A statement from more than 250 distinguished British academics condemning the British boycott of Israeli universities as “bad for Britain, bad for academic freedom, bad for Palestinians and bad for peace”, was published on Wednesday.
The statement was published as a full-page advertisement in The Times, and included the signatures of the heads of some of Britain’s leading scientific and learned research organizations.
Professor Robert Winston, a fertility expert, called the academic boycott proposed by the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) Congress in protest of the continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, “utterly inappropriate”.
“The academics in Israel are the very people we should be working with, rather than against if we want to promote better understanding,” Winston said, adding that he felt the boycott only had the support of a tiny proportion of British academics.
Baroness Ruth Deech, the independent adjudicator for British university students, said that she feared that the boycott would lead to a backlash against Jewish students on British campuses.
Last week, Knesset Member Otniel Schneller, drafted a law that could trigger a consumer boycott of British imports, proposing that all British imports be given a label reading, "This country is involved in an anti-Israel boycott."
The UCU leadership does not support a boycott, but Tom Hickey, the chairman of Brighton University’s UCU branch and proposer of the motion, said that it would enhance the international reputation of British academics.