Fighting against a superior enemy may very well be an admirable endeavor. In the case of the call for boycott of Israel at NTNU it is only a cowardly and shameful illustration of how Israel-bashing has become axiomatic in Norway. The NTNU academics now protesting against boycott are an exception to the rule. They are joined in their protest by the Russell group of the UK, which includes management staff from Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics.
Russell Group Statement on proposals for an academic boycott of Israel
“The Russell Group universities will uphold academic freedom by standing firm against any boycott that threatens it.”
06 November 2009
Commenting on the proposal for an academic boycott of Israel by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor Michael Arthur, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds and Chair of the Russell Group of Universities, said the Group’s position had been made clear in 2007 when an academic boycott of Israel by UK universities was proposed by the University and College Union. Professor Arthur would like to reiterate what the then chair, Prof Malcolm Grant, said:
“We reject outright the call for an academic boycott. It is a contradiction in terms and in direct conflict with the mission of a university. It betrays a misunderstanding of the academic mission which is founded squarely on freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech. Any institution worthy of the title of university has the responsibility to protect these values, and it is particularly disturbing to find an academic union attacking academic freedom in this way.
It is a sad but unavoidable fact that NTNU rector Torbjørn Digernes ushered in the proposal to boycott by applauding the Israel-critical seminar series preceding it. He was, understandably, unable to stand up against the Palestine-lobby. Yet does this excuse him for bearing the consequences?