by Chris West | Student Direct | 30 September 2002
"The actions of the Israeli Government justifies the boycott" Says Chris West from Friends of Palestine
Professor Mona Baker has come under fire for dismissing two Israeli academics from unpaid positions on the board of her small translation journal. UMIST have strongly criticised this move saying, "Discrimination is unacceptable, the Israeli academics should not have been removed". Prof. Baker has found herself with an uncertain future while an internal investigation takes place.
Prof. Baker has made it clear the dismissal wasn't a matter of race or hatred. In fact she was friends with Miriam Shlesinger and Gideon Toury. Both academics were dismissed because they were attached to Israeli institutions, Bar-Ilan and Tel-Aviv Universities, as part of a larger academic boycott of Israel. Stephen and Hilary Rose, both Jewish academics, initiated the boycott because of the sustained military occupation of the Palestinian territories and human rights violations committed by the Israeli forces. They see their actions as a moral gesture, to draw attention to the issue. The boycott is part of a growing campaign to awaken Israelis to the ugly and destructive reality of their 35 year long occupation of Palestine. They believe we can no longer continue to cooperate with official Israeli institutions, including universities. Palestinian suffering has finally begun to break through the Israeli Government's protestations of innocence. World conscience is preparing to acknowledge an illegal occupation where an Israeli-Zionist conquest is attempting to wipe out the Arab presence from Palestine to make room for Jewish settlers. The dispossession of the Palestinians has involved war, ethnic cleansing, massacre, destruction of villages, the killing and maiming of children, and torture of prisoners. Even journalists have been targeted during the campaign. Academics willing to speak out against these abhorrent activities are targeted with venom. The hate-mail campaign directed against Professor Baker is just one example. There is the issue that an academic boycott curtails academic freedom, the essence of research and teaching. But the traditional spirit of academia is that intellectual responsibility includes the safeguarding of moral principles. The international community has the right to decide that it does not support institutions of societies that divert blatantly from these principles, and to engage in economic and academic boycotts like those instrumental in ending the Apartheid regime in South Africa. It is a peaceful means of putting pressure on an oppressive regime that has worked in the past, and God willing, will work again. With the prospect of war on Iraq over the defiance of UN resolutions (Israel is, incidentally, in defiance of 69 UN resolutions) we must be prepared for an increase in the number of the crimes the Sharon government is committing in the occupied territories, as the media diverts its attention to the American-led `crusade'. Sympathetic students are organising and attending a rally in London on September 28th, planned by a coalition of Muslim and non-Muslim groups. Along with a growing number of student leaders, we are gathering to call for an end to the brutal occupation of Palestine. Mona Baker was simply a supporter making her voice heard in the academic world.