Well, as it is late I am going to cheat a bit and reword a comment I posted on a blog entry. It’s funny though, that it is only when we encounter an opposing opinion (or when we bother to stop and think) that we develop our opinions further… enough of that aside, on to the main part of this entry:
On the matter of this boycott affecting scholarship in general (in the UK in particular), I argue that the ramifications are not as hurtful as the actual occupation or the suffering of university students, and research in general in Palestine (check out http://www.bricup.org.uk). Palestinian universities are starved of funds, their students face a near impossible commute to university… often passing through checkpoints, or being prevented from doing so by road blocks, and the universities have been closed many times due to extreme situations, such as curfews, bombings, incursions by the israeli army etc. etc.
Some say the boycott is an empty gesture. I think not, it shows solidarity, in a more tangible way than a rally in central London ever could. It is affecting Israel, they are annoyed and angry, and are planning on fighting it. Therefore, this boycott (which has yet to be physically put into affect!) has had an effect, which is what the boycott wants, to make a point, and Israel won’t listen unless there is either something in it for them, or they stand to lose something. It also enables Palestinian academics to have their voices heard in the UK, something which currently is nigh impossible.
Academic boycott is probably the most humane, most benign type of boycott. The boycott the EU has on the Palestinians is far FAR more damaging. The EU and Britain is actively involved in the horrendous situation that the Palestinians find themselves in… they are withholding funds, to punish the Palestinians for being democratic. This is on top of their support of the Zionist regime, and its silence on the refusal of that government to implement the right of return. Israel is also withholding tax monies rightfully the Palestinian governments’… added to that the Arab/Islamic countries are too terrified of the USA to offer financial support.
Some say scholarship should rise above politics. I think scholarship has not only the ability but the luxury to be objective, I think any academic should take this situation and analyse it in an intelligent and scholarly manner. Also, to say that academics should rise above politics is also implying that the issue of Palestine, and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is purely a political one, when in fact it is largely a humanitarian one.
Some say that you are unsure whether this boycott has anti-Semitic connotations… actually it is very clear, this movement is NOT anti-Semetic, and is supported by many Jewish organisations… to equate Zionism and the actions of the Zionist government to Judaism is not only factually incorrect, but is found to be offensive by many Jews (see http://www.nkusa.org, http://www.jewsagainstzionism.org, http://www.jfjfp.org). I personally reject the underhand attempts by some groups to equate anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism in order to garner more support for their aims.
As for the Nobel Laureate Stephen Weinberg (he boycotted a meeting in Imperial college as a protest against the Union of Journalists boycott): his decision is his decision, it maybe a shame that Cosmologists in the UK have missed out on what I am sure would have been a fascinating talk, however, it is neither a catastrophe nor of huge impact to the future of cosmology. So, he may not cite those physicists verbally supporting the boycott, but at the end of the day it is a small sacrifice to make.
Israeli academics such as Illan Pappe, who is probably the main academic there who is supportive of Palestinian human rights and condemnatory of Israeli actions towards the people whose land they occupied, is in fact FOR the boycott .
In conclusion, even though I find the reaction to the call for such a boycott hysterical (it is far too dependent on people actually bothering to really work), I still think it is worth having in place. This is not an issue of internal politics of another country (something which I tend to prefer not meddling with), it is an international issue, the West is already involved, this measure is a small, yet critical, step forward in balancing the advantages each side has. Only when both sides are free, can justice and eventual peace be achieved.