Israeli college boycott debated

From the archive (legacy material)

Matthew Taylor | The Guardian | 19 April 2005

Leading figures working in higher education have set out their opposition to a proposed boycott of Israeli universities in protest at the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.
In today’s Guardian, academics put their name to letters expressing concern at plans to boycott three of Israel’s eight universities because of their alleged complicity with government policies towards the territories.
The Association of University Lecturers (AUT) is to vote on Friday on the proposal when it will also discuss plans to ostracise Israeli academics who refuse to condemn their government’s actions.
One group, which opposes the boycott of Haifa University, Bar Ilan University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and which includes the independent adjudicator for higher education, Ruth Deech, states: “Academic collaboration and exchange should stand above … politics … [and offer] opportunities to break down barriers and educate towards peace and coexistence.”
The AUT voted against a boycott two years ago, but campaigners say the proposal is more likely to be passed this year given the clause to exclude “conscientious Israeli … intellectuals opposed to their state’s colonial and racist policies”.
But another letter in today’s Guardian, from more than 100 academics, says those working in higher education in any country should not be subject to “political tests”. They write: “Does anybody suggest that American physicists should be excluded from the academic community if they do not repudiate Guantánamo Bay?”
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel called for a boycott last year. It was signed by 60 trade unions and non-governmental groups in the West Bank and Gaza.
Gargi Bhattacharyya, president-elect of the AUT, supports the call, though the union’s executive has yet to decide how to respond.