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Dear Dr Wilkin,

I'm writing to protest against the introduction of motion 198C:
"Academic Resposibility" at the upcoming NAFTHE Annual Conference in
Blackpool. This motion calls on NAFTHE members to consider a blanket
boycott of Israeli academics who refuse to swear adherence to a
specific political viewpoint regarding the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Not only the motion, but even its introduction for debate at
the AGM, strikes at the heart of academic freedom. Imposing loyalty
oaths on academics, as this motion in effect suggests, is the hallmark
of dictatorships and has no place in the free academic climate to
which the UK in general, and NAFTHE in particular, are committed. Its
condemnation of a single nation, Israel, is moreover contrary to the
Constitution and Rules of NAFTHE, which opposes "actively all forms of
harassment and unfair discrimination whether on the grounds of sex,
race, ethnic or national origin, religion colour, class, caring
responsibilities, marital status, sexuality, disability, age, or other
status or personal characteristic."

Although cloaked by an alleged concern for the sufferings of
Palestinians, the isolation of Israel and the inflammatory rhetoric of
the motion reveal the true underlying motivation of the motion:
anti-Israel bigotry. It's no secret that the proposers of this motion
have consulted with organisations, such as the Palestinian Solidarity
Campaign, which do not believe Israel has a right to
exist. Brandishing Israel as an apartheid state with discriminatory
education policies is baseless. The lack of concern of the proposers
of the motion with genuine human rights violations and oppression on a
rampant scale elsewhere in the world (Chechnya and Russia, Tibet and
China, the list goes on), belies the alleged motivation for this
motion. Where are the calls for boycotting Russian or Chinese
academics? It's not even necessary to go so far from home. Where are
the calls to boycott British or American academics on account of the
British and American occupation of Iraq, a nation which never attacked
either the UK or the US, in contrast to the continual terrorist
attacks against Israel by Arab Palestinians that predate the 1967
occupation, and indeed predate the founding of the State of Israel in
the form of terror attacks on long-standing Jewish communities within
Mandatory Palestine?  Where is the call to boycott Palestinian
academics for voting in a government sworn to the extermination of
Israel and openly declaring its hatred towards Jews everywhere? The
lapse of any calls for parallel measures against truly oppressive
regimes around the world speaks volumes for the character of the
proposers of this motion: they are bigots.

Bigotry has no place in academia. That's why it's against the NAFTHE
Constitution. NAFTHE is soon to merge with the AUT, which has already
declared its opposition to such a boycott. I call on you to defend
NAFTHE, in its last remaining few months, against the co-opting of its
name by a cause rooted in bigotry, to denounce this motion that is an
assault on academic freedom, and to do all in your power to prevent
its being tabled at the Blackpool Conference.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Avery Meiksin
Reader, University of Edinburgh

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