Selected Emails and Letters Received
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Dr Dov Stekel, Lecturer in Bioinformatics.
In a Letter dated 29th of April, 2005, Dr Dov Stekel writes:
To the executive of the AUT
I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at the recent
AUT resolution recommending boycott of two Israeli universities.
This action is detrimental to the cause of peace; indeed it only
supports the cause of those who seek further violence. Furthermore,
the timing of the motion, following renewed hope for peace after
the election of a new Palestinian government, shows fatal ignorance
of the situation in the Middle East on the part of this motion’s
supporters. I urge the AUT to overturn this motion and focus its
energy on its core mission of ensuring fair and safe working conditions
for its members.
In truth, I am delighted that Ms Blackwell and her supporters feel
passionately about peace in the Middle East. I too, am passionate
about peace in the Middle East, not in the least because of the
large number of my friends and family members who live there. Among
them is my three-month-old niece, Tzahala, who lives in a quiet
suburb of south Jerusalem, midway between the infamous "Wall"
and the Emek Refaim neighbourhood, the site of a number of attacks
on innocent civilians in cafes and restaurants. In Birmingham and
in Eastbourne, these are simply matters of politics; in Jerusalem,
these are matters of life and death.
The conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East has been
long, complex and bloody, waged through most of the 20th Century,
and sadly unabated in the 21st. It has led to the tragic and unnecessary
loss of very many lives, not only among Israelis and Palestinians,
but even among British servicemen during the mandatory period. It
is a conflict in which both sides feel that they are the aggrieved
party, with legitimate and historical claims. Each side feels that
it is the victim of violence from the other; each side views the
other with fear and mistrust. This is a conflict that will be very
hard to resolve; peace will only come through great courage and
There have, of course, been beacons of light during this conflict.
Most significant was the signing of a peace deal between between
Egypt and Israel in 1979, at the hands of Anwar el-Sadat and Menachem
Begin. A peace that has been tense, and fragile; a peace that cost
Sadat his life; but a peace that has lasted. A few weeks ago, in
my local supermarket, I saw a pummet of Egyptian strawberries, marked
variety “Yael”. My heart leapt: these truly are the
fruits of peace, an Israeli variety of strawberry grown in Egypt,
exported to the world, bringing much needed economic development
to this great but impoverished nation.
In 1993, it was hoped that the signing of the Oslo accords would
bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Sadly, for a variety of reasons, this has not happened. But in February
this year we saw the election of a new Palestinian government. This
heralds a time of renewed hope for peace. Of all times, this is
a time for dialogue and communication, not a time for shutting ourselves
off with boycotts. It is a time to open up our hearts and our minds,
to listen to our "enemies", to see them as we see our
friends: as people, with the same hopes and fears, dreams and passions,
seeking happiness and an end to suffering. Only through this can
we begin to establish the bonds of trust and friendship, and foster
the peaces between individuals are the small pieces of the big Peace
Although it is very easy to see this conflict as a conflict between
Israel and the Palestinians, this is a simplistic view. The real
sides in this conflict are the builders of bridges and the builders
of walls. Those who seek dialogue and understanding, an end to conflict
and the establishment of peace, and those who seek monologues and
boycotts, fear, mistrust and ultimately violence.
Among the builders of bridges are Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin,
who signed the historic peace deal between Egypt and Israel. There
is my namesake, Dov Rosman, a fabric trader, who, despite the outbreak
of violence, and the warnings of his friends, continued to maintain
a good relationship with his Palestinian acquaintances, believing
that by continuing his trade, he was contributing to the coexistence
necessary for peace. On August 26th 2001, on his way to the Palestinian
village of Zaita, Dov was ambushed, shot and killed. They include
Daniel Barenboim, and the musicians of his West Eastern Divan Workshop
- an orchestra that has brought together Arab and Israeli musicians,
to perform together around the World. These blessed peacemakers,
who promote dialogue and understanding between people, foster the
bonds of understanding, friendship and trust that are the true seeds
And on the other side are the builders of walls. These include
the builders of physical walls; but as we have seen in Berlin, physical
walls can be demolished in days. More dangerous are the walls in
the heart, the walls of anger, fear and hate, which can take years,
or even generations to demolish. The builders of walls include the
killers of Anwar Sadat, Yitzchak Rabin and Dov Rosman; they include
the gunmen who enter synagogues and mosques and shoot people at
prayer; they include the people who strap bombs onto teenagers –
never their own children – and send them into buses, cafes
and nightclubs to kill other people’s children.
We academics are a unique position. We need dialogue and collaboration
to conduct our research. We receive grants from our governments
and funding bodies specifically to foster collaborations. We are
empowered to bring people together, including, indeed especially,
people from countries involved in conflict. Israeli Universities
are part of this process. They are places in which Israeli and Arab
academics and students mix and collaborate, fostering bonds, building
trust, and ultimately peace.
By moving this motion, Ms Blackwell and her supporters have, I
hope temporarily, aligned themselves with the builders of walls.
Now, each member of the AUT faces a clear decision: to join the
side of the builders of bridges, or to join the side of the builders
of walls. To add your name to those who seek dialogue and peace,
through building trust and understanding, or to include yourself
among who seek dispute and violence, fostering fear and mistrust
through boycott and a break-down of communication. To put it bluntly,
you can choose between life and death. Choose life, and help us
all to live.
Dr Dov Stekel
Lecturer in Bioinformatics.
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