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More roadblock than roadmap 1

Gerald M. Steinberg
Published: 20 May 2005

The attempt by Hilary and Steven Rose to justify a boycott of Israeli academics highlights the core fallacy of their cause - the comparison between the apartheid regime in South Africa and the Arab-Israeli dispute ("Sanctions can work", Soapbox, May 13).

This invalid analogy diminishes the suffering of the black population of South Africa by exploiting it to justify a radical pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli bias. There is no question that the Middle East conflict is tragic and has taken a huge toll on Jews as well as Arabs, but this is in no way comparable to South African history.

The Roses have censored and selected the evidence to fit their political predispositions. They limit the conflict to its Israeli-Palestinian dimensions with no mention of the involvement of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran in the numerous wars and terror attacks. Also, they have conveniently erased the first and most important UN resolution in 1947, which called for partition of the territory into two states - one for the Jewish inhabitants and one for the Arabs.

The Jewish leadership agreed, but the Arabs rejected this division and launched a military assault in direct violation of the UN Charter. Three decades and many wars later, Egypt was the first to end the state of war, but elsewhere, the conflict continues - crushing the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes.

Such misleading and selective claims - designed to turn Israel into a pariah state - also devalue the impact of valid criticism of Israeli responses to decades of violence. And by taking the side of the more radical and violent Palestinians, those who endorse this boycott undermine the fragile process of restoring some cooperation and hope for a peace based on compromise and mutual acceptance.

Gerald M. Steinberg
Bar-Ilan University, Israel

More roadblock than roadmap 2

Farid Ali
Published: 20 May 2005

The boycott against Israel is no more racist than the boycott against South Africa was. It is disgraceful that opposition to the Israeli state's racist policies is equated with anti-Semitism. An academic boycott is a peaceful action of solidarity in the struggle for human rights and an end to racist oppression. Israel has consistently flouted international law, therefore the only option is to apply pressure to force Israel to respect UN resolutions and international standards of human rights. The boycott excludes conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their state's colonial and racist policies and is supported by brave Israeli academics such as Ilan Pappe and Tanya Reinhart.

Farid Ali

More roadblock than roadmap 3

Ignacio Russell Cano
Published: 20 May 2005

Surely the Association of University Teachers should boycott Palestinian universities, because they sponsor and incite hate and terror, and Arab academics coming from countries that have largely purged themselves of Jews?

The AUT's boycott is racist, highly selective, hypocritical and bizarre. I am simply astonished to read such news coming from a place such as the UK that pretends to be civilised.

Ignacio Russell Cano
Zaragoza, Spain

More roadblock than roadmap 4

Paul Julian Smith
Published: 20 May 2005

I'm glad the AUT is reconsidering its boycott of Israeli universities. But it comes too late for me. After almost 20 years'

membership I resigned two years ago because the union was devoting more time to demonising Israel than to representing members' interests.

I'm disgusted that the AUT, indifferent to the many bloody dictatorships around the world, should single out the Jewish democracy for special punishment.

It remains a mystery why we should support the Palestinians who planted a bomb in the Hebrew University canteen and not the Israelis killed and mutilated by that bomb.

My only consolation is that the AUT can no longer claim to speak on behalf of the many UK academics like myself who have given up on it.

Paul Julian Smith
Cambridge University

More roadblock than roadmap 5

M. Cain
Published: 20 May 2005

Although I can understand the AUT's frustrations over Israel, we ought not to attack fellow academics wherever they are - Israel, Zimbabwe, the US, North Korea or Iran - but by contact and example should gently encourage them to help change their country's ways.

As a Catholic, I do not agree with everything that is or has been done in the name of my Church and feel no compulsion to be a blind apologist for the "sins" of the Vatican.

I thus find it very strange that most Jews, though not all, seem to feel threatened if Israel is criticised in the least way. It would be refreshing if many more Jews criticised at least the more objectionable practices of Israel. Jews everywhere, please speak out. AUT, please shut up.

M. Cain

More roadblock than roadmap 6

Francis Clark-Lowes
Published: 20 May 2005

Stephen Howe (Features, May 6) believes that the activities of which Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities stand accused are far too complicated for the AUT conference to judge.

This kind of argument is trotted out on numerous occasions when Israel stands accused of any contravention of international law or infringement of human rights.

We are told, in effect, that we should mind our own business and not meddle in matters that outsiders cannot understand.

However, those who voted for a boycott understand only too well what Israel has done, and continues to do, to Palestinians and are determined to make a gesture of solidarity with them.

It is unreasonable to expect conference delegates to be informed about all the intricate details of particular cases before making a decision to act.

As we have recently discovered, much less is expected from national politicians.

Francis Clark-Lowes


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