Boycotting the British UCU Boycott of Israel:

This morning I received the following note from Professor Steve Lubet of Northwestern University Law School that I thought would be of interest to VC readers.

Dear Colleagues:

As you probably know, the British University and College Union recently passed a resolution advancing a boycott of Israeli scholars and academic institutions. Whatever your political views on the Middle East, I trust you will agree that such a boycott is antithetical to academic principles. It shuts off dialogue, when one of the key purposes of universities is to promote dialogue and thereby the pursuit of truth. It ignores existing projects where Israeli and Palestinian academics cooperate. It requires academics to hew to one ideological line. And it constitutes discrimination on the basis of nationality. Many leading international scholars — including Palestinians — have issued statements in opposition to a boycott, recognizing that it violates essential academic values. In the words of Lee Bollinger, President of Columbia University, "In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas."

If you agree that the UCU boycott resolution is wrong, you may show your opposition by signing the petition circulated by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). It has already been signed by numerous Nobel Laureates and university presidents.

The text of the SPME petition is as follows:

We are academics, scholars, researchers and professionals of differing religious and political perspectives. We all agree that singling out Israelis for an academic boycott is wrong. To show our solidarity with our Israeli academics in this matter, we, the undersigned, hereby declare ourselves to be Israeli academics for purposes of any academic boycott. We will regard ourselves as Israeli academics and decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded.

To sign the statement, go here. A list of signatories is available here. Note that one need not support Israeli policies, or even the positions of SPME, to support this statement. Academic boycotts of this sort are, quite simply, contrary to the ideals of open intellectual discourse.