Written by Student Rights on 14 January 2011 at 1pm

Proposition to boycott Israel fails at LSE


The Event

A debate that took place last night at the London School of Economics ended in the audience voting against an academic boycott of Israel by a huge margin.  The debate was co-hosted by the Palestine Society and the Israel Society and took place in the historic Old Theatre at the LSE. Arguing in favour of an academic boycott was Dr. John ChalcraftArguing against the motion was Professor Daniel Hochauser.  The Chairman, Professor Kevin Featherstone was the embodiment of grace, courtesy and balance.


The Debate

In front of an estimated crowd of 400 people, these two academics went at it in excellent debating fashion.  Opening the discussion was Dr. Chalcraft, who insisted that an academic boycott was pivotal in bringing apartheid South Africa to an end, despite the conventional modern wisdom that this actually is not the case.  Dr. Chalcraft went on to explain how he felt individuals were not being boycotted here, nor were they at risk. Dr. Hochauser delivered a smashing rebuff to Dr. Chalcraft in elucidating how the boycotts not only caused divisions rather than building bridges, but also cost lives as key medical technologies built between Israeli-British-American institutions would be jeopardisedHochauser also went on to claim the boycott was either hypocritical, as there were no such calls to boycott British or American academics for similar charges for Iraq and Afghanistan, but also no calls to boycott Turkey or China either.


The Question and Answer session

For the most part, the questions asked of the panel were of a very high quality.  Most audience members clearly understood the nuances involved and tailored their questions accordingly.  Pertinent points were made about thoughts from inside the region which rejected the idea of boycotts.  The Hebrew and Palestinian al-Quds universities joint statement on how they reject divisive boycotts backs this up. There were questions asked about South Africa, the differences between boycotting China and the United States rather than singling out Israel and one audience member remarked about how they felt 'it was all they could do' - effectively calling any peace process null and void.


The Vote

The audience was then asked to vote on the proposal, which resulted in a substantial rejection of the proposed academic boycott against Israel.  Best estimates put around 60% against the motion and very few abstaining.


The Aftermath

Those leaving the event from the upstairs may have noticed a verbal scuffle taking place which it seems was between Martha Mundy, who is co-convener of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and Jonathan Arkush, the senior Vice President of the Jewish Board of Deputies.  Observers recall Mr. Arkush vocally praising the Chairman of the event, after which Dr. Mundy turned abruptly and 'threatened to slap Mr. Arkush'. Dr. Mundy chaired the recent event with Abdel Bari-Atwan and shouted down the LSE anti-racism officer. She protested, "I am not prejudicing against people," confounding the audience as no such accusations were made. Student Rights comment:  It's sad when the students are able to have a serious and rational debate, only to end with people like Dr. Mundy threatening people because she disagrees with their views on the chairmanship of the event.


Video of Martha Mundy: