Humanity or hypocrisy
Open letter to the members of the New York Institute of Gestalt
Yesterday I read articles in the British Medical Journal discussing
the proposed boycott of Israeli academics.
I encounter the same hypocritical illogical thinking with regards to
my home country - great enthusiasm for boycotting apartheid-era South
African institutions (white government); silence when a black-run
government supports the death of half a million AIDS victims a year. This
deliberate inaction re AIDS has been labeled as genocide by many South
African activists. Last week the only high level South African official
dealing effectively with the crisis was fired by the government. Silence
from the world community.
Does England boycott the academics of surrounding Arab countries that
prevent citizenship and limit Palestinian rights? Not to my knowledge.
A few weeks ago I asked that we take a position asking the
Association for the Advancement of Gestalt Therapy to make it clear that
unlike other professional organizations in England, Israeli gestalt
academics would be welcome at the conference. There were three responses,
otherwise silence. Hopefully this was just due to summer doldrums. A few
months earlier when it was proposed that we issue a statement in support
of human rights for terrorists in captivity there was an outpouring of
solid support, including myself.
There is no question that Israel is an imperfect society and its
Utopian goals have (alas) been eroded by 50 years of struggle for
survival. Yet civilized societies do not ban free speech, discussion and
debate, intellectual discourse, or sharing of academic information in the
interest of making this a better world. We do not issue fatwa’s banning an
individual, no less all academics or doctors from a given country, when we
do not like what is being said or written. By outlawing academic contact
with faculty from Israel or any other country, England is planning to
follow the lead of those opposed to the painstakingly evolved values of
With the annual AAGT meeting due to be held in England next summer,
we have an opportunity to make ourselves heard, to be a voice for
rationality and freedom of academic expression in a world living in fear
rather than concern for justice.
Barry Bub MD
Competing interests: No competing interests