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Off topic: On Colleague Mona Baker and The Translator, quoted from this week\'s Al Ahram
Thread poster: Arthur Borges

Arthur Borges
Local time: 13:57
+ ...
Jan 24, 2003

The link is:

Mona Baker, professor of translation studies and director of the Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology (UMIST), dismissed Professor Miriam Schlesinger (Bar-Ilan University) from The Translator and Professor Gideon Toury (Tel Aviv University) from Translation Studies Abstracts, two journals she partially owns and runs. In the latest editorial of The Translator she explains that \"for as long as the boycott is in place no colleague affiliated to an Israeli institution can serve on the editorial board or the advisory board of The Translator or Translation Studies Abstracts.\" St Jerome Press, which she owns with her husband Ken Baker, and which specialises in translation studies, has refused to supply Israeli universities with text books though it will supply Israeli individuals.

Baker\'s decisions made her the target of attacks from both within and without academia. She was labelled an anti-Semite and a racist for allegedly \"firing two academics\" because of their race or nationality. The attacks did not identify the fact that the positions Schlesinger and Toury occupied were honourary positions on privately-owned journals and not salaried teaching positions at UMIST. UMIST was flooded with letters urging her dismissal.

The pressure prompted UMIST to begin an inquiry into Baker\'s decision, even though it does not own the journals in question. UMIST, which received £36.9 million in public funds last year, was particularly vulnerable to pressure since it was negotiating a merger deal with the University of Manchester which requires official approval. The outcry also led to an Early Day Motion in July (EDM 1590) in the House of Commons condemning Baker\'s action and stating that it \"deplores discrimination against academics of any nationality, as being inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom, regards such discrimination as downright anti-semitic while pretending simply to be opposed to Israeli government policy... and calls upon UMIST to apologise for this disgusting act and to dismiss Professor Baker.\"

British Prime Minister Tony Blair took it upon himself to assure Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks that he will \"do anything necessary\" to stop the academic boycott, adding that the findings of the UMIST inquiry had to \"send a clear signal\" that boycotts will not be tolerated. Given the level of pressure and intimidation it is remarkable that Baker stood her ground.

Baker, who is Egyptian by birth, was in Cairo this month, invited by the American University in Cairo\'s Faculty for Palestine and the Women and Memory Forum to speak about her experience. At AUC and, last week, when we met for coffee in Maadi, Baker was remarkably composed for a woman who has been subjected to such vitriolic attacks and who is in danger of losing her job. She is confident she made the right decisions even as she acknowledges how controversial these are.

\"One has to acknowledge that boycotts are controversial and blunt weapons. People genuinely feel strongly about them for a variety of reasons,\" she explained to the Weekly. \"There are a lot of people who are not Zionists and who genuinely oppose what I\'ve done and my logic of it. Even a lot of people who signed the initial boycott criticised how I carried it out. They said it was too strong, it polarised people. Those who thought that the boycott is just about signing a piece of paper were shocked at what they\'d done because they didn\'t think it would have any consequences.\"

Indeed, Colin Blakemore, professor of physiology at Oxford University and president of the Physiological Society, had initially signed the first petition calling for a moratorium of EU funding. Faced with a public denunciation campaign he has since reconsidered his position. Blakemore wrote to several newspapers to say that he was misled into signing the petition and was implicated against his intentions in the boycott of Israeli scientists.

There are others who have not joined the boycott but defend Baker\'s right to support it. Some of them were also attacked. According to the Times Higher Education Supplement UMIST launched another inquiry amid allegations that professor of paper science Michael Sinnot referred to Israel as \"the mirror of Nazism\" in a personal e-mail to Stephen Greenblatt, professor of Shakespeare studies at Harvard University and president of the Modern Languages Association (MLA). Sinnott\'s condemnation of Israeli policies was deemed anti- Semitic. He has since made a public apology saying \"the e-mail was a mistake. It was written in the heat of the moment after reading what I considered to be an unfair article about the sacking in The Telegraph. I deeply regret sending it and regret any offence it has caused.\" The results of the inquiry have not yet been made public but unconfirmed reports have it that Professor Sinnott has opted for early retirement.

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 01:57
No politics, please. Jan 24, 2003

Not the place for it.

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On Colleague Mona Baker and The Translator, quoted from this week\'s Al Ahram

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