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Ido Hevroni Photo: Gidi Sharon
Ido Hevroni Photo: Gidi Sharon
 
 

Boycott a blessing in disguise

British 'intellectual embargo' may encourage Israelis to pursue new directions

Ido Hevroni
Published: 06.01.07, 21:50 / Israel Opinion

British academicians just recently decided to call for a boycott of Israeli academia, and already my mailbox has been bombarded by letters of condolences from colleagues abroad and infuriated manifestos from Israeli colleagues, as well as pamphlets urging me to join the protest against the boycott. Well, below are some responses to the plethora of material I received on the subject:

 

First, I would like to use this platform to send my sincere condolences to mourning Israeli academicians. But no need to worry, my friends - after all, the weather in England is not the best, and they are rather tightfisted when it comes to scholarships. I'm sure you'll do just fine without them.

 

Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate some overjoyed far-left Israeli academicians, headed by Professor Moshe Zimmerman, Dr. Ilan Pappe, and their colleagues: Congratulations, dear colleagues, you succeeded big time.

 

You managed to make the world hate us, you managed to completely twist the truth regarding our difficult battle with Palestinian murderers, and you managed to find a scapegoat for a world that sees fit to ignore the genocide in Darfur, the cutting off of hands in Saudi Arabia, and executions in the Palestinian Authority. Perhaps now you will even get a tempting offer from a leading Islamic college. When we have the opportunity, I'll be glad to meet with you for a talk regarding freedom of speech, its boundaries, and manner of enforcing it.

 

Thirdly, personally I'm not moved by the by the boycott call. I do not mean to underestimate the value or achievements of British academia, but I don't care about it. When those entrusted with freedom of thought and human research fail to grasp how distorted their ideas are as a result of a mental illness, known as anti-Semitism, there is nothing left to do but feel sorry for them.

 

Ancient Jewish treasures

And as to the subjects of the boycott, Israeli academicians: I hope that just like the ancient embargo on selling arms to Israel constituted a catalyst for developing unique Israeli inventions, this "intellectual embargo" would stimulate Israeli academia to turn to more independent intellectual avenues that are less about currying favor with Western academic fashions.

 

I'm not talking about the areas of technological and scientific research, where Israeli academicians are already among the leaders in the field, but rather, the humanities. I hope that the exposure of the foolish motives of British "intellectuals" may turn more Israeli intellectuals to deal with ancient Jewish treasures that, in my view, contain possibilities for intellectual and cultural revival that our society needs today more than ever.

 

And no, I'm not preaching here for an end to the productive dialogue between Jewish thought and Western thought, or between Jewish thinkers and non-Jewish intellectuals (who are still willing to talk to us,) but rather, for boosting the status of the Jewish tradition within our cultural, legal, and moral discourse, due to a conviction that Judaism contributed much and can still contribute much to shaping the universal spirit of humanity.

 

Dr. Hevroni researches literature of the Talmudic period and is a fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem Center

 

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