Oxford don rejects student because he is from Israel

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Mark Oliver | The Guardian | 30 June 2003

An Oxford University professor is facing disciplinary action after rejecting an Israeli student's application to work with him because he had a "huge problem" with his country's "abuses on the Palestinians", it emerged yesterday. Andrew Wilkie, who was last month elected Nuffield professor of pathology, apparently rejected an approach by Amit Duvshani, 26, a student at Tel Aviv University, solely because of his nationality. A spokeswoman for the university would not rule out dismissal as one of the possible disciplinary actions the vice-chancellor, Sir Colin Lucas, might take against Professor Wilkie when he rules on a "thorough report" on the incident which he is expected to receive this week. Mr Duvshani, who is approaching the end of a masters degree in molecular biology, had applied to work in Prof Wilkie's laboratory towards a PhD thesis, but said he was shocked by the email response he received on June 23. The Sunday Telegraph reported that in setting out his reasons for rejecting him Prof Wilkie wrote: "I have a huge problem with the way that the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they [the Palestinians] wish to live in their own country." The professor, who is a fellow of Pembroke College, went on: "I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level but no way would I take on somebody who had served in the Israeli army." Mr Duvshani had done his mandatory three years' national service and this was noted in the CV he had forwarded. The student told the Sunday Telegraph: "I was appalled that such a distinguished man could think something like that. I did not expect it from a British professor. I sent similar applications all round Europe and did not have another response like that. Science and politics should be separate. This is discrimination." The University of Oxford agreed the rejection at least appeared to be discriminatory. A statement said: "Our staff may hold strongly felt personal opinions. "Freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of university life, but under no circumstances are we prepared to accept or condone conduct that appears to, or does, discriminate against anyone on grounds of ethnicity or nationality, whether directly or indirectly." Prof Wilkie has since made an apology to Mr Duvshani. The professor said: "I recognise and apologise for any distress caused by my email ... and the wholly inappropriate expression of my personal opinions in that document." Mr Duvshani has made it clear that he is no longer interested in studying at Oxford. Some British academics have called for a boycott of Israeli scholars and conferences in Israel in protest at the country's treatment of the Palestinians. In May the largest university lecturers' union voted at its annual conference by a majority of about two to one to reject a call for an academic boycott of Israel.