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Friday, February 11, 2011

It's about time!

A British physician and medical school professor has written a letter to Tel Aviv University urging it to discipline two of its professors who signed onto a letter calling on an Irish author not to accept a prize from the State of Israel, and calling for support of the BDS (boycott-divest-sanction) movement.
Prof. Stuart Stanton, president of the British Society of Urogynecology and chairman of Hadassah UK, wrote to TAU rector Prof. Aron Shai and president Prof. Yossi Klafter after Prof. Rachel Giora and Dr. Anat Matar, along with 10 other Israeli activists, wrote a letter that was published in the Guardian, calling for British author Ian McEwan to turn down the Jerusalem Prize.

McEwan is set to receive the prize, Israel’s highest literary honor for foreign writers, at a ceremony at the Jerusalem International Book Fair on February 20.

The letter also reiterated support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.


Stanton – a visiting professor in Hadassah’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Department who goes to Jerusalem to teach, consult and operate on a voluntary basis – said in his letter that with academic freedom comes responsibility, and that if the two lecturers had been working for a public or private company, they would have been suspended.

“Academic freedom is not just a privilege and a right, but it also entails a responsibility, and you must be painfully aware that many Jews, myself included, find this public call by other Israelis, particularly lecturers from your university, for boycott divestment and sanctions, utterly unacceptable and degrading,” he said.

Calling for the university “to take a stand,” he stated, “It is hard for me to understand how you will continue to employ them [the lecturers], and compromise and prejudice the name of your university. Their actions are totally counterproductive to fundraising for your university abroad, particularly in the UK.

“I hope you will give consideration to taking disciplinary action against them and look forward to hearing from you,” he said.

"We are firmly against BDS in all its forms, but there is something particularly insidious in calling on writers and thinkers, and academics for that matter, to participate in boycotts,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “Closed minds are not the solution to the problems in the region."
What Dr. Stanton is calling for is what common sense would dictate. Unfortunately, common sense is in short supply in most of Israel's universities.

Both Giora and Matar have a long history of this sort of behavior (some of which is set out at the link), but I'd be very surprised to see Tel Aviv University take any action against them.

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