British lecturers renew call to boycott Israeli academics

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Tamara Traubman | Haaretz | 6 April 2005

The leading union of British lecturers may boycott Israeli academics who refuse to condemn their government's policies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Guardian newspaper reported yesterday. The Association of University Teachers' annual council, which convenes on April 20, will debate whether to boycott three of Israel's eight universities - the University of Haifa, Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem - over their alleged complicity with the government's policies on the territories, the paper wrote. The boycott of Israeli academics was first introduced in 2002 during the Israel Defense Forces' Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank, when the European Union called for a moratorium on funding for Israeli research projects. The idea was put forward by British professors Steven and Hillary Rose, and several Israeli academics also signed petitions in support of the boycott. While is was never officially revoked, the boycott lost momentum in recent months. According to Prof. Menahem Ya'ari, president of the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the reimposing of a boycott would be "a fatal blow" for the Israeli side, and would also harm many academics based overseas. The Association of University Teachers rejected a similar proposal to impose a boycott on Israeli academics two years ago, but proponents of the boycott say that they are sure of a majority this time around. "We are now better organized," said Sue Blackwell, one of the authors of the motion. "One of the reasons we didn't win last time was that there was no clear public call from Palestinians for the boycott. Now we have that, in writing." The stated reason for seeking a boycott against Bar-Ilan is that the university runs the College of Judea and Samaria in the "illegal settlement of Ariel, and is therefore directly involved in the occupation of Palestinian land." Alleged massacre Lecturers are being asked to boycott Bar-Ilan until it severs ties with the college, and any college in the West Bank. The reason the association is seeking a boycott of University of Haifa is that establishment's threat to fire Prof. Ilan Pappe over his support of a student who wrote his thesis on the alleged massacre at the Arab village of Tantura in 1948. According to authors of the boycott, the Hebrew University is guilty of expropriating land adjacent to the university that belongs to the Al-Hilo family, and building student dormitories. According to a university spokeswoman, the dormitories have not been built on land that the family occupied, but on land immediately adjacent. "The family has no right to that land," the spokeswoman argued. "The High Court of Justice has rejected every petition filed by the family to try and prevent construction."