Sergei Yakovenko's blog: on Math and Teaching

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Petition for boycott of an Israeli college

Filed under: opinion — Sergei Yakovenko @ 5:18

Today we learned about yet another petition calling for the academic boycott of the College (University Center) of Judea and Samaria in Ariel. While neither the full text of the petition nor the complete list of signatories is  publicly available*, the excerpts published in the newspapers suffice to grasp the spirit of the petition, which calls to de-legitimization of Israeli scientists and teachers based on the geographic location of their college on the disputed land.

The phenomenon is not new, and calls for academic boycott of Israeli universities and schools are periodically launched on various occasions and without any pretext at all. This time the petition is trumpeted as being initiated and signed by representatives of natural sciences, which allegedly adds more credibility to the claim. This implicit allegation makes it impossible for me to remain silent.

Neither spreading hatred and discord, not contamination of knowledge with emotions and prejudiced stance is beneficial to the society or science. On behalf of those who share these seemingly obvious points, I wish to express regret about such actions of our colleagues. In my view, academic degrees and ranks, even the highest prizes, do not make their bearers immune to errors of judgment.  However, these decorations can dangerously misled the society on the validity of the erroneous conclusions.

As someone who on a couple of occasions was refused a handshake by a foreign colleague for simply being an Israeli, I find it most disgusting to learn that similar discrimination is advocated by my fellow colleagues, some of whom I deeply respect for their great achievements. On behalf of all scientists who think that scientific boycott is an obscenity pure and simple, I apologize before those who feel offended by the petition of 155. I promise that I will do my best to support the research of my colleagues in Ariel, if only to correct the wrongdoing.

*Update 13.01.2011: the list can be found here (in Hebrew).

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