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06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

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September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011




Limits to academic freedom?


Should Universities Discipline Faculty Members for Calling for an Academic Boycott of Their Own Institution?

Jeremiah Haber, 02 August 2010

Recently, Gideon, Sa’ar, the Israeli Minister of Education, Moshe Kaveh, the President of Bar Ilan University, and Amnon Rubinstein, the emeritus Tel-Aviv law professor, have held that university faculty members who endorse the academic boycott of Israeli universitities should be disciplined. According to Prof. Kaveh, they should even be fired. Opposing this position, Tel Aviv law professor Chaim Gans argues in today’s Haaretz that endorsements of the boycott should be protected under academic freedom and freedom of speech. His arguments are familiar and should convince any person whose moral compass hasn’t been thrown out of kilter by the current climate of jingoism. But there is one argument that he does not address, the “employee-damage” argument. It goes like this: When an employee calls for a boycott of his place of employment, his disloyalty causes real damage; hence, an employer should be able to discipline the employee, or even fire him.

The employee-damage argument should not be confused with the argument that it is unethical to criticize one’s place of employment, “to spit in the well from which you drink.” Faculty members are sometimes disciplined for ethical breaches, but what faculty member doesn’t criticize his institution? When the president of Bar Ilan university says, “Someone who criticizes the place where he works is ethically obliged to resign,” he dooms his own university into oblivion. Trust me, I was a tenured professor at Bar Ilan, and I know.

Still, even the employee-damage argument is very weak. A hundred Israeli faculty members calling for an academic boycott of their institutions do less damage than the thousands of Israeli academics who regularly strike for better pay. The latter causes real suffering to students and often harm their institutions. The right to strike, indeed, the unionization of faculty members, is recognized in Israel, but in most universities in the United States it is not. There is nothing sacrosanct about it, or, for that matter, about academic tenure. Many, especially in non-democratic countries, argue that faculty members who don’t like their pay should shut up or look for a different job. But in Israel that argument is rejected. So it cannot be the mere fact of damage, or intended damage, that gets you in trouble; that could be used as a blanket argument to suppress any criticism, much less, job actions.

If you think that the analogy to striking faculty is far-fetched, consider a different scenario: A conservative government wishes to cut government spending and targets subsidies to its public universities. At a sensitive juncture in the public debate, a French professor who is philosophically a laissez-faire capitalist, publishes an op-ed endorsing the government proposals, arguing that the universities are already bloated by public funding, and that this is bad for society at large. The university administration and many of her colleagues are appalled by this disloyalty; indeed, one of them makes the argument that she is not protected by academic freedom because she teaches French and not economics. And to make matters worth, the Finance Minister appeals to the professor’s op-ed in his speech before the Parliament, which approves the cuts. Now the professor is certainly being critical of and disloyal to her institution, with detrimental effect. Should she be disciplined?

Well, of course not. Faculty, like other employees, may be disciplined for being derelict in their duties. But it is a very big stretch to say that writing an op-ed, or signing a petition, makes one derelict. Employees should be protected from that sort of retaliation from the employer, and academic faculty, even when not speaking in their field of specialization, should feel free to speak without fear of retaliation.

The real damage to Israeli universities when their faculty members of a given university endorse the academic boycott against Israel is not from the boycotters but from the angry Jewish donors, who threaten to terminate their gifts. Such was the case with Neve Gordon at Ben Gurion University, and with Anat Matar at Tel Aviv University, one of whose donors, I am told, promptly announced that he was transferring his gift from Tel-Aviv University to Bar Ilan University. In this context one should understand the remarks of the Bar Ilan president. The proper response of the Bar Ilan faculty to Prof. Kaveh’s interference in their free speech and their rights as employees is to sign a statement against him, and to do it as quickly as possible.

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