BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI COLLEGES
Letter to the IRISH TIMES - May 20, 2005
by John Harpur, Vice-President for Public Relations, Irish Federation of University Teachers
Madam, - In a controversial debate that has received little attention over here, the UK Association of University Teachers (AUT) on April 22nd passed a motion at a national AUT council meeting to boycott both Haifa and Bar iLan universities.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is also a potential target.
The background to the AUT decision is a farrago of ideological analyses and propaganda relating to the participation of certain Israeli institutions in the management of the Palestinian issue. In reality Israel, despite its flaws, is the only reasonably functioning democracy in a region dominated by the worst forms of feminist, political and theocratic political repression.
Due to an embedded anti-Semitism in European intellectual culture, it is nearly impossible to raise rational arguments in defence of Israel.
If one recalls the deeply offensive Punch caricatures of "the Oirish" and the crude blanket generalisations of the Irish in Britain as potential terrorists over the past 30 years, then one can grasp some minute insight into the portrayal of Israel as replete with people of one religious and one political persuasion bent on the creation of a greater Judaea-Sumeria. Of course, the fact that political life may be less homogenous than that is sometimes inconvenient to acknowledge in cultures tuned to resonate to anti-Semitism.
It is a fact that there are political movements in Israel that profoundly object to the political privations imposed on the Palestinian population.
Of course, much of the material misery of the same population could be ameliorated if the Arab "brothers" dug deep enough into their oil wealth, as has the global Jewish Diaspora. In the absence of this, we are treated to tantrums by the AUT.
If the same boycott logic had been applied to Irish colleges because of individual staff identification with republicanism, would we have progressed to the Belfast Agreement more slowly - if at all? Would the Republic be trumpeting its Celtic Tiger legacy?
The end of dialogue marks the end of civility. Shame on the AUT for supporting the ending of intellectual commerce with a nation that has suffered so much indignity historically. - Yours, etc,
Vice-President for Public Relations,
Irish Federation of University Teachers,