by Helena Flusfeder | Times Higher Education Supplement | 19 July 2002
A leading Israeli dissident scholar may join an international boycott of his country's academic community in protest against last week's closure of the East Jerusalem offices of the president of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh.
Baruch Kimmerling, of the Hebrew University's department of sociology, has so far deplored the boycott as a scandal. But this week he said he would reconsider unless his university or other Israeli academic institutions condemned the closures of Professor Nusseibeh's and other Al-Quds administrative offices.
He said: "I can't take a position as a professor. I have students from all spectrums of politics, and all of them are my students. It must be a debate out of the classroom. There must be a strict separation between my political views and my research and teaching."
If he changed his mind, Professor Kimmerling would be lending tacit support to the sacking of two Israeli academics from journals owned by a professor at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.
In protest against Israeli actions in Palestine, Mona Baker, professor of translation studies at Umist, dismissed from the boards of two journals that she owns Miriam Shlesinger, of Bar-Ilan University, and Gideon Toury, of Tel Aviv University.
A handful of Israeli academics who disagree with their government's policies believe that a boycott may be one of the few effective ways of pressing the government to change. Ilan Pappe, senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa, said his university had just five leftwing lecturers among a total of 900. "Of 9,000 Israeli academics, 70 to 80 are willing to criticise the government. There is a sense of consensus at a time of war.
"If I lose a proposal from the European Union because of my call for sanctions against Israeli academic institutions, I would say it is a small price to pay compared to the alternative: Syrian missiles on Tel Aviv or civil war."