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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Norwegian university considers academic boycott of Israel

From Al Arabiya:
A group of professors in Norway have called for a boycott of Israeli academics because of "systematic" discrimination against Palestinian students and for altering history to develop the Zionist ideology, the professors said in their proposal sent to Al Arabiya on Tuesday.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where the professors work, is set to decide next week whether to boycott Israel after it received the proposal from 30 of its professors who said their aim was to put "pressure" on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.

"We, who have signed this letter, believe that it is time that academic institutions contributed to an international pressure against Israel so that real negotiations between Israel, democratically elected Palestinian authorities and the international society can begin," the open letter said.

The group accused Israeli universities and institutions of higher education of playing "a key role in the policy of oppression" and said "historians and archaeologists are important in the development of the Zionist ideology and renouncement of Palestinian history and identity."
These people are not only calling for a boycott; they are accusing Israeli universities of altering history and archaeological research for political purposes!

So, of course, they are advocating politicizing academic research in response to this fantasy of theirs.

Pot, meet kettle.

From looking at NTNU's website, one can see that the entire university is not populated by hypocrites. NTNU already has a joint program with the Betzalel Academy in Jerusalem.

Also, another set of at least 22 NTNU professors immediately came up with a counter-petition, autotranslated here:
A group of employees at NTNU and HiST have in an open letter earlier this year asked their respective boards of a cultural and academic boycott of Israel. We who write in this letter are also employees of these institutions. We are generally positive to the factual and objective discussions on Palestine-Israel conflict within the NTNU / Violation, but said it is very unfortunate if the institutions unilaterally give its unconditional support to one of the parties in conflict. In our view, speaks the following arguments for the boycott proposal should be rejected:

- NTNU / HiST's primary role to engage in research and education, not to bring their own foreign policy. Choosing side in difficult political issues will give the impression that we are less objective and factual. This cuts across the university's role as a gathering place for a wide spectrum of different thoughts and ideas.

- To be associated with a controversial stance in such a difficult conflict will have negative consequences for the NTNU / Violation internationally. Do we really want to be known as the first Western universities who are in favor of an academic boycott of Israel?

- Also within the NTNU / HiST there are different opinions about this conflict, and a boycott decision would therefore seem divisive and non-inclusive. Even we who write under this petition has different views on how the conflict should be resolved.

- It is unclear whether the NTNU / HiST have considered all the legal issues that may result from a possible boycott decision. What funds are institutions willing to apply to scientists who defy the boycott? Will they be able to move from pay or be dismissed?

- We do not believe that such a decision will contribute to a peaceful solution to the conflict, but rather to more polarization.

. - NTNU will only lose by cutting off from the scientific contacts and cooperation with various international outstanding academic environments that exist in Israel.

- If the NTNU / Violation boycotting Israel, it is also very difficult to bring rational arguments for why we do not also boycott other nations that violate human rights in far worse ways. It follows that the institutions that need a continuous process where they use a boycott to highlight the position in other conflicts.

We request, therefore the boards at NTNU and HiST to reject the proposal for a boycott of Israel. Individuals at our universities must of course be able to engage in international conflicts, but it is unwise of the institutions as such to take sides. Our universities will lose more than we win on such a decision.

Over 1600 professors worldwide have also signed a petition against this proposal to boycott Israel at Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

It will be interesting to see whether the Norwegian haters have enough support to push through their anti-freedom agenda.