all day, or about the wonders of the Hamas movement that NATFHE supports. Thse resolutions were themselves the product of a directed campaign of agitation, a successful attempt to tamper with the legitimate purposes of trade unions, that is being run by the International Solidarity Movement and similar groups. They describe this process of subversion quite openly. This did not seem to bother Paul Mackney or the Guardian at all.

Geoffrey Alderman has written a credible defense of the effort to stop the NATFHE boycott resolutions in this week's Guardian.
He wrote:


Academic freedom means nothing if it does not mean that academics have the right to hold and to publicly express the most unpopular of views, without the slightest fear of institutional reprisal. All academics everywhere have the right to engage in and with academic discourse without first having to undergo some political test or rite of passage.



He continues:


It is for these reasons that I have publicly defended Dr Ilan Pappé, the revisionist historian at Haifa University. I defend his right to hold and to disseminate his deeply flawed and essentially stupid views on the re-establishment of the Jewish state. Of course, I expect Pappé to defend my right to take issue with his views (and I have no reason to suppose that he would not do so).



In this he is sadly deceived. Pappé is one of a list of Israeli academics who have signed a declaration in support of the academic boycott.

Alderman is certainly correct that the opposition to the NATFHE boycott was legitimate. However, it is not always wise to do what you have the right to do. The fact must be faced that the opposition failed, and the boycott resolutions were passed, and we can expect that Mackney and others will continue to push similar efforts in the UCU. Those who want to stop the next boycott, and the one after that, will have to examine carefully what they are doing wrong, rather than simply insisting on their right to keep doing it.

Ami Isseroff




Freedom to think

Academic freedom means never having to say you're sorry
http://education.guardian.co.uk/egweekly/story/0,,1806276,00.html

Geoffrey Alderman
Tuesday June 27, 2006
The Guardian

In last week's Education Guardian, Tamara Traubmann and Benjamin Joffe-Walt purported to analyse the motives of those who opposed the recent Natfhe motion to boycott Israeli academics who did not "publicly dissociate themselves" from "Israeli apartheid policies" (How a campaign backfired, June 20). Relying on their access to the tens of thousands of emails that were apparently sent to Natfhe, and on the thousands of signatories to anti-boycott petitions, Traubmann and Joffe-Walt suggested that the real motive of the anti-boycott campaign was not the defence of academic freedom but the wish to "stifle critical discussion of Israel".

I was not a member of Natfhe. As an AUT member, and as a patron of the UK Council for Academic Freedom, I opposed the boycott initiative on grounds of basic principle. It is clear to me - both from previous AUT boycott debates and from the recent disgraceful motion passed by the AUT in its final hours against the Leeds academic Dr Frank Ellis (whose views on multiculturalism and intelligence have annoyed the AUT's Leeds branch) - that there is a lamentable ignorance in the British academy of what academic freedom actually is.

Academic freedom means nothing if it does not mean that academics have the right to hold and to publicly express the most unpopular of views, without the slightest fear of institutional reprisal. All academics everywhere have the right to engage in and with academic discourse without first having to undergo some political test or rite of passage.

It is for these reasons that I have publicly defended Dr Ilan Pappé, the revisionist historian at Haifa University. I defend his right to hold and to disseminate his deeply flawed and essentially stupid views on the re-establishment of the Jewish state. Of course, I expect Pappé to defend my right to take issue with his views (and I have no reason to suppose that he would not do so). I also expect the broad fellowship of academics around the world to defend his rights of academic expression, should the need arise, and, should the need arise, to defend mine.

Academic freedom is more or less absolute.

But what the proponents of the boycott of Israelis want is to cynically sacrifice that freedom on the altar of their own particular political prejudices. In this case, these prejudices relate - in the words of the article - to "the complicity of the Israeli academy with the occupation and discrimination in Israeli universities".

I do not intend - here - to launch into any substantial examination of the truth behind these prejudices, except to remind the authors that Israel is at war. War has a habit of compromising what are referred to nowadays as human rights. During the second world war, basic freedoms, such as the right not to be imprisoned without trial, were severely curtailed in the UK. There was comprehensive censorship of public media. Not one British university protested against these restrictions.

As a matter of fact, Israeli universities are extraordinarily cosmopolitan academies, and I marvel at the patience and essential liberalism of Israeli society in permitting them virtually unfettered freedoms of the sort that academics in Islamic societies can only dream about dreaming about.

But that is not and never was the point. Insofar as my love of academic freedom is concerned, it matters not whether the Israeli academy is or is not "complicit". What the Natfhe motion sought and perhaps still seeks to do is to impose a political test, and to compel through this political test the espousal and expression of certain political views. How disgraceful.

I regret the crudity and racism that clearly informed some of the emails received by Natfhe's general secretary, Paul Mackney. If it is any consolation to him, I am also privileged to receive emails and (usually anonymous) letters that express not dissimilar racist and xenophobic sentiments.

But the mainstream anti-boycott organisations were absolutely justified in running their campaigns. The boycotters have no interest at all in academic freedom, which they do not care about or even understand. They condemn Israeli academics but are happy to turn a blind eye to the smothering of academic freedom in many other countries. They fully deserve the electronic pressure to which the anti-boycott groups exposed them.

ˇ Professor Geoffrey Alderman is senior vice-president of American InterContinental University, London. He writes in a personal capacity.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000137.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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