More than 300 UK academics have pledged to boycott Israeli academic institutions in protest at what they describe as the country’s “intolerable human rights violations” against Palestinians.
A total of 343 scholars, from 72 UK higher education providers, put their name to a letter which was published as a full-page advert in The Guardian on 27 October.
The signatories say that they will not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions, act as referees in any of their processes, or participate in conferences funded, organised or sponsored by them.
However, the signatories say that they will continue to work with Israeli researchers “in their individual capacities”.
“As scholars associated with British universities, we are deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement,” the letter says.
Speaking on behalf of the letter’s organisers, Jonathan Rosenhead, emeritus professor of operational research at the London School of Economics, said that he expected “many more” academics to add their support to the campaign.
“Israeli universities are at the heart of Israel’s violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people,” he said. “These signatures were all collected despite the pressures that can be put on people not to criticise the state of Israel.”
Rachel Cohen, senior lecturer in sociology at City University London, said that she was moved by the plight of Palestinian academics.
“The Israeli state presents itself as an enlightened funder of academic pursuits, and yet it systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time,” Dr Cohen said.
However, the boycott has been criticised by the Israeli and British governments, with David Quarrey, the British ambassador to Israel, saying that ministers were “deeply committed to promoting the UK’s academic and scientific ties with Israel, as part [of] the flourishing partnership between the two countries”.
The Union of Jewish Students said that more than 25 UK academic institutions had partnerships with Israeli organisations and that the engagement between the sectors “continues to provide substantial benefit to both Israelis and Palestinians”.
“UJS wholeheartedly condemns academic boycotts. Efforts such as this…aim to simplify a complex conflict where both sides have responsibility to redress injustices,” the union said. “This does nothing to support the peace process and hurts rather than helps many of the Palestinian people whom these academics claim to be acting for.”