Academics back Israeli boycotts

From the archive (legacy material)

BBC News | 22 April 2005

Academics have voted to boycott two Israeli universities over their alleged involvement in “illegal activity” in the occupied territories.
Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) decided to suspend all links with Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities.
They were complicit in a system of “apartheid” towards Palestinians, delegates at the AUT’s council heard.
The universities have rejected the allegations.
At the AUT conference, in Eastbourne, Haifa University was accused of mistreating politics lecturer Ilan Pappe for defending a graduate student’s research into controversial areas of Israeli history.
His job had been threatened and he had been victimised, delegates in Eastbourne heard.
Bar Ilan was accused of helping with degree programmes at a college in a settlement in the West Bank.
More dialogue
Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer from Birmingham University, said: “Most Israeli academics serve in the army’s reserve forces.
“Most support the state’s suppression of the Palestinians or at least don’t speak out against it.”
Delegates voted for more dialogue with Palestinian academics and unions.
However, they voted down a call by the union’s executive to establish contact with a group called the Israeli Higher Education Union.
Ms Blackwell said that an internet search had found only six mentions of it, all linked with the AUT, and concluded that she did not think it existed.
The lecturers’ decision has been criticised by representatives of the executives of Britain’s universities, Universities UK.
A spokesperson said: “UUK condemns the resolution from AUT which is inimical to academic freedom, including the freedom of academics to collaborate with other academics.”
AUT delegates called for an end to all co-operation with Haifa and Bar-Ilan and to discourage UK investment in them.
Israel’s policies in the occupied territories were described as “colonial and racist”.
However, another motion on boycotting the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – accused of building student dormitories on land confiscated from Palestinian families – was referred to the union’s executive for further investigation.
A spokesman for the AUT said the union’s executive would issue guidance to members on the implications of the votes.
Some delegates were annoyed that debate on the issue was curtailed due to a lack of time.