British Journals Dismiss Israelis

From the archive (legacy material)

HAIM WATZMAN | The Chronicle of Higher Education | 5 July 2002

Two Israeli scholars have been dismissed from the boards of British journals of translation studies as part of an academic boycott of Israel declared in April by a group of European scholars and intellectuals.
Miriam Shlesinger, a senior lecturer in translation studies at Bar-Ilan University, was dismissed from the editorial board of The Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication, and Gideon Toury, a professor in Tel Aviv University’s School of Cultural Studies, was dismissed from the international advisory board of Translation Studies Abstracts. Both journals are published by St. Jerome Publishing and are privately owned by their editor and publisher, Mona Baker, of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.
According to the two Israelis, Ms. Baker contacted them by e-mail two weeks ago asking for their resignations, in keeping with the boycott. When they refused, Ms. Baker notified them of their dismissals.
Franz Pöechhacker resigned from the international advisory board of The Translator to protest Ms. Shlesinger’s dismissal. He said three other members of the advisory panel and one member of the editorial board, Anthony Pym, of University of Rovira and Virgili, in Spain, had also resigned.
“The removal of an individual on the basis of her passport is incompatible with the aim of improving relations between cultures,” Mr. Pym wrote in an e-mail message.
“This is a completely misguided political action on the part of an editor,” declared Mr. Pöechhacker, an associate professor in the department of translation and interpreting at the University of Vienna.
The Translator is one of the top journals in the field of translation studies, he said, adding that Ms. Baker had indicated that she would no longer accept articles from Israeli researchers. “If that is indeed the case, the journal will become biased and suffer in quality, a much more serious result than the decision to dismiss two individuals,” he said. “Researchers in the field will not have access to any Israeli scholars.”
Ms. Shlesinger, who had served on the editorial board of The Translator for two years and was previously a member of its international advisory board, is a former chairman of Amnesty International’s Israeli chapter and a critic of Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. An academic boycott, she said, “is not how science should be done.”
The dismissals were also decried by Yves Gambier, of the Center for Translation and Interpreting at the University of Turku, in Finland. He is president of the European Society of Translation Studies. “It would be profoundly unjust and contrary to our ethics to cut off individuals who have chosen to work precisely to overcome attitudes of parochialism, self-isolation, chauvinism,” he wrote in the organization’s most recent newsletter.
Mr. Toury is vice president of the society, and Ms. Shlesinger is a member of its board.
In a written statement, Ms. Baker recounted that she agonized over the decision to dismiss the two Israelis and emphasized that she is not boycotting Shlesinger and Toury as individuals but rather as representatives of Israeli academic institutions.