Finding the middle ground: two academics respectfully agree to differ on the academic boycott of Israel

IMG_5994Last weekend I was lucky enough to meet Peter Greste and Waleed Aly at two separate events. Peter was in the Green Room at ABC studio just before I had my segment and Waleed was a guest at my university – Western Sydney University.


In the separate conversations I had with each of them, we reflected on the fact that our political debates had become polarised: from same sex marriage, to climate change and tax reform, we seem to be increasingly screaming at each other rather than hearing where we stand.


I know where I stand on these issues, but rather than dismissing different perspectives, I have learnt that listening and finding a middle ground provides me with insights I have not thought of, even if I disagree. This was a lesson I learnt years ago when debating the amazing Associate Professor John Rees about religion.

We also expect our students to be critical thinkers: weighing up different arguments before drawing their conclusions. Despite this, I often find many academics ready to make broad sweeping statements about positions they disagree with.


Which brings me to the academic boycott of Israel – something I do not support. In making a statement that I do not support it, I have been accused of embracing apartheid. In saying that, I support people’s right to support the boycott – which has seen me labelled anti-Semitic. The abuse that friends of mine have received when taking a strong stance on this – such as Antony Loewenstein – is unacceptable and highlights exactly my point.


It is exactly this middle ground that myself and a colleague, Ingrid Matthews, found when discussing the issue of the boycott in an article for The Conversation titled ‘Israel and the BDS debate: two academics respectfully agree to differ‘ available here


In reading it, feel free to disagree and tell me so, but please do not send me abuse, I will either ignore you or tweet your contact details…


In peace, james

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2 Responses to Finding the middle ground: two academics respectfully agree to differ on the academic boycott of Israel

  1. Fran Scarlett says:

    You are truly amazing James! More power to you.
    I’m so glad I knew you fleetingly from back in NSW Credit Union association days and have now connected via Facebook.
    Your enthusiasm and positivity is infectious. Keep it up.

    • Dear Fran…

      Thanks for your wonderful message… so awesome! Life is somewhat different to be back then… and I feel totally humbled about the way life has turned out! It has been great connecting via Facebook! Hope to cross paths one day soon


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