by Mona Baker | The Translator | November 2002
Editorial Statement (The Translator, Volume 8, No. 2, 2002)
Since April of this year, a number of petitions endorsing variant forms of an academic boycott against Israel have been signed by hundreds of academics across the world. On 16 April, the executive of the largest union of university teachers in Britain, NAFTHE (National Association for Teachers of Higher Education), resolved “that all UK institutions of higher and further education be urged immediately to review – with a view to severing – any academic links they may have with Israel. Such links should be restored only after full withdrawal of all Israeli forces, opening of negotiations to implement UN resolutions and the restoration of full access to all Palestinian HE and FE institutions”. Similar movements, including calls for divestment from Israel, have been gathering momentum on US and other campuses.
As a signatory to the ‘Call for a Boycott of Israeli Scientific Institutions’ and the ‘Call for European Boycott of Research and Cultural Links with Israel’ ((both available at www.pjpo.org), I undertook to follow through on this boycott. Thus, with regret, I asked for the resignation of Miriam Shlesinger (Bar-Ilan University) from The Translator and Gideon Toury (Tel-Aviv University) from Translation Studies Abstracts. When they chose not to resign, I had no choice but to remove them from the boards.
Without intending to summarize the full history of the boycott or of the public debate that surrounds it, I feel I owe it to the readers and subscribers of The Translator (and Translation Studies Abstracts) to define my position. The decision to join the academic boycott against Israel was undertaken without prior consultation or approval of the editorial board and the advisory board of The Translator, and without the approval of the editor and consultant editors of Translation Studies Abstracts. Of those who are currently on the advisory and editorial boards, some have firmly expressed their disagreement with the boycott. Others have declared their unqualified support for it. Still others are in two minds about it. Such disagreements on the boards exist despite widespread and even majority support for the Palestinian people, horror at the escalating violence in the Middle East, and belief that the current Israeli government carries a particularly heavy responsibility for the situation – and despite the fact that a growing number of Israeli academics seem to be of the same mind. The latter is evident in the urgent statement recently issued by over 190 Israeli academics, including Miriam Shlesinger and Gideon Toury, warning the international community that “the Israeli government may be contemplating crimes against humanity ... up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing”, and calling on all of us “to pay close attention to events that unfold within Israel and in the Occupied Territories, to make it absolutely clear that crimes against humanity will not be tolerated, and to take concrete measures to prevent such crimes from taking place” (http://www.indymedia.org.il/imc/israel/ webcast/37938.html).
It is solely affiliation to an Israeli institution (not nationality, let alone ethnic origin) that determines whether the boycott applies. For as long as the boycott is in place, no colleague affiliated to an Israeli institution can serve on the editorial board or the advisory board of The Translator or Translation Studies Abstracts. Similarly, The Translator will not publish articles or book reviews authored or co-authored by scholars affiliated to an Israeli institution. No conferences hosted or (co-)organized by an Israeli research institute will be announced in the conference diary.
Despite the impact of these political events now troubling the world and academe, the current members of the editorial board, the advisory board, and myself all pledge our efforts to ensure that The Translator and Translation Studies Abstracts will continue to live up to the highest standards of scholarly excellence.
Given the extreme nature of Israeli state policies, it is unavoidable that in pursuing the limited range of responses open to citizens around the world some amount of inconvenience and distress will be felt by Israelis who are not directly responsible for those policies. I want to express my regret for any such distress that my personal decision to adhere to the boycott may have caused. Yet, I am convinced that a greater good was and is served by my action and the boycott movement of which it is an expression.
23 October 2002