Who benefits from EU-Israel academic cooperation?
David Cronin, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2011


Although I’m currently unimpressed by the content of Ali Abunimah’s objections to Chomsky, empirical evidence is relevant to assessing whether the boycott is justified, and here’s a whole bunch of it (there’s even more in the Alternative Information Center’s report on Israeli universities and the Occupation, available here, and which I’ve not yet read).

The problem will be: mere fact of university involvement in sustaining the Occupation and Israel’s massive arms trade will not be enough to warrant a general boycott without also warranting a general boycott of most other universities. And what fault is it of a philosopher in Tel Aviv university, or in LSE, if other institutions are contributing to violent oppression? –But perhaps they are at fault.


About B.B.

I'm based in York.
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4 Responses to

  1. Unknown Source says:

    Just out of curiosity- why is empirical evidence relevant in determining the justification for a boycott? Surely, in this case at least, the only thing empirical evidence informs is the practical efficacy of a boycott, not its moral justification?

    • B.B. says:

      Here I mean empirical evidence that the institutions boycotted (in this case the universities) do have a relevant connection to the oppression. Electronic Intifada and others argue that large swathes of Israeli intellectual production is directed towards military purposes, or towards justifying or effacing Israeli treatment of Palestinians. This raises an empirical question, since if as a matter of fact they’re not doing this (or, if no more of them are than in another militaristic state which I’m not complaining about) then there’s a problem in boycotting them.

      If it turned out that the degree of direct connection is low, a boycott might still be warranted through appealing to collective guilt or the academics failure to live up to their responsibility to take action on injustice close at hand — though that’s a hell of a thing to accuse someone of, and carries a huge danger of hypocrisy.

      • Vista Humanista says:

        I see. Chomsky, as ever, had a couple of useful things to say on the matter; firstly, that “it is the responsibility of the intellectuals to speak truth and expose lies” but secondly, he goes further by saying that “you can control history as long as you have a submissive intellectual class”.

        Although he was talking about the West and US involvement with Israel/Palestine, it is perhaps something that is applicable here. If it is the case that Israeli intellectuals are on the whole contributing to or justifying oppression then it is surely because they have been told to or else there is no apparent alternative. This is not said to absolve them of responsibility, just to provide a case for duress.

        I’m still not keen to tar all intellectuals in a society with the same brush; some physics students graduate in England and go into weapons technology, whilst others graduate and work in health. There will always be those who graduate and enter ‘the dark arts’ and you’re right it poses a high risk of hypocrisy to judge another country for that. Yet I am inclined to believe that it is more common in Israel because of factors operating outside the control of the submissive intellectual class and so would propose giving the benefit of your doubt.

        How does one boycott a university anyway?

  2. B.B. says:

    Hang on – I don’t follow the logic here.

    “If it is the case that Israeli intellectuals are on the whole contributing to or justifying oppression then it is surely because they have been told to or else there is no apparent alternative. ”

    There seem to be many more options than ‘they have been told to’ or ‘there is no apparent alternative’. I have a suspicion that you’re treating Chomsky’s term ‘control’ too literally. He’s all about measures of control that are non-coercive, and even non-agent-based. That could make a difference here — but: my dinner’s ready. Gottago.

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