British Lecturers Boycott Israeli Scholars
Britain’s largest university teacher’s union voted for a boycott of Israeli academics who do not denounce their government’s Palestine policy.
Britain’s largest lecturers’ union yesterday voted in favour of a boycott of Israeli lecturers and academic institutions who do not publicly dissociate themselves from Israel’s “apartheid policies”.
Presented on the final day of the Natfhe conference, the motion criticised “Israeli apartheid policies, including construction of the exclusion wall, and discriminatory educational practices” and invited members to “consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from such policies”.
After failed efforts to prevent the debate, speakers outlined the litany of difficulties experienced by Palestinian students and lecturers living under occupation, including the number of Palestinian schools shelled by the Israeli army. “The majority of Israeli academics are either complicit or acquiescent in their government’s policies in the occupied territories,” said Tom Hickey, a philosophy lecturer from the University of Brighton, member of the union’s national executive committee and proposer of the motion. “Turning a blind eye to what an Israeli colleague thinks about the actions of their government is a culpable blindness.” Delegate John Morgan, who seconded the motion, said there was no academic freedom for Palestinians.
The first rumblings of an academic boycott surfaced in 2002 when Stephen Rose, professor of biology at the Open University, wrote to the Guardian arguing for a moratorium on European funding of Israeli research. The campaign gathered pace at last year’s AUT conference in Eastbourne where delegates voted to boycott Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities because of their alleged complicity in the Israeli government’s policies. The move provoked a storm of international protest and a month later the boycott was overturned at a special conference.
The article goes on to note that the move is only symbolic, as Natfhe is about to merge with another union. Still, the imposition of a political litmus test for scholars is antithetical to the notion of higher education. Quite bizarre, indeed.