tel aviv, dec 5th, 2002
to: the officers of the Game Theory Society and the members of its council
from: Ariel Rubinstein
i wish to express my opinion about the moves taken by the GTS regarding sylvain sorin as explained in the letter sent to us by bob, ehud and eric. i am alarmed by the pressure put by the GTS on a person to change his political action and i find the move of firing slyvain utterly wrong. i am a part of this society and one of its council members and the steps taken were done also on my behalf even if was not consulted about them.
let me clarify that although i firmly oppose the devastating israeli occupation of millions of palestinians i also firmly oppose the call for a boycott signed by sylvain. i dont think that the moral response to the tragic situation here, which includes a serious risk for our existence, is a boycott of the state of israel and its people. whether u find the above relevant or not i feel it should be mentioned, to fully reveal where i am standing on this non-academic issue.
note, that from the material sent to us it seems that sylvain's opinions have had no effect at all on his actions as the editor of the IJGT. this was probably clear also to bob who reached with sylvain a satisfactory "modus vivendi" during the summer. the only justification given to us is a quotation from selten's letter: ".. too many Israeli game theorists feel that they cannot cooperate with somebody who signed the boycott of Israeli scientific institutions even if he assures us that this does not interfere with his editorial duties." but, assuming that the only goal of firing sylvain is the welfare of the society i should think that not only the feelings of some of my fellow israelis should be taken into account but also the feelings of many other members of the society who are outraged by the move.
as to the procedure, an action like firing an editor for signing a "Call for a Boycott of Israeli Scientific Institutions in protest against Israel government policies" should not be determined by a pure majority vote of a council, nor by appointing a single person to decide, but by more or less consensus.
i make a distinction between the status of a move of an individual and of an action taken by a society. three examples: -i felt comfortable not going to south africa in the eighties but i would have opposed a boycott by the econometric society of south african economists. -i will refuse to lecture in the college in ariel (a settlement in the occupied territories) but i would object to the GTS refusing to accept its teachers as members of the society. -similarly here, i respect very much the feelings that led some israelis to respond to a call for a boycott signed by a close friend, but i don't think that we as a society should pressure him to withdraw from the call.
to conclude, i am sure about the good intentions of all the players in this affair even if the outcome is tragic and unacceptable. but, very personally, i feel i should not be a member of an academic society that uses its weight to pressure a person to change his political actions.