British teachers set to boycott Israel

A British university teachers union will propose a boycott of three Israeli universities they accuse of direct involvement in the Jewish state's occupation of Palestinian land.

    AUT says the universities symbolise the occupation

    Members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) are expected to put forward a motion to cut ties with the Israeli institutions at its annual meeting on Wednesday. 

    Authors of the motion say they are responding to a call from Palestinian academics to boycott Israel's cultural and academic institutions. 

    "The strategy of pursuing dialogue with Israel has failed miserably.

    "We believe that nothing short of a regime of sanctions, boycotts and divestments is needed to put effective pressure on Israel through isolating it in the international arena," the Palestinian Federation of Unions of Universities' Professors and Employees said in a letter to the union.

    Universities under fire


    AUT accuses Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem of trying to evict Palestinians from their homes to expand its campus. 

    The union accuses two Israeli
    universities of annexing land

    Bar Ilan University is charged by the union with having links to the College of Judai and Samaria in the largest West Bank settlement of Ariel.

    Settlements on occupied Palestinian land are illegal under international law.

    AUT says it selected Haifa University for the boycott because of its attacks on historian Ilan Pappe, whose account of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war challenges the official Israeli version and argues that there is an organised campaign by Zionist forces to expel Palestinians.

    In 2002, Pappe says, the university threatened him with dismissal for criticising the university's disqualification of a Master's student, who wrote a thesis on the massacre of 200 Palestinians in 1948.

    Symbols of occupation

    "These three specific Israeli universities, they symbolise three aspects of the occupation," said Sue Blackwell, an English lecturer at Birmingham University and one of the authors of the motion.

    "We do support Jewish Israelis who have the courage to speak out against the occupation"

    Sue Blackwell, Association of University Teachers member

    In response to the accusations, Haifa University says the threat of dismissal against Pappe does not stem from his political and historical views, but due to "uncollegiate behaviour".

    "Dr Pappe has aroused the displeasure of his peers because of consistent violation of certain aspects of his academic duties, none of which have anything to do with his political views," the university said in a statement.

    "We are saddened by this attempt to erect barriers and obstruct the flow of ideas within the academic community," it added.

    Institutional boycott

    Blackwell said the motion was not designed to be an individual boycott.

    "We do support Jewish Israelis, who have the courage to speak out against the occupation," she told

    She said she personally would not support the barring of Israeli students from British universities.

    "The more Israeli staff and students who come to more civilised countries the better. I would like to see more good academics leave the country," she said.

    Anti-Semitism charges

    The motion has sparked accusations of anti-Semitism in Britain, and comes after three Jewish members of the National Union of Students resigned, accusing their union of tolerating bias against Jews.

    "The kind of focus that this will create could lead to attacks on Jewish students," a spokesman at the Union of Jewish Students told

    But Blackwell is dismissive of such accusations.

    "There has been some scare-mongering in the British press," she said.

    Other critics say it is hypocritical of the union to target Israel for its occupation of Palestinian land while British forces are engaged in their own military adventure in Iraq.

    "Yes, I am sympathetic to that... That would be entirely consistent," Blackwell said, adding that should British Prime Minister Tony Blair remain in government after the upcoming elections, then the issue of a boycott of British and US universities could be addressed.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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