Polish-British Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman Rejects Call to Cancel Lectures in Israel

Palestinian group bases its argument on Bauman's criticism of the occupation, but the professor says he's against boycotts.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Polish-British sociologist Zygmunt Bauman will go ahead with lectures in Israel next week despite a Palestinian group's call for him to cancel the events, says his grandson, Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard.

"I don't like the idea of a wall because it stands for the refusal of dialogue - and don't like the idea of wholesale boycott for much the same reason. Two monologues, I repeat, don't make a dialogue. And once talking to each other stops, shooting at each other follows", Bauman said in a letter sent to his grandson.

The call for Bauman to stay away came in an open letter on the website of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Bauman declined to make the content of the letter public, but he provided a summary through Sfard.

According to Sfard, Bauman does not support boycotts, which he says are an obstacle to dialogue. Sfard said his grandfather particularly opposes "wholesale" boycotts.

Bauman will be the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Israel Sociological Society, where he will discuss inequality in Israeli society. The closing session at the Ruppin Academic Center will honor the life's work of Shlomo Swirski, the founder of the Adva Center, which promotes social equality.

Bauman will discuss whether wealth in the hands of a few benefits society as a whole. He will also give a lecture at Tel Aviv's Beit Ariela library to mark the publication of the Hebrew version of his book "Culture in a Liquid Modern World." He will also speak at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.

Bauman, 87, was born in Poland but left the country during the wave of anti-Semitism there in 1968. He was forced to resign as chairman of the University of Warsaw's sociology department.

He immigrated to Israel and taught at Tel Aviv University and the University of Haifa. Relatives said he could not reconcile himself with Israel's occupation and moved to England, where he took up a teaching post at the University of Leeds.

In an open letter to Bauman, the Palestinian group accused the Ruppin Academic Center, the Israel Sociological Society and the Beit Ariela library of cooperating with the occupation.

"All these institutions are complicit in Israel’s occupation and violation of human rights and are therefore subject to the academic boycott, a key component of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian people," the group said in a statement.

The organization based its call to Bauman on the professor's own harsh criticism of the occupation.

"A distinguished and renowned scholar like yourself would make a very strong moral impact on the academy worldwide if you made a gesture of support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination by distancing yourself from the Israeli academy and mainstream cultural institutions," the organization wrote.

Jewish-Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.Credit: B. Sadovosky

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