Should British Academics, or Rock Bands, Boycott Israel?





In what has become an annual rite, British college teachers will debate Wednesday whether they should punish their Israeli colleagues, in solidarity with Palestinians calling for boycotts, and whether it would be anti-Semitic to do so.

The questions reflect some of the deepest and most ambiguous strands in the history of a land that issued the Balfour declaration in 1917, offering “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine in almost the same breath as it promised Arab independence — and sent Lawrence of Arabia to help fight for the Arab cause.

Even earlier, did Shakespeare’s characterization of Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” sow an English seed of a Jewish stereotype that blossomed in the most gruesome chapters of the 20th century? Or, to reverse the argument, are the accusations of British anti-Semitism — or pro-Arabism — misplaced, reflecting not so much bias as sympathy for the perceived underdog?

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