Sunday, May 14, 2006

My anti-blacklist letter to NATFHE

This follows up two recent items, Academic Freedom Alert - Oppose the Blacklisting of Israeli Academics and, most specifically, Please write a letter to oppose possible NATFHE blacklist (StandWithUs).

For what it's worth, I just e-mailed the letter below to the officers of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE). I attached copies for the officers of the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which is due to merge with NATFHE in a unified British faculty association.

=> I hope that those of you who oppose the idea of academic blacklists will also write letters to NATFHE making your concerns known. This is important! (I know that some of you receiving this have already written letters to NATFHE opposing this blacklist proposal, and I commend you for it.)

=> Also, if you have not yet signed the PETITION to oppose this new blacklist proposal linked to in Academic Freedom Alert - Oppose the Blacklisting of Israeli Academics, and if you are an academic, a graduate student, or a scholar of any other kind, then please sign it.

Jeff Weintraub
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Please oppose a blacklist of Israeli academics
Date: Sun, 14 May 2006 11:15:56 -0400
From: Jeff Weintraub

To: Officers and Members of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE)

I am dismayed to learn that a proposal has been made for NATFHE to endorse a blacklist of Israeli academics. Like the measures briefly adopted by the AUT in 2005, the proposed NATFHE Resolution 198C is misleadingly framed as a call for a "boycott" of Israeli scholars, but I am afraid that the honest term with which to describe a practice of this sort is an academic blacklist. The explicit political test it would entail makes it a direct and unambiguous assault on the most fundamental principles of academic freedom.

As you know, the 2005 AUT blacklist was repealed by the AUT membership. While it was in force, it was publicly condemned by a range of major academic and scholarly associations as a violation of the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange. These included the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), the American Political Science Association (APSA), the New York Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. A petition I circulated to Oppose the Blacklist of Israeli Academics was signed by over 5,000 people from around the world, including a large number of prominent scholars.

This widespread condemnation was both appropriate and heartening, because the issues at stake are not restricted to Britain and Israel. An assault on the central principles of academic freedom is a threat to all of us. And for academics themselves to endorse the blacklisting of other academics is especially dangerous and reprehensible. If we make it clear that we don't take the idea of academic freedom seriously, why should we expect anyone else to take it seriously?

Now this pernicious and indefensible proposal has been resurrected by some members of NATFHE--in a form that is, remarkably enough, even more offensive and dangerous than last year's AUT resolutions. I hope you will reject it decisively and unambiguously.

Yours for academic freedom & political sanity,
Jeff Weintraub
(University of Pennsylvania, USA)