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Tel Aviv University
[TAU] Psychoactive group website promotes BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions), refers to article by Uri Hadar supporting "qualified boycott"

Psychoactive held it's second conference at TAU on 21 of Feb. 2010.

Uri Hadar, PhD, Associate Professor, Psychology. Webpage: http://freud.tau.ac.il/Home_Pages/UriHadar/
Email:
uri-h@freud.tau.ac.il

 

http://www.psychoactive.org.il/108771/BDS

'Psychoactive' website refers his readers to an article supporting BDS by Uri Hadar

  חרם? BDS? Boycott?

במהלך פברואר 2010 החל דיון פורה וסוער ברשימת הדיוור של הקבוצה סביב השאלה של הלגיטימיות, התועלת וכן הנזק שטמון בהטלת חרם (מסוג זה או אחר) וסנקציות כלכליות (ואחרות) על ישראל. נשמעו קולות מצדדים, וקולות מתנגדים... במהלך ההתכתבויות הענפות נשלחו מספר הפניות למאמרים שדנים בנושא...

 Not So Simple: Reflections on the Academic Boycott on Israel
(Appeared in Radical Philosophy, May-June issue, 2004) See the article below

כתבה על ביקורה של ג'ודית בטלר בארץ ותמיכתה בחרם (בעקבות דיון ברשימת הדיוור): 
 Judith Butler's boycott call

www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1149095.html

תשובות לשאלות נפוצות אודות תנועת ה-בי.די.אס מתוך אתר הארגון:    Q & A on Boycott

 http://boycottisrael.info/content/שאלות-ותשובות 

 

כנס פסיכואקטיב  "בעקבות הצעת החוק לאיסור ציון הנכבה: דיון בטראומה, זיכרון, ושכחה התקיים ב- 21.2 באוניברסיטת תל אביב.  לפניכם הקלטת וידאו של הכנס במלואו.

http://video.tau.ac.il/Lectures/Social_Sciences/Psychology/2010/21_02/
  

 

http://www.psychoactive.org.il/image/users/108771/ftp/my_files/Articles/TheAcademicBoycottOnIsrael.pdf?id=3323460

 Not So Simple: Reflections on the Academic Boycott on Israel
Uri Hadar
Department of Psychology
Tel Aviv University
Appeared in Radical Philosophy, May-June issue, 2004
In the culture in which I have been brought up, in the language that mediated this culture,
“boycott” had a distinctly negative connotation. It has been usually associated with a
moralistic punishment directed towards an individual or a group who have transgressed a
norm without, perhaps, actually breaking the law. Admittedly, boycott was opposed to a
bare use of physical power, it acted in the name of morality, but it always anchored itself
in a norm. It was, in that precise sense, never on the radical side of culture. In addition,
the Hebrew for boycott- /herem/- like its Arabic cousin- /haram/- may associate with a
whole range of moral punishments (the Arabic word stresses sanctity), but its verbal
form- /lehahrim/- stands explicitly for material dispossession, usually of forbidden goods
(the Arabic word connects to this theme by deriving theft and stealing). It thus espouses a
morality that is associated with property rights rather than human solidarity.
The instances of boycott that came to my mind in thinking up this commentary were
those of the excommunication by the Jewish community of Amsterdam of Spinoza and
his less known immediate predecessor- Uriel Acosta- who engraved himself on my
teenage memory by carrying my first name (as well as by his ambivalent character and
tragic end). Then there were all kinds of cultural bans of books and people by oppressive
or blind regimes. The economic sanction of Iraq by the US-led coalition brought me to
the present time-frame, but did not score much better for emotional valence. Of course,
there was the boycott of South Africa, remarkable for both reason and impact, but I doubt
that it changes the general ambience of either the word or the concept. Boycott was still
essentially blind and moralistic, but the SA episode suffices to make the point that there
may be historical conditions that warrant a boycott, unpleasant as it may be. The question
is whether the current situation in Israel-Palestine is of such a nature and if it is- whether
the specific form that calls for an academic boycott, in the absence of a wider economic
and cultural boycott, is supportable.
It is, to my mind, a cognitive travesty to endeavor to completely answer the general
question of which conditions warrant a boycott. It involves a measuring of suffering for
which I lack the emotional tools. My perception of the occupation is that the conditions
that Israel imposes on millions of Palestinians, with no basic human and civil rights, in
extreme economic degradation and with persistent killing of innocent people justify a
boycott. They justify a statement by the civilized world of its utter condemnation of these
imperturbable Israeli practices, continuing now for over 35 years. Those who will
necessarily suffer from the boycott, the Israeli people, have repeatedly and
democratically decided to perpetrate the occupation: we have honestly earned whatever
consequences may befall us in this respect (although there will be some thousands in the
position of innocent bystanders). In addition, the international community has repeatedly
asserted that the Israeli occupation violates its norms.

A complete commercial and economic boycott can be very effective in bringing Israel
into line with these international norms.
Israel’s economy is all but dependent on external
economies, especially that of the USA, and Israeli public opinion would probably not
allow a serious regression of material living conditions. Alas, in the crucial discourse of
American politics, the idea of a ban on trade with Israel is inconceivable. It is, of course,
doubtful that mainstream American political thinking will ever view the Israeli
occupation in ways that could lead to a general boycott. According to some, the
occupation is essentially a testing ground for strategies of regional domination that the
USA is interested in developing, rather than ending. Therefore, as far as one can see, the
boycott enterprise can only hope to disseminate a moral message, express a moral distaste
with Israeli occupation, rather than be physically effective. I believe it is against this
background that the academic boycott needs to be considered. The first question that
arises here is why single out Israeli academia as the target of a boycott? After all, the
most obvious targets for a moral condemnation are those institutions that are more
directly involved with the machinery of Israeli oppression of Palestinians: the army, the
forces of internal security, governmental ministries, etc. However, since the call for a
boycott comes from academic and arts circles, it can not be effectively exercised against
governmental institutions. They (we) have few dealings with those institutions and such
boycotting would be void of practical delivery. Generally, it makes sense to promote
those forms of action that best realize the potential of international academia to have an
impact. But even this principle has to target institutions that can be seen to connect with
the Israeli machinery of oppression. It makes no sense to earmark for boycotting Israeli
hospitals or social services, for example. So, here we face the crucial question regarding
the academic boycott: Can Israeli academia be seen to be tied up with the oppressive
Israeli machinery with sufficient clarity to warrant the call for a boycott? The answer to
this is not simple.
The army has its obvious links with academia. Firstly, almost every university has a
department or an institute of strategic studies, where detailed research is conducted into
diverse military matters, much of which is used by the army. However, strategic studies
and military history are recognized and legitimate academic disciplines and it requires
some extra arguments to condemn these enterprises. Of course, if one could show that the
army influences the directions of research in these programs, directly or indirectly, that
would be very pertinent to our object here, but I am not aware of any study that took up
this case with any detail. Secondly, some academic research is funded by the ministry of
defense. I do not know the extent of this and have a feeling that it is much more extensive
than what we can readily see. Again, I think that the investigation of this matter is an
important undertaking, but I am not aware of this having been done. Still, consider the
research I know of, say, into the mechanisms and epidemiology of Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD). Is its funding by the ministry of defense ethically problematic? Should
conscientious researchers refuse such funding? Or is it only research that is more directly
related to military operational capacity that should be condemned or boycotted and then,
irrespective of how it is funded? Thirdly, it is of much importance here to consider more
generally the role that academia plays in the militarization of Israeli culture. This issue
has many more facets than I can hope to examine, but let me look at the extent to which
high-ranking military people are in decision-making positions with regard to higher
education and, therefore, have the ability to promote the status of those who are dear to
them. Compared to national and municipal politics, as well as to business and industry,
which is saturated by high ranking officers (perhaps with the exclusion of the banking
and legal sectors), the universities are effectively officers-free. This probably does not
result from a determination on the part of academia to remain free of military influence,
but still, few other establishments that channel power in Israel are as free of military
influence as are the universities. This point is not self evident and does not originate only
in career structures. Currently the government pursues a very aggressive program of
restructuring university management. The running proposals are that all appointments
from the level of deans upward would be totally controlled by governing bodies that have
a clear majority of non-academic personnel (say, civil servants). If successful- which they
may well be- these changes will open up universities to an unprecedented level of
influence of politicians and the military (whose long-term impact is downright
frightening).
In Israel, like everywhere else, the academy provides considerable professional support
for governmental institutions, especially legal, educational, diplomatic and economic
institutions (incidentally, again, the ministry of defense is virtually professor-free). While
I doubt that in Israel the level of engagement of academic personnel in governmental
projects exceeds what is considered normal in the industrialized world, this involvement
may nevertheless provide the ultimate argument in favor of the academic boycott.
Universities are an inherent part of a state’s power structure and as such the evils of the
state policies, in turn, project back on to them. The only way in which academics can
steer clear of such projection is by actively resisting the evils of their state power. To me
this is a basic principle of academic morality, if there is such a thing. Academics have
considerable benefits from their share in state power: A fine working environment, a
reasonable and secure income, privileged pension schemes, tenures, privileged access to
the media, etc. The only way in which they can extricate themselves from the evils of state
power is to actively resist it. But does the Israeli academia take on this imperative?
Again, the answer is not simple.
Let me start from an illustration of academic contribution to the evils of Israeli
occupation that is probably the most baffling of which I am aware. It is so saturated with
paradoxes that even its description is conceptually taxing. It features a well known Israeli
philosopher, a logician by training and reputation, who was, and for all I know, still is,
against the Israeli occupation. Yet, he has been pivotal in writing the ultimate text that
serves to render military practices morally kosher, a text known as the army’s ethical
code. In promoting and popularizing the ethical code, he gives soldiers advice (in various
media) on when it is and when it is not ethical to open fire on human targets. He develops
semi-philosophical arguments in favor of targeted killings of Palestinians and tries to
formalize the ethically affordable level of injury to innocent bystanders. Here a lack of
active resistance to state power is, to my mind, taken to its limits and beyond. Space
limitations do not allow me to bring more examples here, so let me just formulate the
following cautious statement: Israeli campuses have so far been remarkably quiet, not
only with regard to the occupation, the violation of civil rights in the territories, the
economic and human degradation of Palestinians, etc., but also regarding the persistent
undermining of Palestinian higher education. This is particularly poignant considering
that the Roses’ petition in support of the academic boycott has stirred hundreds of Israeli
academics to write angry letters to their colleagues and sign a counter petition on the
pretext that the boycott violates academic freedom... So marked was the absence of an
academic voice against the occupation, that the drive to mobilize academics towards such
activities called itself “The Campus is not Silent”. Not that there is no activity on the
campuses- in fact there is quite a lot of it, be it meetings, demonstrations, petitions,
lectures and debates- but it remains within the confines of a small margin (the majority of
faculty and students have no idea about these activities and many have not heard at all of
“The Campus is not Silent”. Silence, it seems, can take its own subversive measures).
Yet, viewed from the angle of those anti-occupation activities that take place on a day-today
basis in Israel- marginal as they may be- academics play a central role in them. They
take leading positions in such organizations as Checkpoint Watch, Ta’ayush, Betselem,
and others. And perhaps most remarkably, they offer the widest and most consistent
support for the most radical resistance movement in the Jewish community, namely, the
refusal of military service in the occupied territories. A couple of years ago, about 350
faculty signed the letter in support of selective objection (facing the call for legal action
against them by the minister of education). This level of support is far from being state
shattering, but it is also far from leaving the task of resistance to a numbered few (as
these numbered few sometimes hasten to claim).
Many departmental sectors in Israeli
universities- notably, in my perception, those of philosophy, linguistics, mathematics (!),
history, psychology, various arts and cultural studies – breed a considerable level of antioccupation activism.
Again, none of this is terribly remarkable, but it suffices to make me feel that I can not support an academic boycott that is not qualified in a serious manner
Qualified in the sense that it is 1- well researched and argued (as suggested above), 2-
selective and targets those sectors of the academy that are most directly connected with
either Israeli state power or symbols of that power (hi-tech research is what comes to my
mind) and 3- responsive to and able to make allowances for anti-occupation activity
within or by the academy.
Only a call for an academic boycott that would be detailed in
this manner stands a chance
, to my mind, of circumventing the inherent blindnesses of
boycotting.
Finally, I wish to note the special considerations that face the Israeli activist in publicly
supporting the academic boycott. Many of her fellow activists will be especially sensitive
and resistant to this idea. When the 1st FFIPP conference against the occupation (see
www.ffipp.org) proposed to (academically) discuss the academic boycott, this sufficed to
stir an angry reaction from within the circles of “The Campus is not Silent”. Some
colleagues had decided not to attend the conference because of that. Public support for
the boycott will alienate many fellow activists and put obstacles in the wheels of antioccupation
activities. In these days, when demonstrators against the separation wall are
being shot at with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers, the Israeli activist must ask herself
whether the academic boycott enterprise is of such a high priority as to risk the
weakening of other crucial and urgent activities.

 
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