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Dear Dr. Mackney

This will not, I am sure, be the first letter or e-mail you will have
received concerning the already controversial motion 198A, due to be
tabled at your forthcoming annual conference. Though I'm writing in my
private capacity, I do so as someone with a lifetime's experience as an
academic, researcher, and widely-published author in the field of Middle
East and Islamic Studies. I am a former member of the AUT and currently
a member of NAWE.

The motion, like that of the AUT on the same basic topic last year,
gives me cause for concern on two levels. The first is the purely
academic. The academy is internationally known, in theory if not always
in practice, as a sphere within which conflicting ideas may be openly
and safely debated. To single out universities, departments, or
individuals for opprobrium and boycott flies in the face of everything
we stand for. Worldwide, courageous academics risk their careers and
even their lives to stand up for freedom of expression, the right to
publish, and the duty to teach free from political interference. A motio
like this in many ways cancels out the sacrifices they make. To
jeopardize our standing and undermine our authority as academics working
in an open society largely free from political pressure by embarking on
a McCarthyite campaign of intimidation and constant scrutiny is a
pitiful and shameful thing. To demand that academics should betray their
country in order to share in the work of the academy is not to be
countenanced.

However, to make matters worse, the proponents of an Israel boycott both
within the AUT and Natfhe cross even more dangerous lines. It is notable
that they single out Israel among all countries in the world for their
ideological contempt and the Palestinians for their concern. They show a
wilful ignorance of Middle East history, of the origins and growth of
Israel as a sovereign state, and of the extent of the campaign in Arab
and Muslim countries to wipe Israel off the face of the map. It seems
surreal that the promoters of this motion are unable to grasp that
Israel's enemies openly write and speak of genocide, a second Holocaust,
and the slaughter of all Jews, whereas Israel has not once in its nearly
sixty-year history called for the killing of a single unarmed civilian.
That turning upside down of history and the facts on the ground would
not be tolerated in a first-year student essay, and I see no reason why
university teachers should not be subject to the same standards as those
they teach. To defend the exponents of genocide while attacking a
vibrant democracy is perfectly unspeakable.

Indeed, the most egregious aspect of this motion is its assertion of a
well-known myth that Israel is an 'apartheid state'. So i accurate is
this that, were Israel a private individual, it would have an
overwhelming case for libel in any court in this country. Nowhere in
Israeli law are there regulations imposing apartheid-style restrictions
on Arab citizens. Arab citizens enjoy exactly the same rights as Jews,
Christians, Druze, Baha'is, and other Israelis. They do not have to
carry pass books, live in Bantustans, or obey rules directed at them in
isolation. There are no segregated buses, cinemas, swimming pools,
concert halls, libraries, schools, universities, cafes, restaurants,
shops, or other public places whatsoever in Israel. Indeed, it would be
illegal to put up a sign denying access to Arabs.

Ten percent of the Israeli parliament is made up of Arabs, and Arab
political parties are free to engage in all levels of political
activity. Some 20% of the students at Israeli universities are Arab, in
line with the population, and they study side by side with Jewish
students. Israel is the only - and I repeat, the only - country in the
Middle East to give full rights to women, gay men and women, and
religious minorities.

In other words, the motion as it stands is dishonest, misleading, and
unworthy of anyone trained in the use of reason. To pass a motion based
on a lie would surely drag the good name of Natfhe through a very muddy
ditch indeed.

I have to ask too why there is such a level of hate and spite directed
against Israel. Why do Natfhe members not protest against Iranian
government oppression within universities? Or against Iran's use of
execution against young people guilty of no crimes but being raped or
engaging in homosexual activity? Or the imprisonment and execution of
members of religious minorities. What about the high level of censorship
in Egypt's universities, the subject of a major report last year by
Human Rights Watch? Why not a word about Palestinian terrorists who have
killed students and schoolchildren in Hebrew University or on buses, in
cafes, or public sp ces?

Why do they seem care about no-one but the Palestinians, who abuse their
children by grooming them for future suicide missions, who encourage
university students to become homicide bombers, and who keep a very
tight rein on what is taught in their universities? Why do they not
protest about that, or the hate speech hat is standard fare on
Palestinian campuses and in Palestinian schools?

It seems they despise no-one but the Jews, for among all states in the
world, only the Jewish state is singled out by them. Is this not
heinous? Is this not religious discrimination? Is this not, however
crudely concealed, a form of anti-Semitism? W en academics give succour
to those who deny the Holocaust, to those whose grandparents allied
themselves openly with the Third Reich and colluded with the Nazis in
the hope of carrying out a second Holocaust after a German victory, to
those whose speeches audibly call for mass slaughter, to those who
mindlessly accuse Jews everywhere of being the players in a giant
international conspiracy, whose television programmes foster this myth -
surely they are actively betraying their own integrity as rationalists
and believers in human rights, and are they not a daily offence to some
and a real threat to those of their students who may be swayed by a
boycott to imbibe such hateful views themselves.

To politicize the world of academe is deplorable enough in itself, but
to do so for such tawdry ends, in defiance of all standards of
historical accuracy, balance, and decency is a shameful thing. I have,
in a career spanning over thirty years, fought hard against censorship,
imbalance, and the flouting of academic values. I have been a member of
the Campaign for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards from its
inception. To see an academic union on the verge of betraying all those
things sickens me. I would willingly say 'they know not what they do',
but I do not believe it. I believe they know exactly what they do and
that they have n ither shame, nor reason, nor a proper sense of human
values. I trust that you and your executive together have an
understanding of what a passing of this motion would mean, and that,
after due deliberation, you will deny it a place on the floor of your
conference, a conference which rightly places heavy emphasis on the
matter of pay and conditions in our institutions of higher learning. I
leave the matter with you in the hope that this will not, after all,
become notorious or bring notoriety on yourselves and all your members.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin
Royal Literary Fund Fellow

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