The Academic Boycott of Israel

 Timeline of events for April - December 2002  

April 2002

Saturday, 6

Open letter signed by Steven and Hilary Rose and 123 other academics published in The Guardian calling for a European Union moratorium on funding for grants and research contracts for Israeli Universities. Within days the call becomes known as the academic boycott of Israel

Monday, 8:

Professor Mona Baker of UMIST, and owner and publisher of The Translator and Translation Studies Abstracts, emails her colleagues in the European Society for Translation Studies (EST) asking them to support the boycott. Dr Miriam Shlesinger replies explaining her opposition to the boycott.

Saturday, 13:

NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education) adopts a resolution calling for an academic boycott of Israel.

Monday, 15:

Call to boycott appears in Libération.

Thursday, 18:

The Independent publishes an article by Tom Wilson, head of the universities department of NATFHE, in which he calls for support of the boycott.

Tuesday, 23:

Philippe Busquin, European Union Commissioner for Research, releases a press statement opposing the boycott.  

May 2002

Thursday, 2:

The UK scientific magazine Nature publishes an editorial entitled Don't Boycott Israel's Scientists.

Thursday, 16: An article headlined Academia Split Over Boycott of Israel appears in The Daily Telegraph

Wednesday, 22:

Dr Leonid Ryzhik of the University of Chicago and 55 other academics write to The Guardian urging academia to oppose the boycott.

Thursday, 23:

Professor Baker emails Dr Shlesinger asking for her resignation. Dr Shlesinger refuses to resign.  

June 2002

Thursday, 6:

Dr Miriam Shlesinger dismissed from the editorial board of The Translator by Professor Baker.

Saturday, 8: 

Professor Gideon Toury told he must resign or be dismissed as consulting editor of Translation Studies Abstracts. Professor Toury refuses to resign. Various colleagues of Professor Toury and Dr Shlesinger in the international translation community resign over the following week and / or make strong protests against Professor Baker's actions.

Sunday, 16: The Israeli daily, Ha'aretz describes the reaction to Mona Baker's actions under the headline Translation society chief slams dismissal of Israeli staff.

Wednesday, 26:

Harvard Professor, Stephen Greenblatt, President of the Modern Language Association of America, writes an open letter to Mona Baker, describing her actions as "intellectually and morally bankrupt".

Friday, 28:

A short report appears on the back page of The Times Higher Educational Supplement. Dr Shlesinger and 294 other Israeli academics and students sign a petition against the closure of Bir Zeit University. The June 2002 newsletter of the EST carries a statement by the society's president, Yves Gambier, in which he describes the dismissals as "unacceptable".  

July 2002


UMIST issues two statements during the month of July. The first merely seeks to distance the university from Professor Baker's actions. The second announces that an inquiry will be held.  

Thursday, 4:

Susan Bassnett, pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Warwick, writing in The Independent, asks How can intellectuals be so unreasonable?

Sunday, 7: 

The Sunday Telegraph, on its Opinion page, condemns the apathy of British academia in this matter, under the headline The Silence of the Dons. During the week that follows the story is carried by most of the UK press: broadsheet and tabloid.

Tuesday, 9:

The National Union of Students condemns the sacking of Dr Shlesinger and Professor Toury as "nothing short of racist".

Thursday, 11:

Estelle Morris, the then Secretary of State for Education, condemns the boycott.

Friday, 12:

Miriam Shlesinger and Gideon Toury appear on the CNN programme Q&A.

Sunday, 14:

The Sunday Telegraph publishes an interview with Dr Shlesinger.

Monday, 15:

Professors Steven and Hilary Rose defend their stance in a letter to The Guardian.

Monday, 22:

Writing in The Guardian, Professor Geoffrey Alderman speaks of The gesture politics of an Israel boycott, describing the call as "significant mainly for what it tells us about the prejudices and short-sightedness of the boycotters". 

August 2002

Thursday, 1:

Three people are arrested following anti-Israel demonstrations at a football match between Leyton Orient FC (an East London club) and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The organizers of the demo, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, urge a total boycott of Israel.

Thursday, 8:

In a letter to The Guardian, Professor Steven Rose and other prominent Jews renounce their right to live in Israel while those who "should have the most right to a genuine return ... are excluded". September 2002

Sunday, 29:

The Sunday Telegraph breaks the story of UMIST's investigation of Professor Michael Sinnott. Mr Sinnott's email to Professor Stephen Greenblatt describes Israel as "the mirror image of Nazism". October 2002

Friday, 11:

The English-language edition of Haaretz carries a report of Professor Susan Greenfield's (Baroness Greenfield) condemnation of the boycott.

Sunday, 13:

The librarian of Bar-Ilan University is advised by St Jerome Publishing, that a book ordered from them on 21 May will not be supplied because of "the actions of Israel's government".

Friday, 18:

In Egypt, the Popular Committee for Boycotting American and Israeli Products calls for a boycott of Proctor and Gamble's Ariel laundry products. They argue that the name is proof of pro-Israeli bias.

Wednesday, 23:

Estelle Morris resigns as Secretary of State for Education and Skills.

Thursday, 24:

Charles Clarke is appointed Secretary of State for Education 

 November 2002

Friday, 1:

The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) carries the story of St Jerome Publishing's refusal to supply Bar-Ilan University with books.

Tuesday, 5:

Treatment of Israel strikes an alien note, an article by Professor Alan M Dershowitz of Harvard Law School, appears in Canada's National Post.

Friday, 8:

The Opinion column of THES carries a piece in support of Mona Baker by Michael Cohen and Colwyn Williamson, two of the founding members of CAFAS. The article is entitled Umist should abandon boycott "witch-hunt"

Friday, 15:

THES publishes letters for and against the Cohen-Williamson article.

Sunday, 17:

 The Sunday Telegraph reports on Tony Blair's meeting with Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The Prime Minister says he will "do anything necessary" to stop the boycott.

 Friday, 22:

An article entitled Petition urges Umist to drop Israeli inquiry appears in The Guardian giving details of a petition "circulated by the Campaign for Academic Freedom and Standards". 

 December 2002

Monday, 2: Professor Geoffrey Alderman issues a statement to UMIST and the press explaining why he will not sign the petition of 21 November.

Friday, 6: Professor Margaret Harris, of Aston University, in a letter to the THES asks Why Israel? and suggests that the boycott is the result of "muddled thinking and moral relativism".

Thursday, 12: The Guardian reports the case of Dr Oren Yiftachel, a leftwing Israeli whose paper (co-written with a Palestinian) was rejected by a British journal until he agreed to include "a comparison between his homeland and apartheid South Africa". The story appeared in two articles: It's water on stone - in the end the stone wears out, and British academic boycott of Israel gathers pace.

Friday, 13:

The Guardian, under the heading, No rush to sign up for the boycott, publishes letters, condemning the boycott from, among others, Dr Colin Shindler of SOAS, University of London, and Professor Margaret Harris of Aston University. Only one letter argues in favour.

Sunday, 15: The Sunday Telegraph carries an article entitled Boycott of work by Israeli scientists "could cost lives". It reports on the concerns of neurobiologist Susan Greenfield, and of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that ignoring Israeli research could cost lives.

Tuesday, 17: The Guardian publishes two letters under the heading Science without barriers. Both are critical of the boycott of individuals.