Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Boycotting Israel

David Lloyd puts the case for boycotting Israeli academic institutions rather well:
"In response to the call from Palestinian civil society and from more than 500 courageous Israeli citizens, we urge a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, not only to protest their utter silence in the face of the ongoing destruction of Palestinian educational infrastructure, but also because we believe that the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions still can influence Israel’s public opinion and avert a catastrophic outcome. Boycott, by using the moral force of non-violent means, strengthens those elements in Palestinian and Israeli civil society that are seeking a just resolution to the conflict without resort to violence, ethnic cleansing or destruction. An institutional boycott neither targets individual scholars nor seeks to silence genuine dialogue. It calls for a moratorium on “business-as-usual” with Israeli institutions that have turned a blind eye to the destruction and disruption of Palestinian schools and universities and to the denial of academic freedom. Their institutional silence is the true death of learning and of intellectual exchange. It is Palestinian, not Israeli, institutions whose isolation must be challenged: For the former it is lethal, for the latter it can be short-lived."

However, this reply from Tenured Radical trumps it:
"Intellectual boycotts profoundly violate the idea that a scholarly community is defined by the free exchange of ideas: this is the essence of what makes scholars different from ideologues. That the free exchange of ideas has been inhibited by groups like AIPAC does not alter my belief that we must cherish this principle and oppose all efforts to undermine it on the left or the right."

It's true that boycotts can serve an educational function, but I don't see an educational one as having nearly the reach given the principle that would be compromised. There are better ways to address the occupation and conflict.



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