Livni protests UK academic boycott of Israel
Foreign minister tells her British counterpart University and College Union's decision to consider boycott of Israeli academics and institutions is extremely severe. Meanwhile, Jewish and Israeli representatives anger attendees at UCU conference after handing out booklet protesting boycott
LONDON – Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Friday evening protested a decision made by the United Kingdom's University and College Union (UCU) to consider a boycott of Israeli academics and institutions in a talk with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.
Livni told her counterpart that she viewed "these intentions, which contradict the good relations between the two countries, as extremely severe."
Officials at the Foreign Ministry said that Livni planned to discuss the issue with government and academic representatives next week.
The UCU made its decision on Wednesday in protest of Israel's policy against the Palestinians. The resolution, passed by 158 votes in favor and 99 against, notes that "Israel's 40-year occupation has seriously damaged the fabric of Palestinian society through annexation, illegal settlement, collective punishment and restriction of movement... deplores the denial of educational rights for Palestinians by invasions, closures, checkpoints, curfews, and shootings and arrests of teachers, lecturers and students."
Also Friday, Britain's Jews boosted their efforts against the UCU's recommendation. Representatives of the Jewish community and Israel set up a stand at a convention held by the UCU in the city of Bournemouth and called on the attendees to cancel their decision.
Activists at the Israeli stands handed out a PR booklet at the convention, which included headlines from the British press slamming the UCU decision, including articles from leading newspapers such as The Independent, The London Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express.
Israeli Arab student against boyctott
Ophir Frenkel, the executive director of The International Advisory Board for Academic Freedom (IAB) at Bar Ilan University, brought to the stands students and activists from the Jewish community who handed the booklets to some 250 union members.
The activists said that their efforts caused mayhem after some of the union members tried to prevent them from handing out the booklets. According to the activists, the union members were rude to them and even led to the closing down of the stand for an hour.
Amal Shkhadeh, an Israeli Arab student studying at Bar-Ilan University, turned to British Higher education Secretary Bill Rammell, who attended the Bournemouth convention, and told him the boycott recommendation also hurt Arab students in Israel. Rammell listened to what she had to say and told her that he personally opposed the boycott.
Israeli Ambassador to the UK Zvi Hefetz told Ynet that he had invited Rammell to visit Israel in an effort to tighten the academic relations between the two countries. According to the ambassador, Rammell accepted the invitation sand said he would consider his visit in the coming days.
Hefetz is also organizing a special conference in the UK which would be attended by the heads of the British and Israeli universities in a bid to decide on issues for joint research.
Hefetz said that Israel should not respond to the boycott "through war, but should continue to tighten the relations and express academic freedom."
Ronny Sofer contributed to the report