Personal Statement on Boycott by Mona Baker

From the archive (legacy material)

To fully understand the reasons for the growing campaign of boycott of Israeli institutions, as well as my own position, it helps to know something about the history of the conflict. You might like to consult some sources by renowned Israeli scholars, for example Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians (Routledge, 2006), and Jewish activists, for example The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, by Jews for Justice in the Middle East. See also the website of Uri Davis, renowned Israeli activist and author of numerous books on Israel.

To understand the nature of the horror to which the current boycott campaign is responding, please look at some of the photographs recently taken by a chest doctor in Palestine (British doctors are currently campaigning to have the Israeli Medical Association expelled from the World Medical Association). Scroll down the page and ask yourself if any decent human being can possibly justify these atrocities or would wish to campaign against anyone trying to do something about them through non-violent means, even if they do not fully agree with some aspects of the boycott. You might also wish to read this report by Brian Johnston, a member of a group from Pittsburgh who visited Palestine in August 2007.

To understand the rationale for the boycott campaign, and access a set of links to various initiatives, click here.

To understand my own rationale concerning the distinction between institutions and individuals, click here.

If you are particularly interested in minorities such as Deaf children, click here for an example of what they are suffering in this context.

History of my own involvement in the boycott campaign

In May 2002, following the sharp rise in the level of atrocities committed against the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, I decided to join the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The boycott was conceived along the same lines as the sanctions which ultimately led to the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The call was initiated by Professor Steven Rose (Physics, Open University) and Professor Hilary Rose (Bradford University). The most extensive overview of the boycott to date was published in The Guardian in December 2002, under the title It’s water on stone.

I first wrote to Miriam Shlesinger (Bar Ilan University, Israel) on 23 May explaining my decision and asking her to resign from the Editorial Board of The Translator. She refused. I also wrote to Gideon Toury (Tel Aviv University, Israel) on 8 June along the same lines, asking him to resign from the panel of Consulting Editors of Translation Studies Abstracts. He too refused. I removed them both from the boards of the respective journals.

There followed a barrage of hate mail (now a common tactic of the Zionist lobby) – some of it explicitly condoned by supposedly reputable institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania. When this failed to force me to abandon the boycott, more vitriolic attacks soon followed, from all quarters: individuals within and outside translation studies, professional and academic organizations, and from politicians in Britain, most notably an Early Day Motion passed in Parliament, public condemnations by various politicians, as well as pressure from the Prime Minister himself on my employer to dismiss me!! If only our colleagues and politicians could find the energy to express such outrage at the atrocities committed against defenceless populations in various parts of the world on a daily basis.

I have tried to explain my rationale for boycotting Israeli institutions in a number of public statements, the most relevant of which are the Editorial Statement in volume 8, No. 2 of The Translator (November 2002), an interview in Al-Ahram Weekly (January 2003), and an open letter circulated in January 2003. I also spent a considerable amount of time and effort trying to explain to my colleagues in translation studies why Israel’s continued persecution of the Palestinians justifies relatively extreme measures such as academic and cultural boycotts (for a small sample of this effort, see my letter to various members of the translation studies community on 11 June 2002). This time, very few of us will be able to hide behind the standard excuse of ‘we didn’t know’!

These documents, together with the material available on this site, should be sufficient to clarify my position to anyone interested in listening.

Mona Baker

Useful Links
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Global BDS Movement
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Stop the Wall Campaign
British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
BRICUP Statement of Determination to Boycott Israel
Australian Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Campaign to Boycott IMA (Israeli Medical Association)
Right to Education Campaign
Adrienne Rich’s Statement of Support for BDS
Guardian Letter: Israel Must Lose the War
Where’s the Academic Outrage Over the Bombing of a University in Gaza? (Letter in Chronicle of Higher Education by Neve Gordon and Jeff Halper)
Gaza Today