The Academic Friends of Israel



Update on the Norwegian University proposal for an academic boycott of Israel boycott



Vol 8 No11                                                                                      9 November 2009   

This is an update on the proposal to adopt an academic boycott of Israel at the University of Science and Technology, the NTNU in Trondheim Norway. The vote on a boycott proposal will be taken by the University’s Board of Governors this Thursday, 12 November.   


The Russell Group of UK universities issue statement against boycott - will uphold academic freedom 

After being alerted to the NTNU boycott proposal by the Academic Friends of Israel, the Russell Group of 20 UK Universities issued the following statement:

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. 

 "The Russell Group universities will uphold academic freedom by standing firm against any boycott that threatens it." 


The Russell Group comprises of the UK’s 20 major research universities, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Imperial College, King's College, Leeds, University of Liverpool, London School of Economics & Political Science, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Queen's University Belfast, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, University College London and Warwick.


 Norwegian Government says no to Israel-boycott at NTNU 

Norway’s Minister for Education has stated in an interview with Norway’s VG newspaper that the Board at a Norwegian university cannot (and should not) interfere with the choice of research partners because that would amount to interfering with the academic freedom of the academic staff. That is outside the mandate of the board.  

The conclusion is quite obvious. The Board simply cannot decide on a boycott and if it did the Minister would simply sack them. Here is the interview with the Minister in Norway’s largest circulation newspaper VG. (The Google translation from Norwegian is in this instance poor).

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) opposes the proposed academic boycott at NTNU

Norwegian University of Science and Technology to Vote on Boycott

Our friends and colleagues at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim will soon be voting on whether to initiate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Faculty members in Norway have already spoken out eloquently and on point about the reasons to defeat this proposal. Because the decision has the potential to have an impact on debates at academic institutions in many other countries, we would like to join our many Norwegian counterparts who oppose the action.

Years ago the AAUP supported a comprehensive economic boycott of South Africa’s apartheid regime, but we have always opposed focused boycotts of academic institutions. As a number of Norwegian faculty members have pointed out, despite its problems, Israel has the best record of supporting academic freedom of any country in the area. Israeli academics exercise their academic freedom by both supporting and criticizing government policies.

A boycott applying to Israeli faculty members thus paradoxically punishes some of the country’s most vocal critics.But the AAUP’s policy against academic boycotts—detailed in our 2006 statement on the subject--is based on the still more fundamental principle that free discussion among all faculty members worldwide should be encouraged, not inhibited.

Certainly those Norwegian faculty members already working on joint projects with Israeli colleagues should not have their academic freedom taken away from them. In the long run, more, not less, dialogue with Israeli faculty members is an important way to promote peace in the region.


Verdens Gang: “An academic scandal”  

Verdens Gang (VG) is Norway’s largest daily and its page two editorials are said to be the most important in the nation. On Saturday November 7th, VG’s political editor Hanne Skartveit calls the boycott proposal at NTNU an “academic scandal”. [Unauthorized translation] 

The academic’s role in society is to pose critical questions to prevailing truths and perceptions. There is little of this in Norway. Norwegian academics are dominated both by the values of the generation of 68, and by the Socialist Left. Narrow frames restrict the political perceptions which are allowed to enter into Norwegian universities and colleges. Norwegian academics often confirm the Norwegian consensus, rather than challenge it. Imagine how exiting it would have been if a seminar on the Middle East was arranged, from an Israeli perspective, where Israeli academics and intellectuals took part. With both critics and defenders of Israel’s action, with regards to both wars, settlements or the treatment of non-Israeli citizens in Israel. Now that would be a seminar I would like to attend, to listen and learn but it will hardly be at the NTNU 


Please sign SPME's Petition to refute and condemn the anti-Israel Academic Boycott Campaign at Norway's Trondheim University 

Nobel Laureates who have signed to date are: Kenneth Arrow (Economics), Aaron Cienchanover (Medicine and Physiology), Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (Physics), Edmond Fischer (Medicine and Physiology), Ivar Giavever (Physics), Avram Hershko (Chemistry), Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry), Tim Hunt (Physiology and Medicine), Finn Kydland (Economics), Eric Maskin


For the latest news and updates 

Norway, Israel and the Jews  a website dedicated to exposing anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel lobby in Norway. Norway, Israel and the Jews: 

The blog Tundra Tabloids is devoted to keeping tabs on the most outrageous happenings in the Middle East, Islamist extremism and Islamist hegemony in Scandinavia, and on the political correctness that allows them to flourish. Tundra Tabloids

The book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel, and the Jews, an in-depth study on the positions of the Nordic countries regarding Jews, Zionism and Israel can be downloaded at:


Boycott Israel? Norwegian University Must Decide
November 9, 2009
by David Harris

David Harris is the Chief Executive of the American Jewish Committee -- one of the largest American Jewish organizations -- writes against the boycotters in Huffington Post, the largest left of centre web publication in the United States, with ten million visitors per month. (For comparison, the New York Times web edition has 14.5 million visitors per month)

Later this month, Norway's second largest university, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), will consider a proposed boycott of Israel.

The university's board of directors is expected to vote on an appeal by several employees calling for a boycott of "the educational, research and cultural institutions of Israel and their representatives, regardless of religion or nationality."

Why the call for the boycott? The appeal's first sentence says it all: "Since 1948, the state of Israel has occupied Palestinian land and denied the Palestinians basic human rights." The boycott should continue until there "is an end to the occupation."

It goes on to accuse Israeli academics, among other alleged misdeeds, of developing "Zionist ideology and renouncing Palestinian history and identity."

There you have it. Israel is deemed illegal. It has no right to exist. Until it disappears from the face of the earth, it must be treated as a pariah nation, so radioactive as to be untouchable.

Well, as least the petitioners are being honest.

More often, we're treated to deliberately vague slogans such as "end the occupation," without any specificity. Do these calls refer to 1948, the year of Israel's establishment, or 1967, the year Israel fought a war of self-defense and, in winning, acquired territory it then expected to trade for a peace agreement? It can be hard, if not impossible, to tell.

Of all the nations in the world, according to these Norwegian luminaries, only Israel has no legitimacy and must be ostracized.

Obviously, the ancient Hebrew presence, the continuous link between the Jewish people and the land, the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations mandate, and the votes of the UN Special Committee on Palestine and the UN General Assembly have no bearing, though they provide a legal and historical foundation for statehood far exceeding that of many countries.

In reality, if the petitioners were truly concerned about sovereign legitimacy, they might begin by asking how many countries in the world today were established by violent conquest. And how many were created by politicians in distant capitals dispassionately drawing and redrawing boundaries in far-off lands?

The list would be a rather long one and, incidentally, would include any number of Arab countries. (For instance, the indigenous people of North Africa were not Arab, yet today the countries of the Maghreb are all referred to as Arab, following invasion and occupation.)

The petitioners' appeal also assails Israel for creating a climate of fear and harassment at the "eleven Palestinian universities in Gaza and the West Bank."

Not surprisingly, no mention is made of the fact that there were no universities whatsoever in Gaza or the West Bank before 1967. They all emerged after Israeli rule.

And there's no reference to what took place in the West Bank and Gaza before 1967. It's as if it were a historical black hole, even if it shouldn't be for those who claim concern for "Palestinian history and identity."

The West Bank was in Jordanian, not Israeli, hands. Indeed, Jordan formally annexed the territory. Gaza was under Egyptian military rule.

No one spoke of a Palestinian state, though the Arab world had the power to create one at the time. And no one in Amman or Cairo had any interest in fostering a sense of "Palestinian history and identity," except as a weapon to be used against Israel, whose destruction they sought.

But surely none of this concerns the Norwegian signatories to the boycott appeal. It's all just a diversion from the one issue at hand. Theirs is a singular preoccupation with Israel. Nothing else matters.

If the petitioners were genuinely concerned about human rights, of course, they would appeal to NTNU - an institution with a proud international character and hundreds of cooperative agreements with universities around the world - to boycott serial violators of basic liberties, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

For some reason, most likely to be found in the deep recesses of the human mind, the rights of Iranians, North Koreans, Burmese, Cubans, Darfuris, Zimbabweans, and others just don't have the same cachet for those single-mindedly focused on Israel.

To the petitioners, that Israel is consistently rated by Freedom House as far more democratic than its neighbors has no bearing. That the American Association of University Professors, in response to the Norwegian boycott move, noted that "Israel has the best record of supporting academic freedom of any country in the area," falls on deaf ears. That Israel alone in its region doesn't have capital punishment means not a whit. That Israel faces enemies who would destroy it clearly has no claim on their conscience. And that Israel's Arab population has continued to grow, even as the Jewish population in neighboring Arab countries was compelled to flee, evokes at best a yawn.

I hope the university's board of directors will do the right thing on November 12.

Whether or not each member of the board loves Israel, or approves of every Israeli action, isn't the issue.

The board should reject the appeal because of its naked politicization and bias, which should have no place in an academic institution like NTNU.

But I also hope the petitioners will have the courage of consistency. If they want a boycott of Israel, then they should lead by example.

If any of them or their families suffers from multiple sclerosis, let them refuse to take Copaxone.

If they have Parkinson's disease, stop the Azilect.

If they need an endoscopy, make sure the doctor doesn't use the PillCam, the ingestible video capsule to evaluate gastrointestinal ailments.

If they use a computer, check first that it doesn't have Israeli technology developed for Intel.

And they shouldn't dare go near their cell phones, which are filled with Israeli innovations.

In fact, Israel ranks in the top twenty nations in the world for patent filings, so the petitioners will need to be extremely vigilant.

And since four Israeli universities are ranked among the top two hundred in the world (Norway has one on the list, and it's not NTNU), with especially high ratings in science, medicine, and technology, the petitioners will have to be very busy watching out for any Israeli "intrusion" into their lives.

But, hey, all this constant attention will have at least one redeeming feature for the petitioners. It'll keep them from grappling with the real complexities on the ground in the Middle East. How much easier it must be for them to cling to their airtight narrative of hatred of Israel.


Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks 

Advisory Board: 

 Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Vivian Wineman - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

Amir Lev

John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East

Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA

Dr Robin Stamler

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham 

The Academic Friends of Israel Ltd is limited by guarantee and registered in England No 5297417.