Photo: Gil Yohanan
Education Minister Yuli Tamir
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Gil Yochanan
MK Zevulun Orlev
Photo: Gil Yochanan

Britain slams Israel academic boycott

Foreign Office minister condemns UK lecturers' union decision to boycott Israeli lecturers, saying 'we believe such academic boycotts are counterproductive, retrograde'; MK Orlev: Decision anti-Semitic, racist

The decision by a UK teachers' union to encourage the boycott of Israeli academic institutions which do not renounce "apartheid policies" has sparked reaction in Israel and abroad.


The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted in favor of the boycott on Monday.


British Foreign Office Minister Lord Triesman said his office regrets the decision.


"We regret today's decision by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education to vote in favor of boycotting Israeli academics and institutions," Lord Triesman said in a statement.


The statement continued: "We believe that such academic boycotts are counterproductive and retrograde. Far more can be obtained through dialogue and academic cooperation."


Education Minister Yuli Tamir said the decision is "revulsive" and should be condemned.


"He who issues the boycott harms academic freedom and turns it into a tool for political players," she said in a statement.


Knesset Member Michael Melchior (Labor), head of the Knesset's Education Committee, announced that he would convene an urgent meeting in response to the British teachers' union decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions.


"The teachers' union decision must be harshly condemned," Melchior said.


The chairman of the Knesset Committee for Science and Technology, MK Zevulun Orlev, asked his British counterpart to condemn the decision.


"We expect the British to decry the anti-Semitic and racist decision to encourage institutions for higher education to restrict cooperation with Israeli academic institutions," Orlev wrote in a letter addressed to members of the British parliament.


'Same racism that apartheid regime exercised'


Boaz Toporovsky, head of the Tel Aviv University Student Union said the decision contravenes freedom of expression, a pillar of academic life.


"In the enlightened and western world, freedom of expression is of utmost importance, especially in academia," he said.


"What they are doing to us is the same racism that the apartheid regime exercised against blacks in South Africa and not otherwise as we are being accused," he added.


Haifa University on Monday rejected "with disgust" the UK lecturers' union decision.


"Any attempt to mix politics with academic research is McCarthyism," President Prof. Aaron Ben-Ze’ev.


The head of the National Student Union, Itay Shonshein, called on the British National Union of Students to protest the decision to boycott Israeli academics, describing the decision as "inciting and racist."


"Students in Israel who serve in the IDF are convinced that the picture drawn by the lecturers is one-sided and unfair,' he said.


The Israeli Embassy in London said it is encouraged by messages of condemnation received from around the world.


"This proposal has been rejected around the world, which sees in it manifest discrimination," a statement read.


The Academic Friends of Israel, a UK body set up to resist the boycott and fight anti-Semitism at UK educational institutions, described the approval of the boycott as "a dangerous path."


Hagit Klaiman, Roee Nahmias and Ahiya Raved contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 05.29.06, 19:46
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