Born in Egypt, Mona Baker is the Director of the Center for Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). She began her tenure at UMIST in 1995. Prior to that, she lectured on linguistics at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom). She has also worked as a professional translator for more than two decades. In 1992 she published In Other Words, a book designed to train aspiring translators.
In May 2002 Baker, along with scores of European academics, signed an open letter, published in Britain's Guardian newspaper, calling for a moratorium on all cultural and research links with Israel until the Israeli government abided by (unspecified) UN resolutions and resumed peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat. The petition was organized and published during a time when Palestinian suicide bombings against Israel were occurring with great regularity. Baker, however, characterized it as a period of "sharp rise in the level of atrocities committed against the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza."
In June 2002, Baker stirred controversy when she dismissed -- from the boards of the two journals she owns and edits (The Translator and Translation Studies Abstracts) -- two Israelis, Miriam Shlesinger (whose husband is a Holocaust survivor) of Bar-Ilan University and Gideon Toury of Tel Aviv University. Baker also announced that she would no longer accept articles from Israeli researchers. It was later revealed, moreover, that she would not "allow" books originating from her private publishing house (St. Jerome) to be purchased by Israeli institutions. "For as long as [this] boycott is in place," explained Baker, "no colleague affiliated to an Israeli institution can serve on the editorial board or the advisory board of The Translator or Translation Studies Abstracts. Similarly, The Translator will not publish articles or book reviews authored or co-authored by scholars affiliated to an Israeli institution. No conferences hosted or (co-)organized by an Israeli research institute will be announced in the conference diary."
Asserting “that concrete measures have to be taken to halt the current [Israeli] programme of state terrorism, ethnic cleansing and cultural genocide,” Baker writes:
"The decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions is part of a broader boycott and divestment effort, which includes economic, cultural, and sport agendas. The academic boycott specifically is based on several premises. One is that, to date, the vast majority of Israeli academics have been carrying on their business as usual for the past 35 years oblivious to what is happening to their Palestinian counterparts, not to mention to the Palestinian nation as a whole, just as Israeli society on the whole is content to sanction the apartheid policies of its government. … Above all, this campaign is meant to call public attention to the fact that the Israeli colonial project is unacceptable, non-negotiable, and immoral."
Baker states that she is "not against Israeli nationals per se," but "only Israeli institutions as part of the Israeli state which I absolutely deplore."