Academic boycott hot topic in UK
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
TALYA HALKIN | The Jerusalem Post | 20 April 2005
A heated debate has developed this week surrounding new British motions to boycott Israeli academics, which will be voted on this Friday at the annual meeting of the UK’s Association of University Teachers (AUT).
The meeting of the association’s ruling council opened in Eastbourne in southeast England on Wednesday.
The Birmingham University’s AUT branch has put four motions on the council’s agenda, one of which is also being supported by the Open University’s union branch. Three of these motions call for a boycott of specific academic institutions: Haifa University, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.
Pro-boycott activists are hopeful that their motions stand a better chance of being passed this year. One reason for their optimism, they say, is that they have now received the unequivocal support of the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Teachers and Employees, a sister union of the British association.
The Palestinian federation has recently released a statement endorsing the British call to boycott Israeli universities.
Several Israeli academics and intellectuals already expressed their views about the boycott in a recent Jerusalem Post article on the boycott proposal. Among them were Dr. Miriam Shlesinger of Bar-Ilan University, who was fired three years ago from her position on the editorial board of a British academic review because she was Israeli; Professor Yossi Klafter, chairman of the board of Israel’s Science Fund; and the writer A.B. Yehoshua.
In an open letter published Wednesday in The Guardian, Israeli writer Etgar Keret joined the protest against the boycott proposal. Also published on Wednesday in the same paper was a letter by Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki, of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in Bir Zeit.
Dr. Ilan Pappe, a lecturer at Haifa University’s political science department, has joined the call to boycott his own university (a call which was initiated by AUT members in support of Pappe’s anti-Israeli views).
Additional calls against the boycott proposal were also heard in Tuesday’s Guardian in three letters signed by 250 British academics. “Neither party in this tragic dispute has a monopoly on suffering or injustice. We, as academics, must continue to support the prospects of peace by building bridges through dialogue and mutual understanding with both sides,” stated one letter.