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Monday, 26 October 2015

Exclusive: Hundreds of UK academics commit to Israel boycott | The Jewish Chronicle

By Sandy Rashty, October 26, 2015
Dr Rachel Cohen from City University

Dr Rachel Cohen from City University

Hundreds of British academics have committed to boycotting Israel, the JC can reveal. 

A letter signed by 343 university teachers is due to appear as a full page advert in the Guardiannewspaper on Tuesday. 

The signatories, who come from 72 institutions including Oxford University and Cambridge University, said they would refuse to work with Israeli universities, describing them as “deeply complicit” with alleged Israeli violations of international law.

The boycott was launched after a pro-Israel initiative was backed by 150 writers, artists and musicians including Harry Potter author JK Rowling last week. They had signed a statement that opposed the boycott of Israel. 

Signatories of the anti-Israel Academic Commitment have vowed to never visit the country, and said they would not co-operate with or refer people to Israeli academic institutions. 

They accuse Israeli institutions of supporting oppression of Palestinian people. They claimed the Technion University in Haifa had helped develop technology used to destroy Palestinian homes.

Left, the full page advert set to appear in tomorrow's Guardian

Professor Jane Hardy, of the University of Hertfordshire, said: “This is an opportunity for academics to add their voices to the growing international movement to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses and specifically the deprivation of opportunity for our Palestinian colleagues to participate in the global academic community. 

“The commitment does not call for the termination of links with individual colleagues nor the end of dialogue, rather it is a boycott of institutions directly or indirectly complicit in the systematic and illegal occupation of Palestine."

City University’s Dr Rachel Cohen said: "It is the responsibility of those of us who have the freedom to act to exercise that freedom in support of our colleagues in Palestinian universities who do not have such freedom. 

“The Israeli state presents itself as an enlightened funder of academic pursuits, and yet it systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time."

Board of Deputies Senior Vice President, Richard Verber, said in response to the letter: “We would ask why these academics are singling out Israel in such a discriminatory fashion? At a time of immense, often barbaric upheaval in other parts of the Middle East, Israel remains a beacon of academic excellence and progressive thinking, with women, minorities and LGBT people at the forefront of many initiatives. 

“It is telling that these academics have nothing to say about the recent wave of terror directed towards Israeli citizens nor the incitement of Hamas and Fatah. In the complex conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, boycotting either side will lead to zero progress. Their energy would be much better spent encouraging academic dialogue and relations between like-minded Israelis and Palestinians who believe in a brighter future.”

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