A few months ago, heads of the Israeli universities have told President Reuven Rivlin that, along with overt boycott, there were cases of unofficial, gray boycott. Not an entirely new phenomenon, gray boycott has been practiced by individual scholars who took it upon themselves to hold their Israeli colleagues accountable for the policies of the government. As IAM reported, in some instances, there was an outright refusal to cooperate, consider papers for publication and rejection of panel proposals for conferences.
The new crop of cases is a mixture of the old and new. For instance, an Israeli professor was told that she could not participate in a panel unless she denounces the occupation. In another instance an Israeli academic was asked to withdraw from a project because a Lebanese scholar stated that, under the terms of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) she was not allowed to appear in any forum which included Israeli scholars.
The recent cases of gray boycott are relatively easy to detect because the initiating party has provided a clear statement. As already noted, the more difficult gray boycotts are the ones in which editors, conference organizers or other academic actors reject papers or panel proposals on seemingly academic grounds. Because academic institutions and individual faculty enjoy broad freedom, such cases are hard to prove.
A New Unofficial Boycott Against Israeli Academics May Be Underway
Academic told participation in conference conditioned on her denouncing the occupation.
Judy Maltz Sep 10, 2015
Several recent cases of Israeli academics being singled out for discriminatory treatment by colleagues overseas have sparked concerns among university leaders in the country.
In one case, an attempt was made to ban a professor from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from a conference held in South Africa unless she delivered a statement there denouncing the Israeli occupation.
The conference, organized by the International Society of Critical Health Psychology, was held in mid-July at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. The ultimatum, drafted by a senior academic at the hosting university, was ultimately rejected by the academic association. Nonetheless, the Israeli academic, who had been targeted and said she would have refused to comply had it been approved, did not end up attending the conference after being warned that her participation might touch off anti-Israel protests on campus. The Israeli academic requested that her name not be published.
The professor from Rhodes who initiated action against her withdrew from the conference as well, after his proposal was blocked.
Zvi Ziegler, a retired Technion mathematics professor who heads a new inter-university forum to combat the academic boycott, said he could not recall any other case of Israeli professors being threatened with such an ultimatum.
“It is very similar, though, to the recent incident we had with Matisyahu, who was initially told he could only participate in a music festival if he would denounce the occupation,” said Ziegler.
In another incident, a request by two Israeli scientists to obtain a sample of an antiserum referred to in an academic paper was rejected by its author, a professor of biology at the University of Bordeaux in France, because of their nationality. In his response to their request, he wrote: “As long as I see no serious effort made by your home country to achieve peace with those who lived in Palestine before the present population arrived I will not send you any antisera.”
In wake of the incident, the president of the Israeli university where the two researchers are employed sent a protest letter to his counterpart at the University of Bordeaux.
“We received a reply from him that a special disciplinary committee has been set up to investigate the matter,” reported Ziegler. “We have also approached the editors of the journal in which his article was published because his behavior appears to be a blatant violation of accepted academic norms.”
In a third case, an Israeli professor was recently informed that he had been disinvited from participating in an international research effort based at Florida International University because one of the team members was a Lebanese academic who could face penalties in her country if it were discovered that she was collaborating with an Israeli scholar.
“This case is reminiscent of the old-style Arab boycott of years ago,” Ziegler said. “We believe this could even be a violation of American law and have therefore involved the Anti-Defamation League in this particular case.”
These cases are the latest signs of what university leaders have described as the “latent” or unofficial boycott of Israeli academics by their peers abroad. Other signs, previously reported, include turning down invitations to attend conferences held in Israel, ignoring requests to write recommendation letters for Israeli scholars seeking promotions, and rejecting submissions from Israeli scholars in peer-reviewed journals. In such cases, however, typically no reason is provided for the action, and it is, therefore, difficult to prove that Israeli nationality or affiliation was the cause.
Despite these recent cases, Ziegler said it was still premature to talk of an escalation in the unofficial boycott.