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Bar Ilan university
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UK lecturers to vote on Israel boycott
Largest union of university and college lecturers will vote on calls by Palestinians for 'comprehensive' boycott of Israeli institutions; London Mayor Livingstone: Boycott will undermine peace process
LONDON - The UK's largest union of university lecturers will vote Wednesday on whether to back calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

 

Activists will press delegates of the University and College Union (UCU) to heed calls from Palestinian trade unions for "a comprehensive and consistent boycott of all Israeli institutions."

 

The debate comes just days after Jewish American Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg cancelled an academic visit to the UK because of what he termed "widespread anti-Israel and anti-Semitic current in British opinion".

 

Delegates will be asked to consider "the moral implications" of their universities' links with Israeli academic institutions and to back the view that "passivity or neutrality is unacceptable and criticism of Israel cannot be construed as anti-Semitism."

 

Nafthe and the Association of University Teachers (AUT), which merged last year to form the UCU, voted twice last year in favor of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in protest at their "complicity in the occupation."

 

In 2005 the AUT passed a boycott motion that was later reject in the wake of harsh criticism.

 

'Now is not the time for boycotts'

Last year Nafthe members agreed to uphold a boycott of Israeli institutions, but the move became void when the union merged with the AUT to form the UCU.

 

The union will also be asked to resist government attempts to "engage colleges and universities in activities which amount to increased surveillance of Muslim or other minority students and to the use of members of staff for such witch-hunts".

 

The findings of a parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism in the UK will also be discussed by delegates. The inquiry claimed that anti-Semitism was "becoming acceptable on UK campuses."

 

The Guardian newspaper reported that lecturers from Barnet College in London want the UCU to endorse the parliamentary report which argued that any moves by UK universities to sever ties with Israeli academics would amount to an attack on "academic freedom and intellectual exchange".

 

During a meeting organized by the Movement for Reform Judaism on Tuesday, London Mayor Ken Livingstone said an academic boycott would undermine efforts to restart the peace process.

 

“Now is not the time for boycotts. Boycotts should only be used as a last resort - when there is no other alternative, such as was the case with South Africa but is not the case here,” he said.

 

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