Jewish fury over website sparks university rethink

November 1, 2002

Birmingham University may stop hosting personal websites for its staff after complaints that one was strongly anti-Israel.

A report in The Jewish Chronicle said that the board of deputies had asked the university to remove from its website the link to English lecturer Sue Blackwell's site, which, it claimed, contained biased political views on the situation in the Middle East.

In a statement, the university said: "The University of Birmingham is taking this very seriously and has received both complaints and letters of support from the Jewish community.

"We are now making further investigations looking at the whole policy relating to personal websites hosted by the university. In common with many other universities, we originally hosted a number of personal sites. Now that advancing technology means people can easily do this themselves, it may be time to review our approach."

Ms Blackwell's personal site is hosted on university computers, although it is not an official university website. She said she wanted to be able to edit the site herself and found the university site design constrictive.

She said it was an issue of academic freedom: "I would not link to sites that had any racist content or promoted violence. I condemn all terrorist activity, including (that by) Hamas - but also the state terrorism of (US president George) Bush and (Israeli prime minister Ariel) Sharon."

Ms Blackwell added that she had not been contacted by the university. "As long as the site complies with the university code of conduct, I see no reason why the university shouldn't host the site."

She signed the petition for an academic boycott of Israel and ran into controversy when she removed links to Israeli colleagues from her forensic linguistics website.

Zionist groups lobbied the university, which asked her to remove its crest from the site.

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